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Old 01-27-2012, 05:54 AM   #31
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Again I would like to read the original Japanese text. Just doesn't seem easy to get via internet, may have to go to used bookstores next time I'm in Tokyo.
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Old 01-27-2012, 06:40 AM   #32
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It would be very interesting if you could get to read the original and come back and tell if you think the translation makes it justice.
I do wish there had been a short section in the translator's ofreword about pronunciation of names and that special letter o with a line above (that the original Sony T1 font didn't even show - the Amasis showed it though, if I recall things right).
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Old 01-27-2012, 07:34 AM   #33
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Japanese does not change vowel sounds, just the length so that o with a line is a long O I believe. In Osaka the O is long while it is short in otaku. In English long oo becomes a different sound like boot compared to bottom. Italian vowels are actually fairly close to Japanese. Japanese is almost completely phonetic with very few exceptions.

I wish I had the original of 1Q84 too. Also difficult to find online.

BTW, being annoyed with translations is what made me want to learn Japanese in the first place.

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Old 01-27-2012, 01:26 PM   #34
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Sort of widening my horizons, I guess.
Totally agree with that...and that's partly why I made the MR Book Club selections part of my personal 2012 reading challenge. Like the style or not of this specific book, I did spend a great deal of time thinking about it, so it is now part of my experience and growth.
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Old 01-27-2012, 01:46 PM   #35
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I wonder how much of it can be attributed to loss in translation, and how much to a different literary style from a different culture? First I must say that I admire Hpulley for learning to read in the original Japanese. Some of my favorite authors, including Ibuse, Tanizaki, and Mishima, are Japanese. I at least have found much similarity in their style of writing and language (translated into English of course, but with differing translators). I really enjoyed not just these stories, but how they were written. I did manage to convince the afternoon and evening book clubs at my local library to read Seven Japanese Tales by Tanizaki a few months ago and most were not only put off by the subject matter, but also disliked the style of writing and how the stories unfolded. “Old fashioned” was one comment I recall about the writing style. I attributed it to the audience being, besides me, all middle age to older women. For instance they all loved Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks (the selection read and discussed this month) . I on the other hand found that book unintentionally hilarious.

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Old 01-27-2012, 04:28 PM   #36
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I am very glad I read this book. No, it wasn't the easiest reading I've ever done, and far from the most enjoyable, but like Asawi and victauria, I feel it changed me. To be sure, I was depressed for a couple of days after reading this very intense work, something I don't recall ever happening with anything else I've ever read. But I feel I've experienced personal growth and increased empathy as a result, and I wouldn't trade that for all the feel-good books in the world.
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Old 01-29-2012, 03:26 PM   #37
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While I agree the writing was (for lack of better word) "stilted", and I too wondered if this was from the translation or if it might be the way it was written.
I suspect the latter, and I find that an interesting part of the book: Reading something that was written in such a different way than what we westerners find "normal".
I read the book in John Bester's translation, and I do not know how the two compares, but what I thought Ibuse was doing is render the style of a non literary person writing his own personal diary, and I think he managed pretty well in this respect, as at various times I had to remind myself that this was a novel, not a real diary. I read elsewhere that Shigematsu's diary really existed, and would love to read it to compare it with the novel.

Shigematsu himself was an interesting character to me: very analytic, yet very natural, so that some description really sound as coming from the journal writer. I also did find some repetitiveness at points, but to me this strenghten the claustrophobia of the living nightmare - even in relatively "quiet" scenes. For instance, when Shigematsu first looks at himself in the mirror:
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I peeled off the sticking plaster holding the bandage in place, and cautiously removed the cloth. The scorched eyelashes had gone into small black lumps, like the blobs left after a piece of wool has been burned. The whole left cheek was a blackish-purple color, and the burned skin had shriveled up on the flesh, without parting company with it, to form ridges across the cheek. The side of the left nostril was infected, and fresh pus seemed to be coming from under the dried-up crust on top. I turned the left side of my face to the mirror. Could this be my own face, I wondered. My heart pounded at the idea, and the face in the mirror grew more and more unfamiliar.
Taking one end of a curled-up piece of skin between my nails, I gave it a gentle tug. It hurt a little, which at least assured me that this was my own face. I pondered this fact, peeling off skin a little at a time as I did so. The action gave me a strange kind of pleasure, like the way one joggles a loose tooth that wants to come out, both hating and enjoying the pain at the same time. I stripped off all the curled-up skin. Finally, I took hold of the lump of hardened pus on the side of my nostril with my nails, and pulled. It came away from the top first, then suddenly came clean off, and the liquid yellow pus dropped onto my wrist.
I could not tell whether the infection was getting worse or better. The only thing I could do was to cleanse the affected spot and apply powdered medicine to the infected place, then cover the whole left cheek with cloth and fasten it with sticking plaster. I had prepared the medicine myself from a formula, consisting mostly of leek leaves, given me by a carpenter back home in the country, who said it was especially effective for cuts and infections.
The whole description is really gut-wrenching, then you get to the last paragraph, where the cure is.. leek leaves! and it is not all, as further on:
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In fact, I found, I had woken because my feet were cold. It worried me that I should get cold feet in August, at the height of summer, while the sun was still up. Feeling my toes, I found that the big toe on each foot was rather painful. Somewhat dismayed, I got up, lifted up the mosquito net, and went out onto the veranda. As I did so, something struck cold at my left cheek. I felt at it, and found that the bandage had gone. It was caught on the bottom edge of the mosquito net.
The mirror showed me that the infected place on the side of my nose was gaping open and had dried up crisp and hard. Life was one depressing thing after another. I went and soaked a small towel in water and gently wiped the affected area, replacing the bandage with a new piece which I fastened in place with sticking plaster.
It is a nightmare that just won't go away - and the closing lines of the book to me capture this sense of utter desperation quite powerfully.
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Old 02-01-2012, 02:39 AM   #38
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Significance of Black Rain Quote

