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“Humankind is becoming dry and brittle.” #Nagasaki @BelgraviaB #EricFaye

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Nagasaki by Eric Faye
Translated by Emily Boyce

The trouble with following as many book blogs I do is, frankly, the number of recommendations and book ideas you get. On top of this, my memory is shocking and I tend to forget who it was who wrote about a particular book. However, in this case I’ve managed to remember that it was Karen at Booker Talk who wrote about “Nagasaki”; and I was so intrigued that I picked up a copy and read it recently when the need to read something short and actually *finish* it took hold of me!

French author Eric Faye has written numerous novels and short stories; interestingly, he’s also a journalist, and “Nagasaki” draws on a real-life news story. Set in the titular Japanese city, it tells the story of meteorologist Kobo Shimura who lives quietly on his own in an ordinary suburban street. A creature of routine, he lives an isolated life, rarely mixing with his younger colleagues and his life proceeds undisturbed until one day he notices something strange. It appears that food and drink are going missing from his fridge; and as he lives in a neighbourhood where residents don’t lock their doors the natural assumption is that there has been an intruder. However, a locked door doesn’t stop the disappearances, and so Shimura installs a webcam to find out what is going on. The results are unsettling, to say the least, and the consequences fairly explosive for both Shimura and the visitor who’s been helping themself to his supplies.

And here I hit a dilemma of how much to reveal about this book. It’s probably fair to acknowledge that the blurb gives away that someone has been living secretly in Shimura’s house; a homeless woman who’s hidden herself in a spare room cupboard. Her actions, taken out of necessity, have a destabilising effect on Shimura and his sense of security in his own home; and the women herself faces an uncertain future.

I don’t want to say too much more about the plot, as the book retains surprises up to the end. What I do want to mention is the clever use of point-of-view in the writing. The book is initially told entirely from Shimura’s viewpoint, and we see things only from his perspective and sympathise with his outrage about having his privacy violated. However, midway through the narrative shifts and we have parts told by an omnicient narrator and parts from the woman herself which radically change our view of events. That shift of perspective opens up the story, allowing it to take in much more than just the narrow view of Shimura’s life; and we realise that the woman is just as alienated in relation to the modern world as is Shimura concerning his violated territory.

“Nagasaki” is a short novella of 109 pages yet produces so much food for thought. There’s the worrying subject of a nation’s duty to take care of its population; our individual duty to help our fellow humans; our need for solitude and privacy versus our need for companionship; and oddly enough, our wish for resolution. Without giving anything away, the end of the book *is* unresolved and I wasn’t sure (and still am not) whether that was the ending I wanted and needed to this story. There are hints, too, of Nagasaki’s tragic past woven into the narrative and I perhaps would have liked this element to be drawn out more.

Nevertheless, this *is* a novella and such as it is very effective and moving. Despite the ambiguous and perhaps unfinished nature of the ending, I kept thinking about the story long after I’d finished it; and I certainly think in this modern world we need to do more to look after the lonely and the homeless, as well as trying to get back some sense of community and compassion. “Nagasaki” was a thoughtful read and I do recommend you give it a look if you come across it.

Jacqui has also reviewed the book here!

On My Book Table… 2 – The Chunksters…

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I’m pleased to report that the Reading Chair and the Book Table have proved to be a great success chez Ramblings (well done, Mr. Kaggsy!) I have spent many a happy hour sitting comfortably with a book and a beverage; though alas, I don’t think I’ve tackled a single volume featured in my previous post about the table… That’s fairly typical of me, and I do have the excuse of the forthcoming 1930 Club which has necessitated some focus on the year in question. However, I thought I would share some images of what’s weighing down the table at the moment as possible reads – and they *are* quite chunky books!!

That’s a fairly imposing and daunting pile of books, isn’t it? Shall we take a look in more detail??

These two titles are on the book table for a good reason, i.e. the forthcoming #1930Club. I’ve mention John Dos Passos before, but not the Bunting (although of course I *have* wittered on about Basil on the Ramblings). All will become clear next week, hopefully…. 😉

Now – these three have been sitting around on the TBR for a while. “Imaginary Cities” (from Influx Press!!) was a Christmas gift from my brother some years back; “Night Walking” came into the house when Verso were having one of their oh-so-tempting sales; and the John Muir was a purchase on a whim because I wanted it (so there!) Having just watched a repeat of a documentary on Muir (which I somehow missed first time round) I’m keen to pick it up soon. We shall see…

These two lovelies are a little slimmer, but still very appealing. The Binet was on my book table last time, and has been on the TBR for as long as the Muir, as they arrived at the same time. The Colette is a beautiful edition of an anthology of extracts from her work, called “Earthly Paradise”. Apparently it’s now out of print and not at all cheap to get hold of – who knew? Makes me even more certain I must be careful about which books I prune when I pass some on to charity shops.

A mixed bag here. Two are newly arrived at the Ramblings – “Seashaken Houses” is all about lighthouses (I love lighthouses) and I resisted it for ages in Waterstones and then gave in. The Cunard book sounded fascinating (I can’t remember where I heard about it) and as the local library didn’t have it, I was left with no choice… I’ve had the Shklovsky for ages and keep meaning to start it and don’t – story of my life, really…

More new arrivals, this time from the very lovely Notting Hill Editions. I reviewed John Berger’s book “What Time Is It” recently; it’s the final book of three published by NHE which he did with Selcuk Demirel. I was knocked out by “Time…” and so was delighted to receive the two earlier books “Cataract” and “Smoke” – such treats in store… The third book in the picture is a selection of Montaigne’s essays; I’d often thought of reading him and then Marina Sofia’s post pushed me over the edge. Thanks so much, NHE! :DD

Another three chunksters lurk on the table, again books that I’ve had around for a while. “Liberty” is about French Revolutionary women; “Romantic Outlaws” is about Mary Wollstonecroft and Mary Shelley; and “The Wives” is about spouses of Russian authors. I long to sink myself into all three at once, which is really not practical…

And finally, a couple of slim volumes which weren’t on the pile in the first image, but have managed to sneak into the house despite Mr. Kaggsy’s best efforts (ha! not really – I think he’s given up worrying about the books, realisiing he was fighting a losing battle…) “Nagasaki” is thanks to a post on the BookerTalk blog – I loved the sound of it and couldn’t resist. “Doe Lea” is VERY VERY exciting! It’s a limited edition chapbook short story by M. John Harrison (who is a big favourite here on the Ramblings as you might have noticed..); and it’s a signed copy, one of only 200. Goodness, I went into overdrive when I found out it was available. Most pleased that it arrived safely and can’t wait to read it, yet don’t want to because I want to savour it!

Well, there you are. The Book Table is groaning a little under the weight of all these mighty tomes, and of course “The Anatomy of Melancholy” seems to be in permanent residence there helping to add to the tonnage. With my fickle mind I may not actually end up reading *any* of these next; but it’s lovely to get my books out, have them on the table, flick through them and just *enjoy* having them around! The pleasures of being a bookaholic… ;D

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