Unsocial Distance by Kanehara Hitomi

This post was in my draft folder for several months. A bit of neglect and a bit of not knowing how to “wrap up” or summarize the post. Excuse me if this post seems unfinished… it is unfinished. Would also recommend reading the paper by Mina Qiao, “Love in the Time of Corona: Heterosexual Romance, Space, and Society in Japanese Fiction on COVID-19”. which only refers to the story “Techno Break”.

I was not familiar with Kanehara Hitomi’s books until reading one of her stories in a literary magazine. It was different, a bit unsettling and definitely different from the other stories in the magazine.

Darker, connects with compulsive behavior, fears , addictions, sex. So obviously I was intrigued and searched for more information. Her debut book was adapted to the cinema by Ninagawa Yukio (!!!) , “Snakes and Earrings (蛇にピアス” which I watched, but I never judge a book by the movie, so will have to read it when I find the time.

As for “Unsocial Distance” which definitely connects to the Covid experience, the fears it generated, the changes in society although I could connect the stories to people I know, storied I heard which are connected to Covid.

Strong Zero – ストロングゼロ – Alcohol dependency , sleeping around just not to face the (good looking) boyfriend who suffers psychological issues, depression. At times, the addiction and hiding it seems a bit comical.

Debugger – デバッガー – Trying to stay young , date a younger man who loves her as she is, but still she is addicted to treatments, surgeries, refusing nature and trying to stay young.

コンスキエンティア (Conscience)- cheating on husband, sleeping with her friend’s brother . wants to feel needed

Unsocial Distance – アンソーシャルディスタンス – Couple story

Techno break – テクノブレイク – This story was published in the magazine and attracted my attention. Corona fears, tracking the boyfriend location, addiction to porn, addiction to taking her own sex videos and re-experiencing them.

Murata Sayaka Event

Attended Murata Sakaya and Asabuki Mariko’s talk event last night.

I remember attending Etgar Keret’s event a few years back, but this was my first time to attend a Japanese writer event. Event took place at 本屋B&B, which I followed for a while and was interested to visit anyway. They run many events and have a very unique selection of books and atmosphere.

Each attendee received a sticker which was designed by Murata Sayaka, saying “Welcome to Po-Po- Festival”

For one hour the writers talked and discussed writing. From inspiration to the way they build the characters, and 30 minutes was a Q&A session. This was followed by a book signing session, which I decided not to attend.

Overall an interesting experience, but I am not sure if I will attend again. I enjoy reading the books, not sure I need to understand the process and background. Maybe it will change if I ever decide to write by myself.

生命式 村田沙耶香 – Murata Sayaka

Just finished reading the stories collection 生命式.

All stories were previously published, but this was the first time for me to read them.

Below is the list of stories and publications.

As a collection of stories, it felt like revisiting ideas and stories I already read in her books. Discussion of new forms of family (二人家族), future strange rituals of death and life (生命式), love of objects (かぜのこいびと), “strange” eating habits (街を食べる and more)

In that perspective, there was nothing new for me, no new discoveries of her writing and ideas.

Except maybe 孵化 (Hatching), a story of a young woman about to get married, which adopted a different character, “persona” , throughout her life.
A strong decisive woman in her junior high school,
stupid “airhead” in high school ,
“princess” in university,
“tomboy” in her part time work during the school days,
and the “mystery woman” at work.

Realizing she is in a pinch towards the wedding, how can she join all 5 characters, people from different period of her lives to one, she created (advice from her friend) a sixth character, which seems to solve the situation. At least with her future husband.

I think we all try to live up to the expectations of our surrounding, sometimes appearing and talking like someone we want to be, or the people around us expect us to be.

Many times in Japan, Japanese expect me to be the “foreigner” type, a bit loud, not too familiar with Japanese customer, free, which I am obviously not. So, in that respect I am fighting the expectation appearing as “me”, or at least someone very close to the “real me”

Murata Sayaka book translated to Hebrew

Just say in ynet that Murata Sayaka (村田沙耶香)’s book was translated to Hebrew.

While in Japanese the name of the book is コンビニ人間 , meaning “a person of the Convenience shop” , in Hebrew the title is “בשולי הנוחות” which is a word play of Conveience, meaning “the Edge of Conveience”.
Have to say I do not like the Hebrew title as I feel it does not keep the meaning of the Japanese title.
The book cover is also problematic a shows a take away paper bag which may be popular in the US, but definitely not in Japan .

