Friday, December 30, 2011

Well? Hello 2-12 - The Traditional End Of Year Round Up Post-

Or what I managed, or almost managed,
in this my 2nd years Blogging -
(Subtitled a Bluffers guide
to semi-literate blogging- Pt2).

I started The Parrish Lantern on the 2nd of April 2010, never expecting to be still here in 2012, but here I am, still here, still learning the ropes, still finding out what works and what I want to say, but still loving it! Last year, I wrote 84 posts, from Winnie the Pooh day through to World Poetry day, I posted on 10 collections of poetry ranging from poets as diverse as Nuala Ní Chonchúir, Derek Walcott, W.G. Sebald, James Joyce and Roberto Bolano. I also started a poetry anthology on Twitter @pomesallsizes, complete with it’s own page here on the Lantern. I also posted on books from Japan, Italy, Romania, The Nederlands, The Philippines, The Caribbean, Bulgaria, USA, Spain, Iran, Chile etc. But it’s not all been plain sailing, in 2011 I got ambitious,  as I did so well the previous year I upped my game and entered seven, year-long Challenges, which I either failed miserably at or crawled on my belly over the finish line – so a big sorry to the hosts of those challenges. Now I’m a tad older, have pretensions to a degree more wisdom and with tail tucked firmly between my legs (held in place by an undergarment) I’ve decided to downsize this year, will only take part in a few big challenges and maybe enter a few of the smaller ones if time allows.  Another big change since I started this is that I am now owner of a Kindle, which is different (strange) as in back in June 2010 I stated that that it would never replace a book for me, but due to certain circumstances this situation changed & I’ve since come to love my Kindle, although this hasn’t stopped me purchasing books.

 The Circumstance

The major Challenges
this year will hopefully be. stressed
2012 E-book Challenge hosted by Sarah from Workaday Reads. I am starting at CD = 10 e-books, but will try to aim higher.
The Eclectic Reader 2012 Challenge hosted by Shelleyrae from Book’d Out, the aim of the Challenge is to push one a little outside the comfort zone by reading up to 12 books during the year from 12 different genres. This ones a bit scary!
2012 Sci-Fi Challenge hosted by Ellie from Curiosity Killed the Bookworm.The definition is: fiction dealing principally with the impact of actual or imagined science on society or individuals or having a scientific factor as an essential orienting component.

My Final Challenge Will be one I’ve taken part in for the last two years and will be delighted to take part in again, this being Japanese Literature Challenge 6. Starting on June 1st 2012.

A Personal Literary
“Highlights of the Year” – or
the books I most liked.

Favourite Poetry AnthologyOf Gentle Wolves  This collection of Romanian poetry, I described  as like a good snapshot, you want to find out more beyond the image fixed on the slide.
Favourite single Poetry collection – I’ve decided to choose two here, as both collections astounded me when I read them, so The Juno Charm - Nuala Ní Chonchúir  and  What The Water Gave Me, Poems After Frida Kahlo. -Pascale Petit are joint favourites, both choose different paths, but both fulfil the expression “Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful”.
Favourite Short Story Collection is Órfhlaith Foyle’s Somewhere in Minnesota and Other Stories, followed closely by, Maybe This Time by Alois Hotschnig, both amazed, horrified & astounded me in equal measures.
Favourite novella (short novel) is another from that wonderful publisher Peirene press, this wonderful visceral book, had me racing through the pages as fast as its main protagonist was racing from their troubles - Tomorrow Pamplona by Jan Van Mersbergen.
Just checking my index and it appears I’ve not read a great deal of non-fiction this year. The plus side to this is my choice is easier, my favourite non-fiction book is Oxford University Press’s Very Short Introductions – Modern Japan by Christopher Goto-Jones, closely followed by Alberto Manguel’ s A Reader on Reading.
Leaving me with the book that gave me the most joy, some of you who follow me regularly will probably already know the answer to this one. I described this book as “a fantastic, capricious, incredible, wonderful, hallucinatory, delight, it made me think, it made me laugh, really laugh”. This was not just in the reading but in writing the post on it, which took me about a month of evenings and became slightly addictive, I would be heard chortling away to myself, if I created a phrase that I particularly liked - had my wife & daughter worried for a bit – The book, A Void by Georges Perec, Trans Gilbert Adair (who sadly died earlier this year).
As you can see, I’m obviously a man who finds it easy to be succinct and decisive, so I’ll go before  your illusions are shattered and I feel the urge to re-write all of this with a different  selection of writers and books.funny_warning_signs_35
My aims this year are to continue promoting Poetry, from all corners of this wonderful globe of ours and to keep writing about the books I love wherever they are from. To try to improve The Parrish Lantern, so those that have Joined will have no reason to fault their decision, for which I’m ever grateful, So a big Thank You to all who follow The Parrish Lantern and feel free to add your own ideas. As a polite introduction to a new idea, whether its a Book ,a Poem, or your favourite writer is always welcome. Thanks Parrish.

