While I was out on a holiday, a set of books I ordered late in April arrived. These are all translated works and mostly by Japanese writers, with a sprinkling of some Nobel Prize in Literature winners. Without more ado, here is the second batch of books I acquired last month. Happy reading!

Title: A Quiet Life
Author: Kenzaburō Ōe
Translator: Kunioki Yanagishita, William Wetherall 
Publisher: Grove Press
Publishing Date: 1996
No. of Pages: 240

Synopsis: Kenzaburō Ōe is one of the most original and important writers of our time, and nowhere is his genius more evident than in his mastery of the Japanese “I”-novel – that uncanny blend of the real with the imagined, memoir with fiction, the reconstruction of the history with the evocation of the inner life.

A Quiet Life is narrated by Ma-Chan, a young woman who at the age of twenty finds herself in an unusual family situation. Her father is a famous and fascinating novelist; her older brother, though mentally handicapped, possesses an almost magical gift for musical composition. The lives of both father and son revolve around their work and each other, and her mother’s life is devoted to the care of them both. She and her younger brother find themselves emotionally on the outside of this oddly constructed nuclear family. But when her father leaves Japan to accept a visiting professorship from a distinguished American university, Ma-Chan finds herself suddenly the head of the household and the center of family relationships that must begin to redefine.

Title: Deep River
Author: Shusaku Endo
Translator: Van C. Gessel
Publisher: New Directions
Publishing Date: 1994
No. of Pages: 216

Synopsis: Thirty years lie between the leading contemporary Japanese writer Shusaku Endo’s justly famed Silence and his powerful new novel Deep River, a book which is both a summation and a pinnacle of his work.

The river is the Ganges, where a group of Japanese tourists converge: Isobe, grieving the death of the wife he ignored in life; Kiguchi, haunted by wartime memories of the Highway of Death in Burma; Numanda, recovering from a critical illness; Mitsuko, a cynical woman struggling with inner emptiness; and butt of her cruel interest, Otsu, a failed seminarian for whom the figure on the cross is a god of many faces. Bringing these and other characters to vibrant life and evoking a teeming India so vividly that the reader is almost transported there, Endo reaches his ultimate religious vision, one that combines Christian faith with Buddhist acceptance.

Title: Asleep
Author: Banana Yoshimoto
Translator: Michael Emmerich
Publisher: Grove Press
Publishing Date: 2000
No. of Pages: 177

Synopsis: In Asleep, Banana Yoshimoto, the internationally best-selling author of Kitchen, gives us three dazzling stories of young women bewitched into a spiritual sleep. One, mourning for a lost lover, finds herself sleepwalking at night. Another, who has embarked on a relationship with a man whose wife is in a coma, finds herself suddenly unable to stay awake. A third finds her sleep haunted by a woman whom she was once pitted against in a love triangle. Sly and mystical as a ghost story, with a touch of Kafkaesque surrealism, Asleep is a delight.

Title: Diary of a Mad Old Man
Author: Jun’ichirō Tanizaki
Translator: Howard Hibbett
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
Publishing Date: 1967
No. of Pages: 177

Synopsis: In the last book he wrote before he died, Jun’ichirō Tanizaki returns to a theme that dominates much of his earlier work: the relationship between sexual desire and the will to live. Diary of a Mad Old Man, first published as Fūten Rōjin Nikki in 1962, is the journal of Tokusuke Utsugi, a 77-year-old man of refined tastes who is recovering from a stroke caused by an excess of sexual excitement. He discovers that even while his body is breaking down, his libido rages on, unwittingly sparked by the gentle, kindly attentions of his daughter-in-law Satsuko, a sophisticated, flashy, cosmopolitan dancer with a shady past. Utsugi records both his past desires and his current efforts to bribe his daughter-in-law to provide sexual favors in return for Western baubles. Pitiful and ridiculous as he is, he is without a trace of self-pity, and much of the book, especially the scene in which Satsuko explains the difference between necking and petting, shines with humor. Here in this short novel is much of the tragicomedy of human existence.

