Bot Chan by Soseki Natsune

Botchan_pbCvr.inddI’ve read a few Japanese novels over these past few years, like Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide, or Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto, and have done many critical comparison blog posts of Japanese literature and American literature. Every time I finish reading a book written by an American author, and immediately read a novel by a Japanese author, I could sense the difference.

I did a small amount of research about the novel itself, and I found out that this book is one of the most popular books in Japan, to the point where its used in many Japanese schools. Jiro Taniguchi had adapted parts of this small novel into a ten part volume series, published in Japan at 1986. This book had gone worldwide, with many other translations such as French and Spanish. There is a film adaptation, and an anime adaptation of this book too. Comparing this to American literature, if it has gone world wide enough, it would gain the title ‘best-seller’ and eventually will win an award, or become adapted into a movie.

Let’s be honest here. How many books that has reached the top 100 greatest novels ever were neither American nor European? I checked out this list, and I barely found books written outside Europe and America. I believe literature books that had originated from Asia and the Middle East should gain more popularity around the world. I’m emphasizing the word ‘literature’ here. If I ask someone to tell me a name of a book originated from Japan, I am pretty certain the answer would be the comic, or as they call it manga.  So what happened to Bot Chan and Guest Cat? Only people who actually hunts for literary books will find them eventually. Can’t they be everywhere too?

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The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

book-of-lost-things-225Imagine this: Your name were David, and you were twelve years old. Your mother had just passed away. You mourned for her death. Now, it’s just the two of you left, you and your dad. At first, your life had to continue without your mom, but all men couldn’t do it. The next moment, your dad already had a new girl named Rose, and the next second, they were already dating, and ath the end, they married. Then Rose had a baby boy named Georgie. You raged out. You fought a lot with that woman because you hated her at the very first sight. But she didn’t hate you, she wanted to try and make peace, but you wouldn’t let her. Your father wasn’t any help either. He was already sick and tired with both of you fighting and bickering over very small things.

Could you imagine it? If you could, let me ask you a question: which side are you going to be? David? His father? Or Rose?

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Fairy Tales From Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman

brother grimm“Swiftness is a great virtue in the fairy tales. All we need is the word ‘Once’ and we’re off!”

I’ve always like fairy tales, probably because of watching the  TV series Once Upon a Time, and falling in love by how twisted the plots become. And in a second, this book landed in my hands. I’ve reread the stories many many times, and it always ends with a happy ending.

Philip Pullman, who had joined all these fairy tails together was born on 19 October 1946. His most famous books were the His Dark Materials series, a trilogy that I had read some time ago, and his fictional book about Jesus called Jesus, The Good Man Jesus and Scoundrel Christ.

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The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman

golden compassEverybody in this world has a daemon. The daemon is part of their soul, and reflects their personality. When they feel anger and tension at someone else, their daemons will feel it too and fight. When its love, the daemons will nuzzle and pat each other. This is the central idea of The Golden Compass; but I think the concept is not merely just a fiction, or fantasy. It really can relate to us. People has different personalities. Some are solitary like cats, while othres form groups and have a strong sense of belonging, like dogs. Some gets super hardworking like ants, while others are slow like sloths. Some are fierce like sharks, while others are gentle like panda. That’s daemon is all about.

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The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino

the baron in the tree“Cosimo climbed up, and never came down again,” Biagio explains. Biagio is the one who narrates the whole story. He is the younger brother of Cosimo, a twelve year old protagonist who rebels against his family. He refuses to eat dinner  – roasted snails that his nun prepares. He protests by climbing up a tree, and swears to never return to the ground. He treasures that promise ever since. He does not come down to meet his family, who spends their time trying to communicate to him. He adapts skillfully on the trees: He hunts from the tree, he spies from the tree, he even stays in the tree when his life is threatened by a wild cat.

Cosimo is the heir of his family, as he is the eldest. He is supposed to be the next baron, but flatly refuses to, ever since his life is up in the trees. That, earns the title of this book ‘The Baron in the Trees‘, a story of a perfect mixture of absurdity, sadness, and love. Cosimo lives on the age of Voltaire, passing through it –on the trees.  As Cosimo stays longer and longer in the trees, more and more people learn about him and, inevitably, the rumors and stories about him get more and more exaggerated. Italo Calvino – the author, lets me in this weird situation right at the beginning and I start taking it as normal by the end of the book.

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