2020 Reading in Review

Posted January 8, 2021 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 6 Comments

Thankfully 2020 is over and, like most people, it was not a great year for me. Apart from the pandemic and job seeking, I did have an ear infection that decided it wanted to go into my brain, leading to ventriculitis, but without going into the details of my health, let’s just say it was not the best year for my reading. I only managed to finish 54 books, which isn’t too bad but for me it was felt really low.

I did read some amazing books through the year, I started off with Older Brother by Mahir Guven (translated by Tina Kover) which was an amazing novel. The way this book talked about a Franco-Syrian family really stuck with me, I love the way Guven explored political divide between the father and the sons. Let’s face it, if Tina Kover translated the book, I am already interested in reading it, no need to tell me what it is about. In February I read The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa (translated by Stephen Snyder) which seemed to get plenty of attention this year. For me, I didn’t enjoy the book, Ogawa is an amazing writer, and I will continue to follow her writing, I just don’t understand the hype behind this book and not some of her other works, maybe this is the first book people have read.

I tend to focus on translated literature, but I am in a book club, so I have read some popular fiction; some of the highlights for the year included Bruny by Heather Rose, The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue and Betty by Tiffany McDaniel, but the true highlight was The Yield by Tara June Winch. However, the book club was also responsible for the worst book I read this year, which was The Motion of the Body Through Space by Lionel Shriver. That book was awful, I know Shriver is meant to be satirising life, but her horrible political beliefs were really reflected in this novel.

Every year when the International Booker Prize longlist is announced, I try my best to read it in its entirety. This year I was not successful, but I managed to complete the shortlist. Highlights from the books I read included The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar (translated by anonymous), The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezon Camara (translated by Iona Macintyre and Fiona Mackintosh) and Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann (translated by Ross Benjamin) which I didn’t love as much as most people, and I think it had something to do with the fantastical elements found within the book, or my health. The book I would have picked as the winner was Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor (translated by Sophie Hughes), so obviously I knew it wasn’t going to win. The winner was The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld (translated by Michele Hutchison) which I need to give a reread before deciding my opinion, but I was pleased to see they were the first non-binary winner of the Booker prize (are they the first non-binary winner of any major literary prize?).

While recovering from my health issues, I turned to crime novels as a way to get back into my reading habits, and because they were easier to manage. I love crime novels as palette cleansers and reading so many this year reminded me how much I enjoy the thrill of reading purely for entertainment. This is not why I read but I do appreciate the relaxation that came from reading just for pleasure and maybe I should do it more often. Favourites included Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand, Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner and Nada by Jean-Patrick Manchette (translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith). I am very picky when it comes to crime novels and one day, I need to work out what my criteria is for selecting a good book. I was disappointed by the latest Renee Ballard book, The Night Fire, I normally like Michael Connelly’s writing style, but something was missing in this one. Although the worst crime novel I read had to be Memory Man by David Baldacci, I liked the concept of a detective suffering from synesthesia and hyperthymesia but there was some very horrible language used to describe an intersex character that really ruined the whole experience.

Some other reading highlights included, Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, The Dishwasher by Stéphane Larue (translated by Pablo Strauss), Zama by Antonio Di Benedetto (translated by Esther Allen), Four by Four by Sara Mesa (translated by Katie Whittemore) and Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami (translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd), but my favourite book of the year has to be Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo (translated by Jamie Chang). Honourable mentions have to go to The Wind that Lays Waste by Selva Almada (translated by Chris Andrews), And the Birds Rained Down by Jocelyne Saucier (translated by Rhonda Mullins) and The Beauty of the Death Cap by Catherine Dousteyssier-Khoze (translated by Tina Kover). I only read one piece of non-fiction, a memoir from Annie Ernaux called A Man’s Place (translated by Tanya Leslie), and one re-read which was Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, this time I read the amazing translation by Oliver Ready, which I highly recommend. Let me know of your reading highlights of 2020.

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The Invisible Cities Project Begins

Posted January 1, 2021 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 6 Comments

Now that it’s 2021, like all bookish nerds, I have a list of reading goals for the year. This includes reading more tomes, and doing some rereading. However, my main reading project is the Invisible Cities project which I’m hosting with some book bloggers and booktubers. This is a reading project to encourage reading around the world. Each month we have three different counties to focus on and participants are encouraged to engage with one or all the countries culture by reading a book, watching a film, eating their food or any other way. Our hosts are divided into the three counties to help provide content. For example, in January we are looking at Argentina, Japan and Morocco and I’ll be one of the hosts for Argentina.

