Three Interesting Japanese Books published in 2021

book cover Murakami Haruki First Person Singular by Murakami Haruki

This is a collection of eight short stories. Some of the stories were published before in “The New Yorker” or in “Granta”.

Murakami explores his past when he writes about mysterious encounters and  love in the days of his youth. “On a Stone Pillow” was one of the most delightful stories. “With the Beatles” and “Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova” are witty and enchanting because music is an important part.

As expected, the collection is written in Murakami’s unique style about everyday life with magical realistic moments, philosophical and not so philosophical thoughts.

Title in Japanese: 村上春樹: 一人称単数 , 2020.
Translated by Philip Gabriel, Knopf Publishing Group, 2021.


The Woman in the Purple Skirt

This is a weird and fascinating story told by a strange narrator “the woman in the yellow cardigan”. The atmosphere is thrilling. You get to know nothing about the narrator’s identity in the first half of the novel. Very quickly you will understand that something is disturbingly wrong because the “woman in the yellow cardigan” is stalking “the woman in the purple skirt”, but why?

The female author Imamura Natsuko won the Akutagawa Award in 2019 for this novel. She was born in Hiroshima in 1980 and was rewarded many times for her literary works in Japan.

Title in Japanese: 今村 夏子: むらさきのスカートの女, 2019.
Translated by Lucy North, Penguin Books, 2021.


An I-Novel
The book is a diary, an I-novel, which is a literary genre in Japan. It was written in English and Japanese alternately.

“An I-Novel” is about a Japanese woman, who immigrated into the United States as a child and spent her life there. Japan becomes a “Sehnsuchtsort” for her: a place for yearning, impossible to reach, an idealized place filled with sweet memories of her childhood. The text consists mostly of telephone calls with her sister and some backstories. The diary is an account about her daily life, her feelings of mainly grief and depression. Her feeling of homesickness becomes stronger and one day she decides to return to Japan and become a writer.

Mizumura Minae was born in Tokyo in 1951. She has published several books which have been translated into English. “The Fall of Language in the Age of English” and “Inheritance from Mother” sound interesting.

Title in Japanese: Mizumura Minae 水村 美苗: 私小説 , 1995.
Translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter, Columbia University Press, 2021.