Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Japanese "Scandal"

“A person never knows their own true face. Everybody thinks that the phoney, posed social mask they wear is their real face.” 

Like any other Japanese novel that I have read, Shusaku Endo's "Scandal" impresses with the way the story unfolds and with the main character's struggle. Even if some critics have found the motif of the Doppelganger (a ghostly counterpart of a living person according to Merriam-Webster) a bit boring, I was taken aback by the way in which, step by step, everything turned blurry and I could not predict what was going to happen next. The mystery and confusion surrounding the main character, the old writer Suguru, always trying to write a better book, did not bother me; in fact, this was the key element that made me finish the novel in no time.

“True religion should be able to respond to the dark melodies, the faulty and hideous sounds that echo from the heart of men.” 

What would you do if one day someone accused you, a person of high moral beliefs, of something embarrassing and undesirable? What would you do if your wife discovered you actually hired the young girl you had been dreaming about dating to help her with the daily chores? Would you accept the invitation to a love hotel in order to hunt down the impostor that pretends to be you? What if that impostor is, in fact, you?

The novel, written in 1986, is set in Tokyo and it describes the night life of that period, with the sins and impulses that it involves for the modern man. I quite liked the story mainly because it reminded me of Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. A must read for all Japanese Literature lovers. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

About a Dormant Blog, the National Day and Romanian Writers Challenge

No, this blog is not dead, it has simply enjoyed some time off, away from the madding crowds and deeply immersed into some serious reading. To paraphrase John Lennon who said that "life is what happens when you are busy making plans", I could say that reading happens when you stop writing posts :) 

Anywayz :), I have read so many books for the challenges I am involved in that the only problem arising is which book to actually write about these days... but since today is the final day for the First Edition of Romanian Writers' Challenge I definitely have to praise a wonderful short story collection, a book which was also awarded The First Prize for a Debut Manuscript by Herg Benet Publishing House for 2014. 

"Mr. Red's Memoirs" (2015) by Celestin Cheran is the book that made me stop saying I am not a huge fan of short stories, because I think I am. I am so impressed by every single one of these stories that reminded me of Haruki Murakami's talent of sweeping us off our feet with the fantastic turn a story could take, thus being left wondering what has happened and how could the story unfold after the writer has decided to end it on paper. With each of the 20 stories you get the chance to explore a slightly fantastic universe in which dull moments of everyday life transform themselves into a troubling decor for events that may seem unimaginable at first but that manage to make you doubt yourself and your mind. 

Another thing I enjoyed while reading the short stories was the fact that they are so different one from the others that it feels as if you are reading a different author with each story. Still, I do have two or three favorites: "The Man with a Misty Face" in which a man is bothered by some stalker that turns out to be him in the future; "Jumping from a Skyscraper" in which we see a suicide in slow motion; "The Escalator"  - once you get on that escalator, there is no going back...

"You live all the time with the impression that you are somewhere in the middle of things. You are close to something and far from something else, never where you exactly want to be. In the place where something deep and inexact in you wants to be, something like a heart beating in the night covered by rivers." (The Escalator) 

Celestin Cheran defines himself as "an obsessive writer, one who writes "Six Word Stories" is order to keep his mind busy from other minds." He is 30 years old and his second volume of short stories appeared only a month ago and I will definitely read it! :)