We hope to give people plenty of time to plan their reading, and I need to announce the countries for March, which are Iraq, Mexico and Libya. For those who don’t know, February’s countries were China, Colombia and Egypt (the country I’ll be hosting). I am looking forward to March, because I will be a host for Libya and I’m not sure if I’ve read anything from this country.

As always I’m going into the reading project with no books planned, I read on a whim but it does make it difficult to promote the reading project. For example, in January I’m focusing on Argentina and I have so many options I want to read. I think I plan to read Dark Constellations by Pola Oloixarac (translated by Megan McDowell) & Dead Girls by Selva Almada (translated by Annie McDermott). I’m very excited about this project and would love to see more people involved, there is a Discord for this project, so people can connect and talk about the project. 

Just Write…

Posted December 10, 2020 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in My Essays / 4 Comments

Why is it that my brain is most active when I’m trying to sleep? This is frustrating, currently at 1am my brain is contemplating my writing style. Granted, a few essays by Alejandro Zambra before bed have not helped. There is something mesmerising about the way Zambra writes. I do not speak Spanish, so I rely on Megan McDowell to provide the English translation. The book is called Not To Read and it is a collection of essays on literature. The book reminds me that I want to be better at writing essays, and this is what is keeping me awake.

I have contemplated this thought many times throughout my history of blogging and I have a sense of what my writing goals are, I just never feel like I will ever achieve them. Are there people out there that are happy with their writing abilities? And how do I achieve that level of narcissism? I adore the way Alejandro Zambra writes, there is this level of familiarity in his words that makes me feel like he is just having a conversation with me about a book. This skill is something I have strived for in my own writing, and he makes it look so easy. I may have said something similar when reading Ex-Libris by Anne Fadiman, which makes me aware that literary essays is the type of writing I want to work towards.

I tend to write reviews on this blog, and I am aware that I need to continue this practice. Not for anyone, I just find that they are useful for me when reminiscing on a particular book. I briefly mentioned on my review of Crime and Punishment the value of a written review. This was a reread for me and I was able to look at my old review and see just how different my thoughts really were on the book. It was insightful to see just how much my thoughts on the book, and my writing style have changed over the past seven years. Then there are those times I want to talk about a book I have read in the past but have no review, and I struggle to recall my thoughts. So here I am with a desire to write more essays but also fully aware that I need to continue writing reviews.

Is there an easy solution? Obviously, I have to push myself to write more. Continue the reviews but also make time to write essays and develop that skill. When thinking about this blog, I tend to be of the mind that this is just a location to store all my writing. It is a way to reflect and physically view my journey as both a writer and as a reader. Having a public facing site motivates me to continue and while I tend not to write for other people, feedback does seem to be a powerful motivator. I guess I am a narcissist, but also, I know my writing journey is far from complete. I will probably continue to struggle with my writing skills and complain about this very topic in the future, it is all part of the journey. I do believe I am a non-fiction writer and I want to work on improving those skills. I have been flipping through The Complete Review Guide of Contemporary World Literature by M.A. Orthofer and wondering what my version of this book would look like. Then I pick up Not To Read for another essay or two and wish I was writing more essays. My mind wants to take on too many projects.

Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand

Posted December 7, 2020 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 0 Comments

Generation Loss by Elizabeth HandTitle: Generation Loss (Goodreads)
Author: Elizabeth Hand
Published: Small Beer Press, 2007
Pages: 265
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindleWordery (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Most people know that I am very particular when it comes to crime novels. I tend to be drawn to the gritty, pulp novels of the 1930s. I honestly could not tell you what works for me and what would not. Taste is a weird measuring tool; it is constantly changing and there are aspects that even the reader is unaware of, for example, I recently read Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand and there is so much I liked about this novel, yet there is something that did not work for me. I am reviewing the book in the hopes to fully understand my feelings here.