Hi,
I'm writing a commentary at school on the passage of the novel from Black Rain, Including the quote:

“If only we’d been born in a country, not a damn-fool state.”

What is the difference between a country and a state and what is the significance of this quote?

Somehow I doubt that this quote is meant to portray the soldiers kindly given the cruel, heartless, mechanical way they are portrayed throughout the extract and throughout the novel.

If you understand the significance of this quote, please enlighten me.

Thanks.
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Old 02-01-2012, 05:05 AM   #39
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“If only we’d been born in a country, not a damn-fool state.”
I'm guessing - just guessing, mind you - from the context that "state" means more of government control. One way communication, sort of.
I'm not a native English speaker, and in my language we don't really differentiate between the two this way. IF we were to do so, I would say "country" would be more of the geographical description and "state" would be more about how it is run/administrated.
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Old 02-01-2012, 06:18 AM   #40
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I am very glad I read this book. No, it wasn't the easiest reading I've ever done, and far from the most enjoyable, but like Asawi and victauria, I feel it changed me. To be sure, I was depressed for a couple of days after reading this very intense work, something I don't recall ever happening with anything else I've ever read. But I feel I've experienced personal growth and increased empathy as a result, and I wouldn't trade that for all the feel-good books in the world.
Ding ding ding. Great books tell us something of the human condition.This one certainly did that for me.

Most of me just cringes that we are sixty years past these events now and just recently Russia declared they've developed a 100-tonne nuclear weapon named satan. Satan indeed.
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Old 02-01-2012, 07:20 AM   #41
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I'm guessing - just guessing, mind you - from the context that "state" means more of government control. One way communication, sort of.
I'm not a native English speaker, and in my language we don't really differentiate between the two this way. IF we were to do so, I would say "country" would be more of the geographical description and "state" would be more about how it is run/administrated.
In English too state and country are usually synonyms so I wish again that I had the original Japanese text here to see what was really intended.

I too guess that he is saying he wishes he lived in a country rather than a state that wished to conquer and expand the so-called east asia pacific co-operation sphere. The empire of Japan was always interested in taking over Korea but they went much farther in WWII. I think the statement says he wishes that Japan was happy with what it had but the US was embargoing their oil and Japan doesn't have any domestic supply so they attacked China. Classic resource problem though Japan never really needed oil until they were forced to open up to western trade by the Black Ships...
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Old 02-19-2012, 11:07 PM   #42
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I gave it a chance, hoping it wouldn’t be what I was expecting...but it was what I was expecting, in spades.

I thought it was too unnecesarily grim, and reading it felt a bit like people who slow down to stare at a car wreck.

I also thought there were problems with the structure of the story - the diaries were much too descriptive and novel-like, though they were supposed to be written by these average people.

I also think that individual situations seem realistic, but overall the effect is that the entire story comes across as too much. I just had a hard time buying that the uncle would go back again and again and again through the horrors. It seemed less realistic and more like a lazy plot device just to give the author chance after chance to describe different horrors. My best guess is that it came from the author wanting to fit so many of the real-life accounts he’d heard into the story and just shoved them in here and there and everywhere and made his characters’ actions conform so that they could either experience or see or hear them.

Also, I don’t mind moral ambiguity in books, but I did find a situation questionable: the protagonist family’s wanting to hide the niece’s sickness from her suitor. What I didn’t like is not that they would do that, for I like complex characterisations, but that the author described it in a passing way as if there were nothing wrong with it and that we should be sympathetic to the family and agree with what they’re doing.

One thing I did like was the ambiguous ending, and especially the realistic ambiguity that, even though we don’t know, the niece will probably die soon, but that there’s always hope.

I think it’s too bad the author spent so much time on Hiroshima honestly because I thought those were some of the weaker-written parts of the book. His best parts were the small town life, and especially the few remembrances of it pre-war. To finish on a positive note, here’s one of my favourite passages from the book, when the uncle is remembering a big old gingko tree in the small town that they're from that used to stand by a neighbour's house before it was chopped down for wood for the war effort:


Quote:
When the frosts came and the gingko tree began to shed its leaves, the roof of Kotaro's house would be transformed into a yellow roof, smothered with dead leaves. Whenever a breeze sprang up, they would pour down from the eaves in a yellow waterfall, and when it eddied they would swirl up into the air - up and up to twice, three times the height of the roof - then descend in yellow whirlpools onto the road up the slope and onto the oak grove.

This always delighted the children. As the wind dropped and the leaves came dancing down, the boys would stretch up their hands to clutch at them, and the girls would catch them in their outspread aprons.
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