Botchan and Thousand Cranes

Mark and I read Japanese authors on the way to Boston. Mark read the new Murakami .  I read  Botchan by Natsume Soseki and Thousand Cranes by Yaunari Kawabata. It made me want to re-read Forbidden Colors by Yukio Mishima. Botchan is a Japanese version of Catcher in the Rye but with the main character in his twenties. He is a child man.  Our main character likes to take his daily baths; he wants to have his nurse back take care of him.  He misses being a little boy. Many kids want to grow up; want to act on the world, but not our Botchan. He wants to be acted upon. He likes the passive role.  But he’s such a funny endearing fellow.  You want him to be okay; you want him to have fun.  First published in Japanese in 1906; this book is a great look at Japan before both world wars.

 

Thousand Cranes is set in Japan after World War II; a slow sad book about love, hope, marriage, concubines and handkerchiefs, but also about families. What constitutes family? There are the family members we like and don’t like, but still they’re family.  We begin and end with the woman with the birthmark.  I thought about Hawthorne’s story “The birthmark,” and the idea that a person can be marked in such a way that their destiny is changed, and especially a woman. A woman with a birthmark is stained.  Beauty is one of the ways we have made our way forward for centuries, and even now, with access to education and jobs, good looks help a girl and having a birthmark messes with that. The girl with beauty might move forward.  The girl with the birthmark ends up neutered, ignored.  If you are too beautiful, they hate you, if you aren’t pretty, they ignore you. The choices for women aren’t good in this Kawabata novel, but I love learning about Japanese culture. The tea ceremony, the bowls, the dishes, the life of ceremony.

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Published in: on May 29, 2017 at 6:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

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