Happy Wednesday everyone! I hope that you are all doing well and are all healthy despite the risks that surround us. Things are starting to go back to normal although one should still throw caution in the air; the virus remains a threat. I hope that the pandemic will end soon. I am also praying that 2022 will be a year of hope, healing, and recovery for everyone. I hope that it will be a great year.

As it is a Wednesday, it is time for another WWW Wednesday update. WWW Wednesday is a bookish meme originally hosted by SAM@TAKING ON A WORLD OF WORDS. The mechanics for WWW Wednesday are quite simple, you just have to answer three questions:

  1. What are you currently reading?
  2. What have you finished reading?
  3. What will you read next?

What are you currently reading?

After two months of traveling across Europe – at least through literature – I have finally decided to pivot towards a place closer to home. Actually, it is a place that already feels like home. It has been a little over half a decade since I discovered the secret pleasures of reading the works of Japanese Literature. Since then, there was no going back. I am hooked and Japanese literature has eventually become an integral part of my annual reading journey. After reading the works of two familiar names, I am now reading my first novel by Ryu Murakami. From the Fatherland, with Love is a book I recently acquired but I have decided to delve into it immediately. I was excited by what the book had in store; that book cover was kinda interesting. Sure enough, the book’s premise is interesting. Besides, it has a Dickensian set of characters. From what I have read so far, the story is set in the dystopian future, and the once-powerful Japan, a “lapdog” of the USA, has scaled down, both in the economy and military power. Other nations, in the book’s case, North Korea, saw it as an opportunity to sow discord. With over 500 pages to go, I can’t wait to uncover what will happen, considering the friction between Japan and North Korea.

What have you finished reading?

In the past week, I was only able to regain my reading momentum (which has been pretty uneven lately) as I have managed to complete three books, the first of which was Austrian writer Stefan Zweig’s Beware of Pity. It was with my first novel by Zweig that I culminated my two-month foray into European literature. Zweig was a lucrative writer who has written several short novels but Beware of Pity is widely considered his only full-length novel. Nonetheless, it was with this book that I am starting my venture into his prose. Set in 1913, the heart of the story is Anton Hoffmiller, a young Austrian lieutenant stationed in the Austrian countryside. To his surprise, he was invited to the home of Hungarian Lajos Kekesfalva, a rich landowner. During the party, everything seemed normal until he asked his host’s daughter, Edith, to dance. This made her burst into tears. That’s when Toni realized that Edith was a cripple. Humiliated, he fled but sent roses the following day to make up for his rudeness. What ensued was a series of visits, motivated primarily by pity. It didn’t take long before the situation turned into a disaster. While I understand the point of the novel, I find many repetitions plodding the story. Edith was also an unbearable character; I guess it is understandable given her affliction. Toni, on the other hand, cannot seem to make a decision for himself. But then again, it was also understandable because of his social quarters. Overall, Beware of Pity was an interesting work that delves into compassion.

I kicked off my foray into Japanese Literature with the work of one of my favorite Japanese writers. I first came across Mishima through must-read lists; his The Sea of Fertility Tetralogy came in highly recommended. It was, however, another work of his that I started my venture into his prose. Back in 2019, I read his novel, The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea. The book left me in awe and made me look forward to his other works. True enough, three years later, I am now into my third novel by the highly popular but equally controversial writer. Although I have other Mishima novels on hand, I picked The Sound of Waves because it is listed as one of 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. In a way, I find the novel a little different from the two other Mishima novels I have read. For one, the characters, Shinji and Hatsue, were younger, barely into their twenties. The story also centered around their romance story which earned the ire of their tiny community on the island of Uta-Jima, just off the mainland. But while it had elements that distinguished it from the rest of his oeuvre, it also shared several elements of his works such as the exploration of the modernization of Japan and its clashes with traditions. It was, overall, a good read and a good book to start my 2022 Japanese Literature reading month.

My next novel was The Samurai, the second novel written by Shūsaku Endō I read. Like Mishima, it was through must-read lists that I first came across Endō. His novel, Silence, comes in highly recommended. It was one of the books I looked forward to very much. However, in the end, I was a little underwhelmed. Not disappointed, but underwhelmed. It did not, however, stop me from wanting to explore the rest of his oeuvre, starting with The Samurai. The titular samurai is Hasekura Rokuemon, a low-ranking warrior (lance corporal) who was handpicked to join a voyage across the ocean to Nueva España (present-day Mexico). He and three others were chosen to be lead diplomats of an entourage comprised mainly of Japanese merchants. They had one goal: strike a deal with Spain to establish direct trade lines between Japan and Spain. Assisting them was an interpreter, Padre Velasco, who was also the second voice of the narrative. He was one of many missionaries sent to Japan. However, they were waylaid by the persecution of Christians, several of them publicly executed. It was also the primary challenge the diplomatic team had to deal with. Interestingly, I liked this book better than Silence. While the voice of the samurai was mostly muted, I found the depiction of politics within the church and the cultural divides well done.

After finishing From the Fatherland, with Love, I am next planning to read Nobel Laureate in Literature Kenzaburō Ōe, A Quiet Life. I have learned that the book was a different translation of Ōe’s semi-autobiographical novel popularly published as A Personal Matter; I thought they were different novels. I have included A Personal Matter in my 2022 Top 22 Reading List but I have chosen to read the other translation, instead. By the way, this book is very personal, from the little I know of Ōe. If ever, this will be my third novel by the esteemed writer.

Speaking of third books, I am considering reading Mieko Kawakami’s latest translated novel, All the Lovers in the Night next. I have read two of her works, including Heaven, which was recently shortlisted for the 2022 International Booker Prize. These two books I have read gave me different dimensions of Kawakami’s prose and I am expecting that All the Lovers in the Night will be the same. From two familiar writers, I am looking at reading my first novel by Masuji Ibuse with his novel, Black Rain. It was a book I randomly purchased but I am nonetheless looking forward to reading the book. I believe it is about the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima during the twilight days of the Second World War.

That’s it for this week’s WWW Wednesday. I hope you are all doing great. Happy reading and always stay safe! Happy Wednesday again!