Cass Neary is the protagonist of what appears to be a series of currently five books. She had moderate success as a photographer in the 1970s, in which she was involved in the burgeoning punk movement and has a weird fascination with death photography. Thirty years, later she is a struggling freelance photographer that is running out of luck and work. An acquaintance of hers gives her a job to interview a famously reclusive photographer who lives on an island in Maine. Cass Neary has the style and attitude I tend to like in a protagonist of a crime novel but still there is a part of me that wants more. It could be the fact that we rarely get a female protagonist in literature and I really want to see the struggles that she faces along the way.

This is not to say that Cass Neary has an easy journey, she faces many obstacles with Generation Loss, but I feel I wanted more. The whole struggling artist and living in the world as a woman, there is so much angst and anger that could really come alive in this novel. I do not think Elizabeth Hand did a bad job, I think she delivered a great book, I am just thirsty for more. I will read the second book Available Dark, and I am curious to see where Cass Neary’s journey will take her. I am just realising that I want very different things from a female protagonist to a male. I know this is wrong, but I want a bitter cynical male, but I want female detectives to struggle with the everyday sexism as well. The world is unjust, and I think there is a lot of interesting layers that can be added.

I have really enjoyed the Michael Connelly books that feature Renee Ballard because there is an exploration into the sexism of the police force. It is not that I want sexism to exist, I just feel like this is an aspect that should not be ignored in these books. I think these female investigators have a legitimate reason to be bitter and cynical with the world, and it want to explore that journey. I want to read more crime novels that feature an angry, feisty woman, and let us be honest, I would rather it be written by a woman, men do not have to ability to really understand just how sexist the world really is.

I really wanted to talk about Generation Loss, but I did not know how to write a review for a crime novel without going into the plot. This turned into an exercise to unpack my own feelings towards the genre and my own reading tastes. I am very aware of my own biases here, I just think in an unjust world, it is important to explore those injustices. Also, I just like a bitter and cynical character, and I do not want them always to be men, because women have more to be angry about. If you have any recommendations, please let me know.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (trans. by Oliver Ready)

Posted November 10, 2020 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 5 Comments

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (trans. by Oliver Ready)Title: Crime and Punishment (Goodreads)
Author: Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Translator: Oliver Ready
Published: Penguin Classics, 1866
Pages: 702
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Paperback

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What I love about rereading a translated classic is that most of the time there are so many translations to try out. The translator makes a big difference and it is amazing how different it can make in interpreting the text. I love Russian literature and have openly discussed my issues with most of the commonly used translators, being their translation method, the anglicising of names or their censorship of the text. I will leave you to work out my meaning here, I just reread Crime and Punishment, but being an outsider to a BookTube readathon. My issue was the fact they picked a translation that I was not interested in reading, so I buddy-read the Oliver Ready translation with Derek from Read the World! I thought it was a way of being ‘sort of’ apart of the community reading event but still have a more one-on-one conversation with a better translation.

It has been eight years since I last read Crime and Punishment, and looking back at my previous review, it does not look like I said anything interesting about this great novel. I mention the class struggle and internal conflict of Raskolnikov, but I did not really go into any detail. The internal conflict is obvious, you can see a psychological break down of Raskolnikov after the murder, but I struggle to comprehend everything Dostoevsky is trying to say here. From the reread, it feels like there is a philosophical question being thrown at the reader, but Dostoevsky never seems to offer any insights. I wonder if Dostoevsky had any true answers here, because on this reread, I feel like the struggle with understanding the psychological and philosophical ramifications of the crime is the purpose of the novel and no true answers are given, or if they are I might find out on a later reread.

Class struggle was an interesting topic to explore with Crime and Punishment. Raskolnikov is struggling with the idea of class internally. He has it in his mind that he is a wealthy intellectual, but in reality, he is just a struggling young man living off the money his mother gives him. Upon rereading, I was fascinated to just how disillusioned he is about his own class status. He is just a young man, that really has no idea of his own value or how to budget his money. I found it interesting to look back at my reading of this novel, I was closer to the same age as Raskolnikov and probably had similar naivety. However, I will not go into great detail about this, as you will be able to find my discussion of the book with Derek here.

I was very impressed with Oliver Ready’s translation of Crime and Punishment; I think his translating method really appealed to me. There was some modernisation of the writing but done in a way that still felt dated. Like he used phrases that felt old but still more contemporary, and I think he managed to nail that balance of making the book accessible, while still feeling like an older piece of literature. I really hope Ready continues to translate some of the Russian classics, not just Dostoevsky.