PS. Also had a poem of my own published in an E-book - What is Inspiration? (Thoughts on Life) a mini-anthology of poetry drawn from the pages of a writer's workshop called MWW (My Word Wizard)(Kindle),this year.Also featured in their magazine, The Poetorialist.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Juno Charm by Nuala Ní Chonchúir (An Interview)

Around the beginning of November I posted about a short story collection, Nude by Nuala Ní Chonchúir and learnt from a fellow blogger that she had a new collection of poetry out and was in the process of organising a virtual interview tour. Well that was me interested, I'd read a few of her poems on sites such as Poetry International and loved what I’d read, and I even posted one of them on my post of Nude. So I asked if I could take part, and Nuala kindly said Yes, sending me a copy of her new book “The Juno Charm”. This is a wonderful collection of poetry that investigates what it is to be alive, to love, to hurt. Nuala conjures up charms and incantations and calls on artists as varied as Frida Kahlo, Marc Chagall & Soozy Roberts, writers such as Basho, Kafka  and Plath to craft a poetry that is so personal and intimate and yet resonates. Salvatore Quasimodo stated that “Poetry is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal, which the reader recognises as his own”. This collection is the perfect representation of that quote. Whilst taking part in this virtual tour, one of the facts about Nuala I learnt is that amongst the poets she admires is Sylvia Plath, who I’ve also been a big fan of & amongst the fantastic poems in the collection I noticed one that was based on the first line of one of my favourites (The Moon and the Yew Tree) by Plath


Poem Beginning with a Line by Plath

This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary, itJuno Charm cover

keeps me solitary, stumbling inside paranoia.

My anchoritic needs are not a bow to religion, they

are as prosaic as any modern-day hermit’s:

who is there to trust with the black of my heart,

when some trample, some steal what’s mine for

their own?


Now over to the writer of this beautiful collection of poetry


I think there's a duality in your poetry between the mundane and the spiritual, between the visceral, and borrowing a  phrase I used before "of a corporeal sexuality" and with what I can only describe as more ethereal tenuous nature, would you agree with this yourself and how do you create this duality?


Yes, I think all life can be celebrated in poetry and I love when other writers highlight the beauty in ordinary things: I like to do that too. As for creating the duality, the poems in The Juno Charm cover about four years of writing so I have recorded the ups and downs in my life, and my interests and passions, over that period and before. My poetry tends to spring from the personal – my fiction less so – and so the struggles and joys of my life come out in the poems: fertility issues, pregnancy loss, marriage breakdown, new love, babies, travel etc.


One of your previous collections Tatú/Tattoo was released as a bilingual edition with Irish/English versions both by you, how does the process of translation affect the writing of the poems.


Well, only a handful of the poems were written in Irish, the rest in English and then I translated them. Once the collection was ready, the publisher – Arlen House – wanted to highlight the fact that I have Irish. They knew I had some poems written in Irish so they commissioned the translations.

So the poems weren’t written with translation in mind. I love translating – I have a masters degree in Translation Studies – and I really enjoyed the challenge of transposing my own poems into my second language (Irish). Irish is a very succinct language with a lot of beautiful words and I had fun trying to create a new poem rather than sticking slavishly to the English version of each.


I run a Poetry site on Twitter (@pomesallsizes) with the aim of introducing as wide a range of poetry from all corners of the world to anyone interested, my question is how much does international/translated poets/writers influence your own work.


I read Poetry International every month and through that I have read and learnt about poets in translation from all over the place. I heard of Ingrid Jonker (South Africa) there first, for example.

I tend to look outwards (from Ireland) rather than inwards, anyway. I consider myself a European writer rather than just an Irish one, so I am open to influences from everywhere.