Serotonin by Michelle Houellebecq

Finished reading the English translation.
I truly regret I cannot read it in French, but decided to read it in English over Hebrew or Japanese as hoped the translation is better.

Did not enjoy the book. If in the past I used to enjoy his writing and views, “Serotonin” for me is probably the end. Same as the main characters walking on a path of self destruction, so was the book.

From an unclear story about the writer’s Japanese girlfriend and her sexual plays, unfolds the path of destruction. The writer’s reminiscent about his past girlfriends and his impotence, neglecting himself, gaining weight due to depression and Cortisol level (?), or is it because he feels obliged to spend all his money before killing himself.

There are political discussions of Globalization and the effect on French agriculture, but I find it messy like the book.

Luckily, I did not read reviews before reading the book. But now I read and agree to most of what I read.

In the first part of the book I really got angry in the way Yuzu, his Japanese girlfriend, his depicted. A very stereotypical, pornographic and condescending. But reading further, I just feel sorry about the character and the writer. If he needs to use such descriptions and story he must have reach rock bottom.

Kafka – A report to the Academy

Reading Kafka in Hebrew, probably for the 30th time or so and encountered a quote which I like.

No, I didn’t want freedom. Only a way out—to the right or left or anywhere at all. I made no other demands, even if the way out should also be only an illusion. The demand was small; the disappointment would not be any greater—to move on further, to move on further! Only not to stand still with arms raised, pressed against a crate wall.

Kafka, A report to the Academy

Translation is from a Kafka English repository

The previous sentence discussed how people see Freedom and yearn it, while the Ape is not looking for freedom, just a way out.

I find it quite relevant to our daily lives. We always love to use the word “Freedom”. A few years back I was in Phnom Penh chatting with friends and talking about freedom and human rights in Japan, when my friend said in an almost angry voice “you have no idea what you are talking about”.

We always seek freedom and talk about it, but are we ever “Free”? Shouldn’t we always look for a way? A way to lead us to a better place, a way-out from a bad place.

Charlotte Salomon

Was introduced to her work by the book “Charlotte”, David Foenkinos. Read it in English and was intrigued by the subject.

Contents wise, I am not sure how to categorize it. David Foenkinos writes part of it as an autobiography, while some parts as the writer looking for Charlotte, researching her life and work.

I finished reading the book just before “Holocaust Day”, which was a very good timing for me. Concentrating in one person (one family), suffering, what she has gone through is a strong reminder of the horrors of the Holocaust, and for me is so much powerful than thinking about the number of people murdered.

I will keep on looking for her work, and hope to see it someday in an exhibition.

Milkman by Anna Burns – continued

To complete my previous post .  (as I don’t like editing past posts)

Just finished reading the book, but could not find more to write about it .

The book, just ended. More happenings, deaths, but no conclusion. No hope for improvement. Life goes on in the same way.

What I remember vividly from the last part of the book is the mother’s attempts to look attractive and capture the heart of the real milkman as well as discussions about “wrong marriages”.  I feel it is intentional that the writer chose to write more about the being human. At 50, having lost husband and children, the mother is keen on rekindling a lost love. Simple, human, and has nothing to do with the conflict.

I hope all conflicts in the world will be forgotten and stopped  for Love and friendship.


Milkman by Anna Burns

Reading the book “Milkman” by Anna Burns .

Takes me a while to read it, but want to share my first thought and impression of reading it.

I am obviously aware of the struggles and conflicts in Norther Ireland, but I guess I never really understood what it meant on a daily basis. Thinking about it, I guess this what the entire world knows and feels about Israel.

And as such, it makes it even a more interesting read. Not only the story of a young woman being harassed by the “Milkman”, but an important story of the conflicts, deaths, the 10 minutes zone and much more.

Did not finish yet, but I think I can already recommend it.


地球星人 - Update

As previously wrote, read 地球星人 by Sayaka Murata and finished reading.

A bit difficult for me to write a review, as had several phases while reading:

First, felt “yet another book by Murata-san” challenging the accepted society rules. Why does one need to play by society rules, get married, have children, work, transfer the genes to another generation that will do the same.

Then, it became a story of a girl that is abused, while society does not protect her but rather judge.

Last part went crazy, but was it really crazy, or just the writer’s way to shake, to create a feeling of disgust while I was thinking the 3 people are actually trying to establish a new culture, which is not that different from ours.

The heroin struggles with sexual desire, discussing reproduction.

Do not want to disclose the story and ending, but I was a bit disappointed after reading コンビニ人間.