Most of the Japanese literature I’ve been reading this summer is in the original language, and I will readily admit that it takes me much longer to read novels in Japanese than it takes me to read them in English translation.
In the meantime, I have been enjoying Chinese mystery fiction. My favorite book so far is Qiu Xialong’s Death of a Red Heroine, the first in his series of Inspector Chen novels (which include A Loyal Character Dancer and several others currently available in translation). Another series I enjoy is Diane Wei Liang’s Mei Wang novels, which include The Eye of Jade and Paper Butterfly. I’m generally not in favor of forced attempts to create “strong female characters,” especially within the realm of mystery novels, but I am a huge fan of private detective Mei Wang.
I have also been enjoying all of the contemporary Korean literature that’s been springing up in translation recently. The journal Azalea is a wonderful source for short fiction and commentary; but, in the end, I still prefer novels. I’m especially excited about Yi Munyol’s Our Twisted Hero, which is both a fun and quick read and a trenchant political allegory. If you’re not willing to pay $25 for a 130 page hardcover, though, both Sei-hui Cho’s The Dwarf and Young-ha Kim’s I Have the Right to Destroy Myself are out in paperback. Both novels delve into fairly serious themes while playing with narrative structures, and both novels’ depictions of their contemporary Korean settings make me want to get on a plane and go.
Alas, but it’s probably better to keep studying Japanese until I master it before I begin studying Korean. And besides, Japanese literature is still lots of fun. If you are a fellow blogger, I’d like to draw your attention to the fourth Japanese Literature Challenge, which is currently ongoing. The idea is to write a book review of a work of Japanese literature in translation. Submit it to their site, and you could win prizes. Go check it out!