This is my tricky question, how do you see the current state of poetry and with the need of promoting your work to get it out to those who read and how do you see the role of bloggers in this process?


Poetry is in a healthy state in the sense that it is being written and published, and there are a lot of readings taking place. The small presses keep poetry alive.

I think any writer who believes that the world is going to discover them, without them doing any work on their own behalf, is deluding themselves. We live in the age of media – the more you can promote your writing via radio, TV, the papers and the net, the more people will care.

For me, blogging is a no-brainer. It is free and easy; it’s a great way to promote your own work and to meet other writers and potential readers. I have made so many friends through blogging and there is nothing better than a really lively and active literary blog. Elizabeth Baines, for example, runs two great blogs and she always has interesting things to say. I love blogs that are varied, thought provoking, opinionated and, sometimes, a little bit personal.


Finally a seasonal question, at this time of year I post a poem with a seasonal theme, this could be weather or spiritually relevant. So as I have a fabulous writer here I thought I'd offer up the choice to you and ask what is your favourite seasonal poem, which I will then post for the Yuletide.


There are so many gorgeous Christmas poems; and also songs that are like poetry. This one ‘Don oíche úd i mBeithil’/ ‘To that night in Bethlehem’ is a traditional Irish carol that reads well as poetry. There’s a lovely version of it by Celtic Woman on YouTube here:


Don oíche úd i mBeithil

Don oíche úd i mBeithil

Beidh tagairt ar ghréin go brách

Don oíche úd i mBeithil

Go dtáinig an bhréithir slán

Tá gríosghrua ar spéarthaibh

'S an talamh 'na chlúdach bán

Féach Íosagán sa chléibhín

'S an mhaighdean á dhiúl le grá

Don oíche úd i mBeithil

Beidh tagairt ar ghréin

Beidh tagairt ar ghréin go brách


To that night in Bethlehem

To that night in Bethlehem

Forever under the sun

To that night in Bethlehem

That the word safely came

There are red-hot edges on the sky

And the ground in a white covering

Look at baby Jesus without a crib

And the Virgin in delighted love

To that night in Bethlehem

Under the sun

Forever under the sun

(Translation by Norland Wind)


Parrish, thanks so much for having me on this the last stop of my virtual tour for The Juno Charm. It’s been a pleasure. Nollaig Shona/Happy Christmas to you and all your readers.

Thank you Nuala for the opportunity to read this collection and “Nollaig Shona agus Athbhliain faoi Mhaise Duit.”*

Nuala 2011 B&W

Bio: Born in Dublin in 1970, Nuala Ní Chonchúir lives in Galway county. Her début novel You (New Island, 2010) was called ‘a heart-warmer’ by The Irish Times and ‘a gem’ by The Irish Examiner. Her third short story collection Nude (Salt, 2009)) was shortlisted for the UK’s Edge Hill Prize. Her second short story collection To The World of Men, Welcome has just been re-issued by Arlen House in an expanded paperback edition. The Juno Charm, her third full poetry collection, was launched in November. Nuala's newest short story collection Mother America appears from New Island in 2012.




(photo credit, Emilia Krysztofiak)


The Juno Charm


Here are my fellow tour members with the questions they had for Nuala.

 Órfhlaith Foyle's Blog
Vanessa Gebbie's Blog 
Niamh Boyce's Blog 

 Rachel Fenton's Blog 
Tania Hershman's Blog 
Mel Ulm's Blog

*Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year (I hope)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Preaching to the converted - Why Translation Matters*

I think, to the majority of the people who visit The Parrish Lantern, this is a question that even if it momentarily  flitted across their conscious mind - would seem so obvious, it must be rhetorical, and yet a post on a fellow bloggers site, made  me reconsider this question. Because of the way my country appears to be heading, the way to all intents and purposes our leaders(?) have chosen to isolate us from the greater European community, a fellow blogger – Tom (The Common Reader) was so appalled by their decision, he wrote a post decrying this horrendous situation, stating that he was a Europhile.  That because he as

a lover of European literature I have developed a sense of being “European”, sharing in the culture of Thomas Mann, Honoré de Balzac, Marcel Proust, Robert Walser, Gunther Grass, Magda Szabo and many others”.

