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Penguin Moderns 43 and 44 – more recent Japanese fiction plus a bit of a revelation

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When I was casting about recently to see what other Japanese titles I had TBR which could be suitable for the Japanese Literature Challenge, I realised that one of the next two books in my Penguin Moderns series featured an author I’d wanted to read for quite some time – Yuko Tsushima. So it seemed a good idea to dip into these two titles, particularly as they were short and engaging during stressful work times earlier in the month!

Penguin Modern 43 – Of Dogs and Walls by Yuko Tsushima

Tsushima was a renowned author of fiction, essays and criticism whose work has had a recent renaissance in translation, with two full length works appearing in Penguin editions, as well as these stories in the Penguin Modern, all translated by Geraldine Harcourt. Born in 1946, she was the daughter of the sometimes controversial author Osamu Dazai, who committed suicide when she was one year old. The two stories in this collection, “The Watery Realm” and “Of Dogs and Walls” both seem to contain autobiographical elements, which I guess is not surprising…

You’re afraid of the water that stole your husband, but all you can do is consort with it. It’s always around you. As far as you’re concerned, he didn’t die, he turned to water. What happens on land vanishes in water, and the reverse is true, too. Water is your greatest fear…

“Watery…” is a beautifully written short work which intertwines narratives from a daughter and her mother, and explores their lives, as well as that of the daughter’s brother who suffers from learning difficulties. The narrative is as fluid as the watery images which pervade it, and looks back at the lost father who drowned himself with a lover (as did Dazai) as well as the relationship between mother and daughter and their misunderstandings. The narrative in “Of Dogs…” could almost be a continuation of the first story as again we have a mother, daughter and troubled brother. The story has a more conventional structure and is set at a later date where the characters are looking back to the sister and brother in their younger years, the dogs and houses of the families and the blurring effects of time on memories. In both cases, as I implied, it’s impossible not to read these stories autobiographically.

I’d heard good things about Tsushima’s writing and she certainly lives up to her reputation with these two short works (which I believe aren’t available anywhere else). Evocative, poignant and moving, the stories reveal the complexities of family relationships and explore how easy it is to misunderstand someone close to you. The story of the brother was particularly touching and the dream-like quality of the prose is haunting. A definite winner in the Penguin Modern set, and I shall obviously have to check out her other works in translation.

Penguin Modern 44 – Madame du Deffand and the Idiots by Javier Marias

Well, this was something of a surprise! I have only ever tried to read Javier Marias once – well, twice I suppose, as I had two goes at one book and didn’t get on with it so abandoned it. So when I picked this out of the Penguin Moderns set I had no expectations at all. It turns out that “Madame…” is non fiction; five short portrait of famous literary figures, translated by Margaret Jull Costa, and I absolutely loved them!!!

The pieces cover the title lady, Nabokov, Djuna Barnes, Oscar Wilde and Emily Bronte. They’re certainly brief, and each has a small picture heading the essay, but they’re sparkling, witty, slightly cheeky takes on each of the figures – and despite his often irreverent stance, Marias really does seem to have an affection for his subjects and captures them beautifully in wonderfully readable and entertaining prose. The Nabokov portrait was particularly affecting, as was that of Oscar, the latter looking at his life after he left prison – always something which makes me emotional.

This was a wonderful little gem of a Modern, and I enjoyed it so much that I’m sorely tempted to read the whole collection from which they’re drawn. I’m also obviously going to have to rethink my attitude towards Marias, because if I can enjoy his non fictions so much, maybe I *would* like his fictions – I’ll just have to try a different book to the one I failed with twice!

*****

This particular pair of Penguin Moderns were memorable and wonderful, both great introductions to authors whose work I need to explore further. Plus another read for the Japanese Literature Challenge! Has anyone any recommendations of where I should go if I fancy exploring Marias’ work further??

