[SS] Japanese Stories
June 12, 2010 § 12 Comments
It’s been a long time since I’ve read any short stories, so imagine my delight when I found this little treasure of a book sitting on my aunt’s shelf! It’s a collection of 178 different short stories written by different authors of different nationalities. How’s that for diverse? To begin with, I decided to read two Japanese stories, which also coincides with Bellezza’s Japanese Literature Challenge 4, which I’ve not talked about, but am really excited to be participating in.
I found this story to be very delightful, in the sense that it reminded me so much of the very traditional Japan that I grew up loving. The samurai spirit, the taking revenge for masters when they have been wronged; all the faith and loyalty that we call ‘old-fashioned’ these days. Granted, it’s not pleasant to be reading about people performing the hara kiri (committing suicide by disemboweling), however it’s something that is very distinct about Japanese history, and to my mind, it’s part of that spirit that makes Japan so unique in so many ways.
I found the translation a little difficult to read, but it could be because of the language at the time when it was written/translated. But still, it’s nice to read stories that tell of a time so different from ours, something that reads like a fable, or myth, yet remains so deeply rooted in culture and history.
Next is a short story by Mori Ogwai, The Pier. For a story that is only 4-5 pages long, I was a little surprised at how long I spent reading and understanding it. For one thing, that language is not what I have come to expect of translated Japanese literature. The prose is disjointed, and really, after giving it more thought after finishing the story, it read more like a movie or short film, rather than written prose.
This story is basically about a woman saying farewell to her husband at the pier as he prepares to go off. That is the whole of the story. What makes it what it is, is the fact that the scenes happen right before your eyes, as if you’re watching her every move, how her hair flutters in the wind, how the people around her are responding to each other. It’s like watching a silent film, there are no sounds, just movements, enough to portray the character’s emotions and thoughts.
It’s an interesting way to tell a story. I haven’t yet come across other stories like this. It takes a little getting used to, I think, and a little bit of rereading (which isn’t difficult, considering that it’s only 5 pages). It’s like wanting to discover more of the little details that you’ve missed the first time round.