This got me thinking about how we, lovers of World/ translated literature, may have a different aspect, an alternate viewpoint to those that do not read or that only read works by English language writers. how can you be insular, inward looking whilst your viewpoint is being shaped and moulded by a whole world of writers, if your vision of this planet is not only shaped by the writers of Europe but Asia, the Americas and all points in-between. If your understanding of a situation is derived from a combination of questions and answers posed and dissected, screamed out at a confused and hostile world by writers from all points of this globe, you rapidly learn that we have far more in common and share a whole lot more than there are differences. A quick look through the index of this blog made me realise that the majority of the books on The Parrish Lantern, started out their lives in a language different to the one I read them in, writers like – Roberto Bolano, Yukio Mishima, Italo Calvino, Deyan Enev, Pablo Neruda, Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, Alois Hotschnig, Kobo Abe, Alessandro Baricco, Hans Fallada & many more, all of whom I read in a translated form.

Which brings me to this book “ Why Translation Matters” by Edith Grossman. In this book the writer/ translator stakes out her claim for the importance of translation and the role of the translator, she says in the introduction that:
“My intention is to stimulate a new consideration of an area of literature that is too often ignored, misunderstood or misrepresented. As the world seems to grow smaller and more interdependent and interconnected while at the same time, nations and peoples paradoxically become increasingly antagonistic to one another, translation has an important function to fulfil  that I believe must be cherished and nurtured. Translation not only plays its important traditional role as the means that allows us access to literature originally written in one of the countless languages we cannot read, but it also represents a concrete literary presence with the crucial capacity to ease and make more meaningful relationships to those with whom we may not have had a connection with before. Translation always helps us to know, to see from a different angle, to attribute new value to what once may have been unfamiliar. As nations and as individuals, we may have a critical need for that kind of understanding and insight. The alternative is unthinkable.”

Three of the four sections of this book are based on lectures the writer gave for the Yale university press (connected to the Whitney Centres Annual lecture series), only the final chapter on poetry was specifically written for this volume. This allows her to discuss her craft, to explain the finer points, the differences between rote work and the kind of translation where through an almost metamorphic alchemy an alternate form is created*, a subject she is more than qualified to discuss. Edith Grossman is an award-winning translator specializing in English versions of Spanish language books, she is considered to be one of the most important translators of Latin American fiction in the past century. She has translated the works of Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez, Mayra Montero, Augusto Monterroso, Jaime Manrique, Julián Ríos and of Álvaro Mutis, and her translation of Cervantes, Don Quixote is now widely accepted as the standard text.

By allowing us to explore through literature the thoughts and feelings of people from different societies or from different points in time, we learn, savour through a kind of osmosis what once was strange, foreign which through this process becomes familiar, whilst experiencing at the same time life outside our own skins and with it our preconceptions and misconceptions. Translation expands and deepens our world and our consciousness of it in many ways.
Chad post from Three Percent (a resource for international literature at the university of Rochester) stated;

“And so we come back to the first question: why does translation matter, and to whom? I believe it matters for the same reason and in the same way literature matters – because it is crucial to our sense of ourselves as humans. The artistic impulse and the need for art in our species will not be denied.”

Which brings me back to my title “Preaching to the converted” and my conversation with Tom & whether it is true that by reading, and imbibing another nations literature you can come to a greater understanding of their society and  culture  whilst in the process becoming closer to that culture and less isolationist as individuals or nation states, this is the idea behind the book “Why Translation Matters” and also something I totally believe and feel I’ve experienced myself, through my love of literature.

I will now throw this over to who ever is reading this - Is the writer of this book and myself being particularly naive  about this subject or do you agree with this sentiment?

*One Hundred Years of Solitude translated by Gregory Rabassa, was declared by Gabriel García Márquez to be superior to his own Spanish original.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Book Thief - A Guest Post By Derek Edward Ath.

A Good Day to you, for in truth it is one, but more of that later for as one is a guest here, politeness is paramount. Now, reason suggests you may be a tad curious as to why my presence is warranted here on The Parrish Lantern, although with all honesty reason played no part in my decision, it was merely a cocktail of curiosity and happenstance – some routine from my day job had me close by and I’m told I can be very persuasive. But enough of that, politeness again holds up it’s hand and suggest that I’ve prevaricated more than would be necessary for any building of suspense. 

cover pic3

The Book Thief by Australian writer Markus Zusak, although narrated by me (hadn’t you guessed?) is set in Nazi Germany and concerns Liesel Meminger, amongst others, although to be honest, it’s mainly her and her relationships with others and what a list of others there are, for example here are a few..