“All the demons of the modern age had been swept away…” #LifeForSale #Mishima #JapaneseLiteratureChallenge

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Having spent some time in Japan with Uno Chiyo, I thought it would be nice to continue with my reading for the Japanese Literature Challenge, and as I featured in my start-of-the-year post, I did have a number of options – in particular two titles by the great Yukio Mishima. He’s another long-time favourite of mine, and I was so happy when previously untranslated works by him began to appear in English. I’ve recently read and enjoyed The Frolic of the Beasts and “Star (which appeared as an extra edition no. 51 in the Penguin Moderns set). Another new title, published in English in 2019, and originally in Japan in 1968, is “Life for Sale” and so after an interesting, but not sparkling, experience with Uno Chiyo, I thought the Mishima might be a little livelier. Boy, was I right…

“Life for Sale”, translated by Stephen Dodd, opens with our protagonist, Hanio Yamada, coming round from an attempted suicide. As he’s failed to end his life, he now regards the latter as expendable and so offers it as a commodity for sale to the highest bidder. Having placed an ad to this effect in a Tokyo newspaper, he’s unprepared for the madness he seems to have unleashed as one crazy event happens after the other. An old man who hisses between his false teeth appears, wanting Hanio to have a fling with the old man’s ex, so that mobsters will kill them both. This does not go to plan, however, and Hanio is then drawn into a complicated plot involving a rare library book. Then there’s the affair of the vampire woman, whose son ends up bonding with Hanio. And the coded messages for Countries A and B. Then the affair with the druggy heiress with a posh annexe house. All the time Hanio has the feeling that he’s being watched. And who *is* this mysterious organisation called the Asia Confidential Service? As Hanio staggers from one madcap event to another, he begins to wonder what his life really *is* worth…

It was a strange, bright afternoon. An afternoon in which something gigantic had been misplaced, a spring afternoon that felt empty and full of light.

Well, “Life for Sale” is a hell of a read! The narrative itself is a rollercoaster of crazy happenings; I hesitate to use the word madcap for a book which actually explores quite dark material, but there *is* the feel of an old Hollywood screwball comedy at times, mixed with some of the violence and insanity of something like Dashiell Hammett’s “Red Harvest.” Hanio rattles from one adventure to another, all the while wondering what the point of anything is. It’s worth remembering that this book was published only two years before Mishima’s attempted political coup and ritual suicide, and certainly death seems to have been much on his mind. Also shining through is his contempt for modern Japanese culture and his hankering for the old ways. A telling part of the book for me was when Hanio encounters the heiress’s parents, who are content with their tranquil lifestyle, happy to wait for their death to come naturally. It’s rather chilling to comtemplate how the book kind of reflects his fatalistic frame of mind and lack of connection with life in the 1960s.

There he had been, putting all his effort into hurrying towards death. But here were a husband and wife in no hurry to die. A scattering of cherry-blossom petals, blown on the wind, lay in the garden. In the pleasant midday cool of a shaded room, the old man’s white hand turned the pages of his Tang poetry book. These people were taking all the time in the world to weave together their own deaths, calmly, as if quietly knitting sweaters in preparation for the coming winter. Where did such tranquility come from?

So Hanio expresses contempt for the modern hippie lifestyle, but is equally repelled by the concept of settling down to a ‘normal’ domestic life with the heiress. He’s a man constantly on the run, sometimes unsure it seems about what he’s running from, and it’s only when he realises that other forces are manipulating that his life starts to take on some value in his eyes – at least to the extent that if he is to die, he wants to control how this happens.

Via Wikimedia Commons – see here for attribution: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Yukio_Mishima_01.jpg

“Life…” was an absolutely fascinating and quite thought-provoking read, one I think I will have to go back to at some point and read again, to pick up the underlying nuances as I must confess I raced through the book to find out what would happen to Hanio. I really can’t understand why the book hasn’t been translated before; I know I’ve seen others mention that the new works to appear in English are minor works but “Life…” definitely seems to be have a lot more depth than you might think. Although styled like a pulp narrative, the underlying existentialist themes linger in the mind and end making the reader (at least this one!) wonder about the price of a life and whether we should strive for a steady, productive life or go all out for hedonism!

Mishima published his “Sea of Fertility” series, generally reckoned to be his finest work, during the 1960s and superficially this is a different beast from those books. But it seems to me that Mishima is always exploring the point of existence and although “Life…” looks at the topic in an ostensibly lighter way, I would argue that it’s by no means a minor work. I absolutely loved the book, and it’s definitely going to stay with me – a real winner for the Japanese Literature Challenge, and a really strong incentive to read more of the great man’s work! 😀

Exploring a pioneering woman author for the #JapaneseLiteratureChallenge #unochiyo

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Well, I started the year with a number of tentative reading plans, which I thought were reasonably modest, but needless to say several have fallen by the wayside… Real Life has made complex reading plans impossible – even coping with one page of Finnegans Wake a day plus Durrell to a schedule wasn’t going to work alongside other reading I wanted to do and hellish times at work (my job is in a school…) So I abandoned those two, but have stuck with the Japanese Literature Challenge, and the first book I’ve read is the subject of today’s post!