I am probably going to regret not putting extra time into this review, I have a lot to say but I know that I want to save that for the podcast. This time reading it, I think I cared more about the secondary characters rather than Raskolnikov, particularly his sister Dunya, but I also liked Sofya. She was a fascination for me, and I wish Dostoevsky spent more time with her. I will have to read this novel again and again, not sure which translation I will go with next, possible the Michael R. Katz translation. This is the type of book that needs to be reread every few years, just to see what you get out of it later.

2021 Reading Project: Invisible Cities

Posted November 7, 2020 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 6 Comments

As most people are aware, I am a fan of translated literature. I have a blog, YouTube channel, a podcast and talk about It on social media. In the UK, Ann Morgan gained a bit of a following for her blog A Year of Reading The World, which she then turned into a book called Reading the World: Confessions of a Literary Explorer (or if you live in the North America, The World Between Two Covers: Reading the Globe), which has inspired many people to take on similar projects. I have been interested in world literature before reading her book, but I do want to achieve a similar goal. Granted, I do not want to focus it into one year and I want to read more than one book from every country in the world, but I want to grow my knowledge of the world by reading its literature. Beginning in January, I am planning to be involved in a project called Invisible Cities, in which we are encouraging people to read books from different countries.

This idea originates from Yamini (Shakespeare and Spice) and also involves Agnese (Beyond the Epilogue), Stephanie (Time to Read), Natalie (Curious Reader), Nicole (Nicole is Here to Learn) and Wil (My Bookish Empire). The project is to motivate each other to read books from all over the world. Each month there will be three different countries being discussed with a few hosts on each, but all of us have our own personal goals. For me, I would like to talk about at least one book and one film from each country I am assigned. In January, that country is Argentina, not sure what I will read or watch but I love this pick and cannot wait to have conversations about the literature.

The three countries that we are focusing on in January will be Morocco, Argentina and Japan. The focus currently is Africa, South America and Asia, this was done as we want to give more attention to these continents before moving into Europe, Australia and North America. I am looking forward to this project, not just because it will get me reading more widely, but I love talking about world literature. There is a Discord for this project where you can talk to others involved and get resources. However, if you are just a casual fan of world literature or cinema, you should also join my Discord, Literary Salon.

I know I am constantly promoting world literature, but I like the idea of building a community and help others find the joys in the literature I love. I am currently building a database in Notion of books from around the world and I hope to easily see where my reading gaps are, and also document all the books I love from different countries. This obviously is a working project, but I hope that one day, I can look at my reading life and tell people exactly what books I have loved from all over the world. Also, maybe this reading project will mean more guests on my podcast.

Now, I have so much planning to do; I am very excited to continue my journey into translated literature and develop a deeper understanding in world cinema too. I hope others will be inspired to join the project and talk about books from around the world. I now need to read Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities so I can understand the reference.

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante

Posted October 15, 2020 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 6 Comments

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena FerranteTitle: The Lying Life of Adults (Goodreads)
Author: Elena Ferrante
Translator: Ann Goldstein
Published: Europa Editions, 2020
Pages: 322
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Paperback

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What I love about reading Elena Ferrante is the way she is always writing about the experiences of women from a social-political standpoint. She always gives the reader a wide range of emotions and can make them feel uncomfortable with the situation but in a way that does not cause many to abandon her books. I have read all Ferrante’s works of adult fiction and was happy to see that my in-real-life book club was doing her latest release The Lying Life of Adults. Honestly, sometimes I think I go to my book club just to complain about the books we read, but I also attend to try and improve my ability to talk about literature with real life humans.

The Lying Life of Adults is the story of Giovanna, who is a young woman that is quickly discovering all the drama happening within her family. She learns why her father and her aunt Vittoria do not talk, and basically uncovers all the hostility and fighting that has been happening in the family all her life. This is not the easiest information to uncover, the adults all have their own side of the stories and they are all lying to make themselves look better in every situation. Ferrante’s books always deal with domestic drama and The Lying Life of Adults is no different, but what I really enjoyed about this novel, is the way it focuses on the lies.