Hans Hubermann & Rosa Hubermann – foster parents

Max VandenburgJewish fist fighter

Rudy Steiner – friend

The residents of Himmel street (Himmel = Heaven)

Ilsa Hermann – the mayor's wife

Jesse Owen (although not in person)

The Nazis

Oh and we mustn’t forget Hitler, although like all great Bogymen, he’s best viewed looking down from some nightmare. This isn’t anywhere near the complete list but it will give you an idea of the Book thief's world.

We first see Liesel, beside a railway track with her mother and her brother (the reason I was there) and two railway guards arguing what they should do with the corpse, they had a lot less tact than I. After her brother is buried in some graveyard, Liesel and her mother continued their journey to Molching, where she would be fostered by Hans Hubermann & Rosa Hubermann. The reason for the fostering is to distance the children from their parents’ known communist sympathies.

It is at the graveyard where he brother lays, that Liesel steals her first book - The Grave Digger’s Handbook and although she cannot read, she keeps it as a reminder of her brother.

I believe I’ve mentioned curiosity before and, were it possible, I believe it would be the death of me (apologies for the humour, but it’s sometimes needed), anyway suffice it to say, curiosity got the better of me and I visited Liesel’s world a couple more times, the last time was heartrending, and yes contrary to rumour I do feel these things. Himmel street became hell on earth

“For hours the sky remained a devastating home-cooked red. the small German town had been flung apart one more time. Snowflakes of ash fell so lovelily you were tempted to stretch out your tongue to catch them, taste them. Only they would have scorched your lips. They would have cooked your mouth.”

And believe me when I say, I know of hell! “ I wanted to stop. To crouch down. I wanted to say. “I’m sorry child”. But that is not allowed. I did not crouch down. I did not speak.”. All I could do was watch and when she moved, so did I, at some point during that maelstrom of grief she dropped the book and at some point I picked it up.


LM Bookthief

It’s at this point in the current proceedings I think it wise, prudent and better still – of a polite nature -  to hand you back to the regular writer of The Parrish Lantern, but first I shall once again bid  a Good Day to you and to state that it is one - for now I leave empty-handed.

D. E. Ath.


It’s through death’s taking of the book we learn about Liesel’s world, about her wonderful foster father and her sharp tongued and yet immensely loving foster mother, we learn about a small town near Munich on a road that for some ends with Dachau. It's also through death, we learn of honour and courage, we learn the story of a Jewish fist fighter and we learn of love in all it’s many forms. We also learn of the absolute mundanity of evil -  from the sly boot when one is down right up to the subjugation and genocide of a people, because one of death’s problems is..

“I am haunted by humans”

The Book Thief

This was a book I had expected to dislike, it seemed to be not sure if it were a book for adults or proudly YA, like a teenager caught in a netherworld between these two points the book was fluctuating between both axis and yet…. I loved it. I read it because it is one of the books for World Book Night and I needed a book that my daughter and I could both get behind, both support with an understanding of it’s content (if asked by others). Did I say I loved it, that I have a queue of colleagues wanting to borrow this on the strength of my vocal adoration of it. This is a book about the power of language, of words and how they may appear inert, merely tools for our use to be put away when not needed, but in reality they have the power to change all, there’s a quote in The Last Evenings on Earth by Roberto Bolano, that with slight word change would fit here…

"The secret story is the one we'll never know, although we're living it from day to day, thinking we're alive, thinking we've got it all under control and the stuff we overlook doesn't matter. But every single damn thing matters! Only we don't realize. We just tell ourselves that art runs on one track and life, our lives, on another, and we don't realize that's a lie."

This is also a book of the ten separate books that map Liesel’s world, but they don’t delineate it, like all good maps they show what’s there, but also the paths to what isn’t. 


Friday, December 2, 2011

The Face of Another - Kobo Abe

A “persona” in the standard vernacular, refers to a social role or character performed by an actor. The word is thought to have derived from Latin, where it’s original meaning referred to a theatrical mask. The Latin word probably has it’s roots in the Etruscan word “Phersu” which had the same meaning*. In the study of communication, persona is a term used to describe the versions of self that all individuals possess, with behaviours  selected like masks according to the impression an individual wishes to project when interacting with others. Therefore, “personas” presented to other people will vary according to the social environment a person is engaged in and the persona presented before others will differ from the one an individual will display when they happen to be alone. According to Carl Jung whilst a child is growing, the development of a viable social persona is a vital part of adapting to and in preparation for adult life in the external social world - 'A strong ego relates to the outside world through a flexible persona; identification with a specific persona (doctor, scholar, artist, etc.) inhibits psychological development'. For Jung the danger was that people become identical with their personas (the  doctor with his stethoscope, the conductor with her baton ) resulting in what could be a shallow, brittle, conformist kind of personality which is "all  mask”.

drama, mask?