I have, in fact, been wracking my brains to work out where I heard about this author; I know the book came to me in November 2020 or thereabouts, but I must have read about her somewhere. No doubt all will become clear at some point… Anyway, the book is The Sound of the Wind and the author is Uno Chiyo (to give her name in the correct way of her country, surname first). Uno was born in 1897 and died at the great age of 98, having lived through most of the 20th century, and during that time she was something of a pioneer. An author, a fashion designer, editor of a magazine and a real trendsetter, she had a considerable impact on the culture of her time and also the women of her time. “The Sound of the Wind”, first published in 1992 (by Peter Owen in this country), brings together an account of her life by Rebecca L. Copeland, together with translations of three of her works (presumably rendered into English by Copeland, although that isn’t made clear). As the book has notes, a bibliography and a section of images of Uno over the years, it therefore should be the perfect introduction to Uno’s life and work.

And in some respects it is… Uno’s life was certainly full of drama; married multiple times, often to younger men; bobbing her hair in a Western style and adopting Western fashions; having lovers, being betrayed and negotiating all manner of business ups and downs; certainly, Uno lived a memorable life! The biographical section of the book covers this in detail, exploring Uno’s early years, her marriages and the traumas they brought, how her life experiences informed her work, and how she negotiated all the changes which took place in the Japan of the 20th century, ending up being recognised by the Emperor which gave her formal status as a writer. Some of the things she had to deal with would have floored the strongest of women, so her story is inspiring.

However, I must admit to struggling a little with the narrative of Uno’s life and if I’m honest I didn’t find that the biography really sparked at any point. The book has an academic dryness, there’s something of a distance between subject and reader, and I did wonder if this was because much of the narrative is drawn from Uno’s own memoirs which are, as Copeland implies, quite selective. I ended up feeling a bit detached from the story Copeland was trying to tell and never really felt as if I got close to the personality of Uno. Of course, when the book was published the author was still alive, and I don’t know whether this impacted at all on how Copeland wrote about her subject – but I would have liked a little more warmth in the story, somehow. However, despite the dryness of the tone, Uno’s story is a compelling one and where the narrative excels is by providing a marvellous overview of the context in which she was writing. That background is particularly useful when considering a woman author during the period, particularly in a country subject to such cultural shifts.

Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

As for the actual works, these are “The Puppet-Maker“, “The Sound of the Wind” and “This Powder Box“. All three are discussed in Copeland’s biography, where she gives the background from Uno’s life which informed them, and certainly it seems that the author drew very much on her own experience for her fictions, barely bothering to conceal the real sources! The first story is of a kind she turned to later in her writing career, an almost journalistic technique where she interviews someone for their life story and frames it with a narrative of her meeting them. “The Sound of the Wind” and “This Powder Box” draw on Uno’s relationships, in particular a scandalous one where she hooked up with a man who had survived a love-suicide pact (the woman survived too). “The Sound of the Wind” is rather shocking in that the narrator is a naive 16 year old who’s married off and suffers for her love, yet never seems capable of recognising the abuse she receives from her husband or how badly she’s being treated. She’s in effect blinded by her illusions of love. Uno’s stories are fascinating reading, and interestingly one of the things which seems to have made her stand out amongst Japanese women authors is her ability to convincingly write in the male voice.

So my first reading of Uno Chiyo, both her biography and her work was interesting, and I’d definitely like to read more of her writing. I’d also be keen on finding a work about her that was a little more lively and engaging; Copeland does tell the tale, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find it a wee bit of a slog at times. Intriguing, though – and my first read for the Japanese Literature Challenge is one which has definitely left me wanting more! 😀

Welcoming 2022 with some tentative reading plans… 😳😊

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Following on from yesterday’s highlights of 2021, it’s first of all time to wish you all a very Happy New Year! Let’s hope that 2022 is a little less fractious than last year was… I did promise that I would take a look today at possible reading plans and events which might be coming up, although as usual I’m a bit reluctant to commit to too much as I always prefer to following my reading whims!

Of course, I’m already involved in one event which started appropriately enough in December and is carrying on into 2022 – the Narniathon! I really enjoyed my reacquaintance with “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” last month, and January will see me reading “Prince Caspian“. I’m hoping that because the books are slim I should be able to keep up the momentum.