It is hard to talk about The Lying Life of Adults without mentioning the Neapolitan series, those books got plenty of attention and will be the basis of all Ferrante critiques. Which is justifiable, the approach Elena Ferrante takes when writing really focuses heavily on the life of women living in Naples, particularly looking at sexism and domestic abuse. I find that The Lying Life of Adults seems to have similarities with The Story of a New Name, book two in the Neapolitan series. Both books have characters in the late teens, exploring the balance between family, love and academia. This journey fascinates me; I want to learn about young women discovering just how messed out their family is, while also realising how horrible men are, all while trying to decide their plans for the future.

Personally, I would have preferred if Elena Ferrante really dove into the psychological state of Giovanna. Not to mention the exploration into the feelings of attraction, sexuality, and emotion. There is so much that could have been unpacked if she wanted to really explore the damaging nature of these lies, and the effects they would have had on Giovanna’s outlook and future. I am fascinated for a deeper dive into the emotional damage, but I understand why Ferrante grazed over these topics. Not everyone wants to explore domestic abuse in so much detail and it would greatly change the tone of the novel.

If you have never read Elena Ferrante before, this might be a good place to start, I personally recommend The Days of Abandonment as a starting point, but this would work too. Fans of the Neapolitan series may not need any encouragement to check out The Lying Life of Adults but I hope you do. Obviously, I really enjoyed this novel, I think Ferrante is doing an excellent job at helping bring translated literature into the spotlight, thanks to the amazing work of Ann Goldstein.

Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica

Posted October 13, 2020 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Dystopia / 2 Comments

Tender is the Flesh by Agustina BazterricaTitle: Tender is the Flesh (Goodreads)
Author: Agustina Bazterrica
Translator: Sarah Moses
Published: Pushkin Press, 2017
Pages: 224
Genres: Dystopia
My Copy: Audiobook

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Tender is the Flesh was released at the perfect time, with the current global pandemic, a novel about a virus that changes the way we look at the world. Agustina Bazterrica’s novel primarily follows Marcos, who works in a slaughterhouse producing ‘special meat’. When the virus hit, all animals were infected andtheir meat became poisonous. The government had to make some changes to the law, now it was legal to buy ‘special meat’ – human meat.

This is a weird dystopian novel that has one very basic message that really sticks in your brain. The concept of giving up meat is so ridiculous that the country starts producing humans that will be used as meat. These are not people; they are cattle and are treated in that way. The concept of giving up meat and turning vegan is too preposterous for the country. Cannibalism becomes the norm.

The idea behind the novel seems to be focusing on just how cruel humans are, going to great detail to explain the process used to prepare meat at a slaughterhouse and the treatment of animals (in this case humans). Tender is the Flesh takes it a step further, with the retirement homes advertising the security they offer for your elderly relatives to protect them from being slaughtered and eaten. The world population drastically declines, and people have lost the ability to be caring or loving to others around them.

That is the entire premise, Tender is the Flesh takes a simple idea and plays out the situation. The way people turn on each other, the way people change their views on society and the ridiculous notion of becoming vegan. This is a dark comedy set in a dystopian world and executed with perfection. I cannot say that this converted me to becoming a vegan, but I think I honestly need to make more of an effort. An ugly look at our consumeristic culture and here I am, still wrestling with the idea of protecting the animals…I hate myself, but I think this novel achieved its goals.

The Yield by Tara June Winch

Posted October 9, 2020 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 6 Comments

The Yield by Tara June WinchTitle: The Yield (Goodreads)
Author: Tara June Winch
Published: Penguin Random House, 2019
Pages: 343
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

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While my interest in reading sides more with translated literature, I still read books from local authors. This is mainly as a result of my in-real-life book club that I attend, although I this year has seen more American crime novels sneak into my reading life than the norm. This is the reason I recently read Tara June Winch’s latest novel The Yield. The novel tells a story from three different perspectives and  how choices made multiple generations ago still effect people now.

I am unsure if I am out of practice, or just not sure what to say, but I having a hard time trying to put all my thoughts on this book down on paper. Basically, The Yield tells the story of August Gondiwindi who has returned home for her grandfather’s funeral. Knowing he was about to die, he had written down the experiences he had living near the Murrumby River at Prosperous House, on Massacre Plains and a dictionary he was constructing of Wiradjuri words. The third narrative is letters from a German Lutheran missionary, Reverend Greenleaf talking about the early years of the settlers.