The Face of Another (1964) was Kobe Abe’s first major novel after  the success of The Women in the Dunes (1962) and like that book follows the theme of the modern individuals alienation with  the society they live in. The novel tells the  story of a scientist so hideously disfigured by Keloid* scars - the result of a failed laboratory experiment - that his whole face is covered in bandages and his wife finds his image disgusting. He comes up with a plan of creating a mask, with the aim of seducing his wife as another man, all the while documenting everything in a series of notebooks. The first part sees him planning and building the mask, which is so realistic that it appears to fool everyone, save for one girl who, although we are told is intellectually challenged, still recognises that the man in the mask and the man in the bandages are one and the same.



The narrative is expressed in first person through three separate coloured notebooks, although we are told that there is no reason behind this beyond a means in which to distinguish them apart. It is through them that we follow this faceless individual viewing what seems to be a dissection of his every thought, or the peeling away of layers of his psyche, but is actually multiplying the veneer on his mask, removing himself further from his expressed aim and building more masks in which to confine himself. As the tale progresses it’s as though the mask takes over, this starts slowly as his confidence in the mask grows, until it becomes  a force that isolates him far more than his scarred face ever did. He, or the mask, finally get confident enough to meet his wife and is soon dismayed and angered by how easy it was to seduce her, in fact so convinced is he in his role as “mask” that he believes her sexual act with him, places her in the role of the unfaithful spouse who was so easily seduced from her marital vows and as such can be written down, catalogued and defined, before being rejected.


As I stated before, this is all played out through the three notebooks in which the scientist records and dissects minutiae of his existence, where every sentence, every page adds more layers to his mask, thereby transforming his face into a shield with which to protect himself, an anonymous faceless eye observing without being seen, reduced to a voyeuristic gaze living among millions of strangers, who although close neighbours, are faces he does not recognise – symbolising  the fundamental facelessness of contemporary man lost in an ocean of complete anonymity.

“Just a minute! The plans for the mask were not the only thing. The fate of having lost my face and of being obliged to depend on a mask was  in itself  not exceptional, but was rather a destiny I shared with contemporary man, wasn’t it? A trivial discovery indeed. For my despair lay in my fate, rather than in my loss of face; it lay in the fact that I did not have the slightest thing in common with other men. I envied even a cancer victim, because he shares something with other men. If this turned out to be untrue, the hole into which I had fallen was not an abandoned well provided with an emergency escape; it was a penitentiary cell, recognized by everyone but me”

Towards the end of this novel, the impressions of his wife, are replaced by another beautiful face, seen in a film the protagonist saw whilst hiding out in a cinema - this girl has one side of her face an ideal of perfection, the other a mass of keloidal scarring. Here is a face of Hibakusha*, a survivor  of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. Although half-destroyed  by this scarring, her face is striking, displaying a beauty which the scientist could observe protected by the darkness of the cinema from the gaze of others and only through this visage does his own scarring cease to be a personal tragedy and can become an emblem of post-war  Japan, which had not yet found a way to escape the memories of war.

This book is also a love story – a man trying to reconnect with his wife and yet is lost amongst the masks he has built around himself, the layers and barriers through which he peers, searching for a pathway back to when there was a connection, a point when the masks although not totally removed, were slid to one side and one glanced at the nakedness of the other. By the final pages of this book we are left with an image of this individual alone amongst millions, trapped by his own creation, left trying to rationalize a way forward and yet still adding layers to his mask.