January *is*. however, a month with some challenges, and I shall most definitely be taking part in! The first is the Japanese Literature Challenge, hosted by Meredith and you can find out more about this here.

Some lovely Mishimas and an intriguing collection from Uno Chiyo

As you can see from the image, there are some titles which are immediately shouting at me from the TBR, but it wouldn’t take me long to pick out some more!

Then there’s the first of Annabel’s challenges, NORDIC Finds, which features books from any of the five Nordic countries – Finland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden.

Tove Ditlevsen and Edith Sodergran – both intriguing possibilities for January!

Again I do have a few obvious titles shouting at me from the TBR, any one of which would be a lovely read; but I’d also be keen to explore further from any of the countries. I read a *lot* of Scandi-crime and a fair amount of Icelandic crime pre-blog so I’m not sure if I would revisit these. But there’s lot’s more out there and Annabel has more guidance on her blog, plus a list of featured books for each week.

Then there’s the LibraryThing Virago Modern Classics group monthly themed read. January is for books featuring nuns, teachers or governesses, and a quick dig in the TBR revealed these possible unread titles:

The two Kate Fansler titles are perhaps stretching things a little, as she’s a university lecturer turned detective, but they *are* Viragos, so we shall see!

Added to all this, there’s the temptation of Twitter readalongs, and two are calling at the moment – Finnegans Wake and Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet. I really would like to commit to these two, but frankly am not sure if I would keep up – I anticipate it being a bit manic when I return to work next week, so we shall have to see…

Apart from these events, if I’m truly honest I would like to make a big dent in Mount TBR; it has grown considerably over the Christmas period, as you might have seen, and some of the older books on it could probably do with a bit of a prune. Meantime, here are some titles which are calling particularly strongly; whether I will have the brain space for them when I go back to work next week is another matter, but I will certainly try!!

Lots of very inviting titles…

So, plenty of choices for me… Are there any there which appeal to you? And do you have reading plans for 2022 or are you just prepared to wing it?? 🤣🤣

“… I ride and ride and I never arrive.” #JapaneseLitChallenge14 #mishima

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Having had an underwhelming experience with my first read for the Japanese Literature Challenge, I didn’t want to let January pass without trying another work from that country; particularly as I’ve read some marvellous books from Japan. An old favourite is Yukio Mishima, an often-controversial figure; and I was delighted when previously untranslated works starting appearing recently in new English versions. So I decided to cheat! I say cheat, because the book I read was no 51 in the Penguin Modern series of bite size loveliness – and I am supposed to be reading the series in order!! However, the Mishima was issued after the box set came out so that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it!

The work in question is “Star” and it’s a novella-length work first issued in 1961, in a short story collection of the same name. In contrast to many of his major works, which look back to a golden past in Japan, “Star” is set firmly in the present. It tells of Rikio “Richie” Mizuno, a young actor at the height of his fame who’s nevertheless suffering from insecurity, disillusioned with fame and the film world. Despite being surrounded by hysterical young adoring fans, his most important relationship is with his personal assistant, Kayo. The latter is older that Richie, and considered unattractive; yet she offers the actor emotional and physical support, keeping him grounded in some kind of reality.

… threads of permanence cling to the underbelly of all formulaic poetry. It comes as a false shadow, the refuse of originality, the body dragged around by genius. It’s the light that flashes from a tin roof with a tawdry grace. A tragic swiftness only the superficial can possess.

Aside from the complexities of acting while surrounded by screaming fans, another problem occurs when a struggling actress inveigles her way onto the set and into the film. Things go wrong when she proves not to be up to the task of acting the part, and takes dramatic action. Needless to say, the PR people use this to their advantage, leaving Richie just as full of self-doubt as ever…

Real love always plays out at a distance.

“Star” may be a short work, but it’s just as brilliant and full of impact as any of Mishima’s longer works. Richie is the pefect Mishima character; struggling with the hollowness at the heart of his fame, losing sense of reality because of the number of different personas he has to adopt, his life feels empty and he’s assailed by doubt and ennui. The constant wearing of (metaphorical) masks has detached him from the reality around him; and the intense and unlikely relationship with Kayo is more real to him than anything else. Despite the fact that this anchors him, he acknowledges that the relationship is just as much of an illusion; and the couple can sit and calmly discuss the prospect of his suicide, as if this is a logical end to which his life is headed.