These three narratives tell the story of the lasting effects of colonialism, the intergenerational trauma and how it effects the people and the land. I find it had to talk about this novel, but I think this is an important novel to read, especially for white Australia. The narrative from Reverend Greenleaf stood out, due to the way he tried to help the true owners of the land and protect them from greedy white settlers but not every choice he made felt right. He came across as a white saviour, because he was imposing his own values on these people. When World War I hit, he was met with his own hostility from white settlers as a German.

August’s story is the primary plot, and it is interesting that she plays the role of an outsider, someone that has moved away. Tara June Winch is based in France, so the narrative of August feels like it might be autobiographical in the way she might feel, I do not know her story, but I get the sense based on this novel, she might be treated as an outsider for being an Aboriginal to the white people, but treated as an outsider to her country for leaving. This is how I feel August’s narrative works, she still sees herself as part of her community and tries to help but there are people that do not trust her and treat her like an outsider.

Within the August narrative, the area of Massacre Plains is under threat from a mining company that wants to dig up their land for tin. A very relevant topic for Australia, since Rio Tinto has recently demolished a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal site, and they are not the sole culprits. It is said mining giants BHP Billiton have destroyed at least 40 significant Aboriginal sites in the past year. The mining industry in Australia is big business but the cultural damage they are doing to the different Aboriginal lands is beyond reproach.

Essentially The Yield is a novel about the psychological and cultural damage facing the different Aboriginal communities around Australia. You get to see the effects of colonialism, and the damage that is done to these people, plus the current degradation being done by the Australian government and the mining companies that pay those politicians. However, in the midst of all that, Tara June Winch has crafted a stunning novel that is funnier than I expected based on the subject matter. The Yield has been a big success in the Australian literary scene, it even won the 2020 Miles Franklin Literary Award, which is Australia’s highest literary award. The novel is showing up around the world and I hope it has just as much a success there; this really is a great book.

Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami

Posted October 7, 2020 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

Breasts and Eggs by Mieko KawakamiTitle: Breasts and Eggs (Goodreads)
Author: Mieko Kawakami
Translator: Sam Bett, David Boyd
Published: Picador, 2020
Pages: 430
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindleWordery (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

After reading Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo (translated by Jamie Chang), I moved on to Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami (which is translated from the Japanese by Sam Bett & David Boyd). These two books seem to pair nicely with each other; one explores the everyday sexism that woman face, while the other is a look at fertility and body image issues. However, I am not the right person to talk about Breasts and Eggs, and I only choose to write down my thoughts as a way for my own personal recollection. This is a sensitive topic and having a male reviewer explore the topic feels wrong, like a male author writing about female sexuality.

Mieko Kawakami originally wrote Breast and Eggs as a novella, which was later rewritten into the novel that has recently been released. This is the story of three women, the unnamed narrator in her mid-thirties, her older sister Makiko, and Makiko’s twelve-year-old daughter, Midoriko. Three women at different stages in their lives, exploring the issues of motherhood, fertility and their bodies. These three narratives allow the author to explore a range of body issues, Makiko is unhappy with her breasts and is having breast enhancement surgery. Not just enlargements but she wants to change her nipples, make them pink. Midoriko is going through puberty and is unable to express her insecurities about her changing body. While the unnamed narrator wants to become a mother, but Japanese reproductive laws only apply to married heterosexual women that are unable to conceive.

As you can see, this novel explores so many important issues and as a man, I do not feel like it is my place to weigh in on these topics. Women have enough problems with men trying to dictate their lives. However, I did find it fascinating to explore the struggles these women are facing and the way they try to navigate through their lives. This is a book about the repression woman face in Japan, but like Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982, I think this is a much more universal problem.

Breast and Eggs has so much to offer and so many issues to explore. I really liked that the narrator explored the idea of asexuality but was still interested in motherhood. She was aromantic but still wanted to be a parent and was looking at options on how to achieve that. I do not think I have ever read a novel about an ace’s journey into becoming a mum and it really highlights just how important it is to explore the different struggles people face from around the world. I read translated literature for this reason, I want to see the different social experiences, as well as the similarities. This is why we need representation from people all over the world, and the LGBTQI+ community.

I really hope that I was able to verbalise my thoughts on Breast and Eggs without overstepping my mark. While this is a book that women should be talking about and reviewing, I still think it is important for men to read as well. I simply want to write my thoughts on this book, so I have a record of my feelings; I post reviews on my blog to document my reading journal. I hope I am not offending anyone by talking about Breast and Eggs.