You have probably heard about Haruki Murakami if you ever tried to start reading Japanese literature. But what I hear often is that people are intimidated by the amount of books Murakami wrote and don't know where to start. I just finished an amazing novel called 'Strangers'which is kind of written in the same vibe Murakami writes his books in. This book is perfect to read before starting on Murakami books or to prepare yourself for Japanese literature. Also for you bookworms who are accustomed to American fantasy novels this eerie ghost story is very refreshing to read. I will introduce you to Taichi Yamada's 'Strangers' today.
This book does the magic blending surreal elements into reality in an unique way. It is a nice compact easy to read book and sucks you in from the first chapter.
'Strangers' is narrated by a middle-aged man called Hideo Harada, a television scriptwriter who is recently divorced and is living in an apartment building where most of the apartments are used as offices, leaving the building abandoned in the evening. One night he looks up at the building and notices a lit window and discovers there lives a young attractive woman called 'Kei', which he starts an affair with. A short time after, he goes back to Asakusa where he grew up as a kid before his parents were killed in a car accident. He finds a man who looks exactly like his father at the age he died. The man invites him for a beer at his house and Hideo accepts the invitation, trying to find out more about the man who resembles his father. Arrived at his house, Hideo becomes even more confused to find out the man's wife looks exactly like his mother. As confused as he is, he feels comfortable at the 10 year younger couple's house who treat him like their son. He visits the couple again and again while also building on his relationship with Kei. However Kei puts him in a difficult position, he has to choose between his nostalgic past or embrace the present.
The supernatural feel of the book makes you curious about what is coming after the current chapter and makes you keep reading. With surprising plot twists and an amazing ending Taichi Yamada (who is a famous script writer himself) draws you in to the story.
I do have to say, as subtle as Yamada's way of storytelling is, the translation is less subtle. A sushi chef saying 'Yo' to his customers? I don't think so. Also the translations of the father speaking casually to his son, might be a translated a little too casual. But you amazing translators can see for yourself if you agree to this one.
Apparently 'Strangers' has also been made into a movie which is called 異人たちとの夏 (ijintachi to no natsu) and is directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi, who also made 'The Girl Who Leapt Trough Time'.
It was released in the US under the name of 'The Discarnates'. I have to find the movie somewhere and then see if it is as good as the book. Since it is listed everywhere as a horror movie I do need to come up with some courage though.
Try this short novel to awaken your interest in Japanese literature. It is not really a horror, so if you keep that out of your mind it is an amazing novel.
Please tell me what you
thought of the book when you read it!