A star is more of a star if he never arrives.

Needless to say, reading this wonderful novella from Mishima has restored my faith in my love of Japanese writing. Inevitably, because of the author’s complex relationship with his country and fame, it’s hard not to imagine him drawing from his own life and feelings when writing “Star”. Mishima had himself recently had a go at movie acting and it apparently proved not to be to his taste; so presumably much of that experience was funneled into this story. It’s a compelling, beautifully written work, and I can’t understand why it’s taken so long for it to appear in translation.

Via Wikimedia Commons – see here for attribution: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Yukio_Mishima_01.jpg

Like my encounter with another recently translated book, “The Frolic of the Beasts“, reading “Star” has reminded me what a stunning writer Mishima was and how I really need to revisit his other works. And rather wonderfully, I also have another previously untranslated work of his sitting on the TBR…. ;

“Star” is translated by Sam Bett, who apparently has received kudos for his work – to which I would like to add my thanks and praise! Any previously untranslated Mishima is very welcome in this quarter!!!

….in which I experience a rare reading failure…. #JapaneseLitChallenge14

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The Housekeeper and The Professor by Yoko Ogawa
Translated by Stephen Snyder

Well, it’s rare that I experience a reading failure, as I always try to choose books I think will give me *something* or that I’ll engage with. However, my first read of 2021, a book I chose for the Japanese Literature Challenge, turned out to be not one for me. The book in question is “The Housekeeper and The Professor” by Yoko Ogawa, and it comes highly rated; I’ve seen any number of glowing reviews, and bloggers I follow love it. I don’t, and I’ll try to explain why.

Plotwise, the book is initially intriguing; a young woman is employed as a housekeeper for an ageing professor of mathematics; the latter has memory issues following an accident decades ago, and can only retain memories from the last 80 minutes after which things are wiped clean and his memory starts again. Anything from before the accident is fine, so he still has his mathematical skills, but day to day living is problematic. The Housekeeper is employed by his sister-in-law, referred to throughout as The Widow, and the other character in the story is the housekeeper’s son. He’s nicknamed Root because his flat head reminds The Professor of the square root sign; and the book follows the bonds that develop between the three main characters, while The Housekeeper copes with having to reintroduce herself to her employer every morning…

So far, so good – the premise of the book *is* appealing. However, I had a number of issues which in brief are:

1. I failed to engage with any of the characters; the writing felt flat, the main protagonists underdeveloped and I felt detached from the whole reading experience.
2. The plot was again underdeveloped; there was far too much unsaid and unexplored, and several hints were so low-key you could miss them. Without giving too much away, there was a situation with The Widow and The Professor which could, and should, have been expanded – I think my feelings boil down to the fact that this book was very undercooked and could have been much more than it actually was.
3. I understand why the author gave the characters titles, not names, as I imagine they were meant to represent that part of Japanese society – an esteemed Professor, a lowly Housekeeper – but that didn’t help with the distancing effect.
4. In many ways, I often felt that the setting of Japan was irrelevant to the book and it could have been anywhere – I never got a strong feeling of being in Japan.
5. Baseball and Maths…. Much of the plot (and the book) hangs on the twin prongs of baseball and maths. The Professor sees the world in terms of numbers and attempts to transmit this to The Housekeeper and Root. And strangely, for an uneducated person who’s had to bring herself up, she grasps compex formulae and sees the beauty of numbers. The book is riddled with formulae which lost me – I’m not mathematical and tbh this left me cold – and I found this element too prominent. As for baseball, the Professor and Root are obsessed by it (fair enough); but it becomes again the most important thing for the little pseudo-family, and dominates the book to the point that I completely switched off.

Well, I could go on, but I won’t. You might wonder why I actually finished the book, but I found it so slight that I read it in a day; I kept hoping it would develop into something stronger, but it didn’t. The end frankly peters out and I was left wondering what had been the point? If Ogawa was trying to show that the most unlikely combination of people can form a kind of family group, she could have done so without being so heavy on the maths and baseball, and in fact what happens in the book could be told in novella length. There was so sketchy a backstory for the characters that I could find nothing to latch onto; they seemed like stereotyped cardboard cut outs to me. And much more should have been made of The Widow. There *were* some nice touches to the story; the fact that The Professor had little scraps of paper attached to his clothing to remind him of important things; the occasional hint to events in the past which had led up to the current situation; but these were not enough to compensate for the rest of it.