Title: Forbidden Colors
Author: Yukio Mishima
Translators: Alfred H. Marks
Publisher: Vintage International
Publishing Date: March 1999
No. of Pages: 403

Synopsis: From one of Japan’s greatest modern writers comes an exquisitely disturbing novel of sexual combat and concealed passion, a work that distills beauty, longing, and loathing into an intoxicating poisoned cocktail. An aging, embittered novelist sets out to avenge himself on the women who have betrayed him. He finds the perfect instrument in Yuichi, a young man whose beauty makes him irresistible to women but who is just discovering his attraction to other men.

As Yuichi’s mentor presses him into a loveless marriage and series of equally loveless philanderings, his protege enters the gay underworld of postwar Japan. In that hidden society of parks and tearooms, prostitutes and aristocratic blackmailers, Yuichi is as defenseless as any of the women he preys on. Mordantly observed, intellectually provocative, and filled with icy eroticism, Forbidden Colors is a masterpiece.

Title: From the Fatherland, With Love
Author: Ryu Murakami
Translator: Ralph McCarthy, Charles De Wolf, Ginny Tapley Takemori
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Publishing Date: 2013
No. of Pages: 666

Synopsis: The world has turned its back on Japan: it has been economically devastated, thrown into political turmoil – and then attacked.

A small team of highly trained, ruthless North Korean special forces troops invade the city of Fukuoka, holding the residents hostage. This is the vanguard of operation ‘From the Fatherland, with Love’ – if nothing is done to stop them, 120,000 more troops will follow.

And while the government seem incapable of acting, there is one possible source of resistance, a troubled gang of psychotic misfits, masters of guns, explosives and toxins, self-taught and unhinged. But they are driven only by a desire for chaos, and death…

Thrilling, bloody and unstoppable, From the Fatherland, with Love is a vast, mad achievement: an all-too-believable, vividly realized alternate present, with the careening, incendiary power of Murakami at his terrifying best.

Title: Paris Nocturne
Author: Patrick Modiano
Translator: Phoebe Weston-Evans
Publisher: Yale Margellos
Publishing Date: 2015
No. of Pages: 148

Synopsis: This uneasy, compelling novel begins with a nighttime accident on the streets of Paris. The unnamed narrator, a teenage boy, is hit by a car whose driver he vaguely recalls having met before. The mysterious ensuing events, involving a police van, a dose of ether, awakening in a strange hospital, and the disappearance of the woman driver, culminate in a packet being pressed into the boy’s hand. It is an envelope stuffed full of bank notes. The confusion only depends as the characters grow increasingly apprehensive; meanwhile, readers are held spellbound. Modiano’s low-key writing style, his preoccupation with memory and its trustworthiness, and his deep concern with timeless moral questions have earned him an international audience of devoted readers. This beautifully rendered translation brings another of his finest works to an eagerly waiting English-language audience. Paris Nocturne has been named “a perfect book” by Liberation, while L’Express observes, “Paris Nocturne is cloaked in darkness, but it is a novel that is turned toward the light.”

Title: Narcissus and Goldmund
Author: Herman Hesse
Translator: Ursule Molinaro
Publisher: Picador
Publishing Date: February 1, 2003
No. of Pages: 315

Synopsis: Narcissus and Goldmund is the story of a passionate yet uneasy friendship between two men of opposite character. Narcissus, an ascetic instructor at a cloister school, has devoted himself solely to scholarly and spiritual pursuits. One of his students is the sensual, restless Goldmund, who is immediately drawn to his teacher’s fierce intellect and sense of discipline. When Narcissus persuades the young student that he is not meant for the life of self-denial, Goldmund sets off in pursuit of aesthetic and physical pleasures, a path that leads him to a final, unexpected reunion with Narcissus.

Title: Tent of Miracles
Author: Jorge Amado
Translator: Barbara Shelby
Publisher: Collins Harvill
Publishing Date: 1989
No. of Pages: 374

Synopsis: Tent of Miracles introduces us to perhaps Amado’s richest creation – the late, lovably roguish Pedro Archanjo: street-corner Socrates, devoted anthropologist, cult priest, dean of the demi-monde, bon viveur and indefatigable apostle of miscagenation. Yet Archanjo’s “discovery” by one James D. Levenson – gringo, lover, Nobel Laureate – plunges Bahia into fantastic intrigue. Is Archanjo a savant, a seducer of women exquisite beyond the praise of poets, a rum-sodden scoundrel or a redeemer of magical powers?