Kobo Abe through his work as an Avant-garde novelist and playwright, has been compared to the likes of Franz Kafka and Alberto Moravia and like Kafka there is an apparent clinical detachment in the writing, as though Abe’s medical background has had a direct influence upon his writing style and yet with this there is also an elegance that makes this novel an immensely enjoyable and also an incredibly satisfying read – on all levels.

face mask

Kōbō Abe (安部 公房 Abe Kōbō), pseudonym of Kimifusa Abe (安部 公房 Abe Kimifusa was born on March the 7th 1924  in Kita, Tokyo,  he grew up in Mukden (now Shen-yang) in Manchuria during the second world war. In 1948 he received a medical degree from the Tokyo Imperial University, yet never practised medicine. As well as a writer, he was also a poet ( Mumei shishu "Poems of an unknown poet" - 1947) playwright, photographer and inventor. Although his first novel  Owarishi michi no shirube ni ("The Road Sign at the End of the Street") was published in  1948 which helped to establish his reputation, it wasn’t until the publication of The Woman in the Dunes in 1962 that he won widespread international acclaim. In the 1960’s  he worked with the Japanese director Hiroshi Teshigahara on the film adaptations of this novel, plus The Pitfall, Woman in the Dunes and The Ruined Map, in the early 1970’s he set up an acting studio in Tokyo, where he trained performers and directed plays. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1977.


Among the honours bestowed on him were the Akutagawa Prize in 1951 for The Crime of S. Karuma, the Yomiuri Prize in 1962 for Woman in the Dunes, and the Tanizaki Prize in 1967 for the play Friends. Kenzaburō Ōe stated that Abe deserved the Nobel Prize in Literature, which he himself had won (Abe was nominated multiple times).


Kobo Abe(Wiki)

ibiblio /abe kobo/      drama mask


Kaori Nagai  graduated from the University of Tokyo and obtained a doctorate in Postcolonial studies from the University of Kent (UK), where she teaches to this day. She is the author of Empire of Analogies: Kipling, India and Ireland and co-edited a collection of essays with Prof. Caroline Rooney entitled Kipling and Beyond: Patriotism, Globalisation and Postcolonialism.

Kaori Nagai U' of Kent

School of European Culture and Languages (Kaori Nagai)


*The Latin word probably derived from the Etruscan word "phersu", with the same meaning, and that from the Greek πρόσωπον (prosōpon). Its meaning in the latter Roman period changed to indicate a "character" of a theatrical performance.

* Keloid is a type of scar, which depending on its maturity, is composed mainly of either type III (early) or type I (late)collagen. It is a result of an overgrowth of granulation tissue (collagen type 3) at the site of a healed skin injury which is then slowly replaced by collagen……......

* The surviving victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are called hibakusha (被爆者?), a Japanese word that literally translates to "explosion-affected people". Many victims were Japanese who still live in Japan, ................

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What work of literature would you recommend to someone who doesn't like literature?

I’ve been a bit remiss with my appreciation of the ladies of The blue bookcase recently and now like some guilty schoolboy, I find myself sneaking back after a period of truancy, to one hell of a question.

What work of literature
would you recommend to someone
who doesn't like literature?
What speak to people that have no affection for the written word? Isn’t that called work? I mean what about the “ is it out on DVD yet” and other such questions that one faces when you speak to – Those That Do Not Read!!!!!!!!!!!!
Well recently I’ve recommended “The Book Thief” by Marcus Zusak, but I’m not sure it counts, as it comes with some YA hang up (although I loved it). So where does that leave me? hmmmmm

How about a book that I described as  “A proper Russian Novel” – “The Dream Life of Sukhanov” by Olga Grushin and the reason I described it as such was that the author had  invested in the character of Sukhanov, all the angst and pathos, all the weakness and hubris that I remember reading in all those great Russian novels. Sukhanov goes on an epic journey of rediscovery, he is constantly assailed by images from his past, haunted by all those ideals he repressed for the sake of a career in the USSR. Yet things change, and it’s in this change, Sukhanov is left to question his choices….  yet this is not a hard book to read - the tale flows, you follow the lines smiling over the way they roll and before you know, you’ve read more pages than are left & you try to slow down, to savour what remains.

Another possible book  to suggest would be “Strangers” by Taichi Yamada, This was one of the books that got me into Japanese Literature – This  book has moments of sheer beauty with an insidious, underlying fear. This book deals with subjects such as memory, loss & the need for human touch and again has a style that just makes you want to keep the pages turning.
Now this wouldn’t be The Parrish Lantern if I didn’t mention a poetry book, so I’ll recommend three, all from the Bloodaxe Publishers and all Edited by the fantastic Neil Astley
Staying Alive, Being Alive and Being Human, they have been described as distilling the heart as nothing else.