Enough. This was not a book for me, and I’m just glad that I didn’t spend longer with it. I accept that it may just be me; my expectations may have been too high and I could have been anticipating a completely different book; and I know many love it. But I found it slight, underdeveloped and completely underwhelming. I don’t often write negative reviews, but this was an unfortunate start to my Japanese Literature Month reading, and I wanted to at least share my thoughts. If you’ve read the book and felt differently, do tell me why! As for my copy, I shall pass it on to my old friend J. who is a bit of a Japanophile – maybe it will work better for her! 😀

2021 – dare I make tentative bookish plans????

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That’s a good question on a number of levels really, as 2020 was something of a hideous year and frankly 2021 isn’t looking any better at the moment…  Add in the fact that as a rule, I’m rubbish with challenges or events and you get the picture… However, I *am* going to commit to a couple of things in the first half of the year and we’ll see how it goes!

First up is Japanese Literature Challenge 14 from Dolce Bellezza:

I pretty much always try to take part in this but don’t always succeed. I love Japanese Lit, though, and have any number of books I could read, so I will try..

Coming  up in April, I will be co-hosting the 1936 Club with Simon from Stuck in a Book; our clubs are always such fun and this looks to be another great year – do join in if you can! 😀

I don’t know if there is a formal challenge for this, but I want to spend as much time as possible in 2021 reading from the stacks; Mount TBR is in a ridiculous state, desperately needing pruning and I would like to make some serious inroads. So I shall try to limit the incomings and read what I have (which is enough to keep me going for a lifetime). Will I be able to resist the lure of the new and shiny? We shall see.

There are, of course, all manner of reading events in the second half of the year; Women in Translation month, for example, which takes place in August, as does All Virago/All August – I sometimes try to combine the two. And November is stuffed to the gills with challenges, from Non-fiction November, to Novellas, to German Lit Month and many more. I usually try to do those too, but that’s not for a while so I shan’t worry about them now!

Apart from that, I plan to keep it fluid and read what takes my fancy. However, there *is* one rather special reading event in which I shall be taking part… But you’ll have to wait for more news on that! ;D

 

2020 – will there be challenges???? ;D

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Traditionally, the start of a new year in bookish circles means making plans for future reading, deciding on challenges and projects, as well as setting up piles of prospective reads. I’ve done all those things in the past, but more often than not I fall by the wayside; I’m very much a person who reads by whim and mood, and I’ve found I don’t respond well to restrictions. I prefer to follow my reading muse and pick up whichever book I fancy. So in recent years I’ve tended to avoid most formal challenges, sticking instead to the Club reads I co-host with Simon, and of course WIT Month which is a big favourite. Having said that, I *have* been considering dropping in on a few upcoming reading events:

First up is the Japanese Literature Challenge, hosted by Dolce Bellezza. I love Japanese literature and as the challenge runs until the end of March there’s plenty of time for me to participate, particularly as I have at least one lovely Japanese title on the TBR! I think I *will* sign up for this one, because even if I only manage *one* book at least I’ll have taken part! 😀

Next up is this event:

The European Reading Challenge is hosted by Rose City Reader, and as I read a lot of translated literature, once again this should be no problem – particularly as it runs all year long! 😀 Plus France and Russia are included so really I have no excuse for not succeeding with this one! Again, I have any number of appropriate titles on the TBR, and as the top (deluxe!) level is to read just 5 books from Europe – well, if I don’t manage that, what the heck will I be doing this year????

Finally, there is Robert Musil… I’ve considered his massive magnum opus “The Man without Qualities” and there is a year-long Twitter readalong which has just started. It’s a *big* book – 1152 pages in the easily available all-in-one Picador version – which is vaguely intimidating, although spread out over a year maybe not so. However, I felt I would probably struggle physically and mentally with a book that fat and after a little investigation discovered that Picador had issued in the past in three separate volumes. Well – after a bit of humming and hahing and chatter on Twitter about ripping books into sections (!!), I succumbed and the three separate volumes are on their way. Will I read them? Who knows – I may well have a go! ;D

Apart from these challenges and the others I’ve mentioned above, I think I will try to keep my plans fluid, light and stress-free. Oh – well there might be *one* more event coming up during the last couple of weeks of February… But more about that will follow later! ;D

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