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What novels to start with

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What novels to start with

Postby StrandedInATreetop » Thu 01.24.2008 2:58 pm

I'm just about ready to start with real books (as long as i have my electronic dictionary at my side) and I need some recommendations. Now if it were up to me I'd be reading Mishima's Confessions of a mask but I don't think I'll be ready for something that hard just yet. I've tried some murakami haruki but to be honest I'm kind of tired of his overly ridiculous plots after reading them in english. Can anyone tell me a really good author of modern japanese fiction. I got through some momoko sakura's short stories but they kind of bored me, I don't really like short stories. Something pretty new would be nice, and easier than mishima but something a college kid or a adult could appreciate. Funny would be nice too! I love dark-comedy. Thanks.
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RE: What novels to start with

Postby yukamina » Thu 01.24.2008 4:25 pm

I've been working on a few books translated into Japanese, like Harry Potter and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland(http://www.genpaku.org/alice01/alice01j.html or http://www.hp-alice.com/lcj/honyaku/yaku_index.html). Even kids books require a high vocabulary and a good grammar understanding...
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RE: What novels to start with

Postby jenl » Thu 01.24.2008 5:11 pm

I'm reading おかしな訪問者, (by 宗田理) which is aimed at I think middle school/high school students. I happened to find it in a second-hand bookshop.

If you don't mind reading online, you could look through:
http://www.honnavi2.sakura.ne.jp/modules/yomi/
Although the quality might vary widely. :o
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RE: What novels to start with

Postby skrhgh3b » Thu 01.24.2008 5:16 pm

I highly recommend any book by 星新一 (Hoshi Shinichi), although I'm currently reading his first and perhaps most famous book, 『ボッコちゃん』. He was a famous "ショートショート" writer who mostly wrote in the science fiction genre. As someone studying Japanese, the great thing about him is that his prose are relatively simple and straight forward (like a Japanese Hemingway), and his stories only average about four pages in length. But what's more, they're rich in black humor and social satire, which make them interesting and a pleasure to read.
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RE: What novels to start with

Postby richvh » Thu 01.24.2008 5:44 pm

Might I suggest ゆきの物語 (see signature for link)? No dark comedy, I'm afraid, but the plot is straightforward and the chapters short.
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RE: What novels to start with

Postby Mike Cash » Fri 01.25.2008 6:54 am

Reading with a dictionary is not reading; it's deciphering.
Never underestimate my capacity for pettiness.
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RE: What novels to start with

Postby Oracle » Fri 01.25.2008 7:09 am

I definitely agree with Mike about deciphering, but I'll still throw one name out there if you're serious about tackling real Japanese books: Murakami Haruki (村上春樹) is heavily influenced by western authors (he's also translated many books from English into Japanese) so his writing style is quite 'western' and relatively accessible to people learning Japanese (in my opinion anyway). Perhaps grab a collection of his short stories to begin with.
Last edited by Oracle on Fri 01.25.2008 7:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: What novels to start with

Postby furrykef » Fri 01.25.2008 7:15 am

Mike Cash wrote:
Reading with a dictionary is not reading; it's deciphering.


It's something of a necessary evil when your vocabulary is small, though. What I'd recommend is reading through a chapter and taking note of all the words you don't know (at least the ones that are too hard to figure out in context). Then learn the words, then come back and re-read it later. So that way you can both "decipher" it and "read" it.
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RE: What novels to start with

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Fri 01.25.2008 9:16 am

It depends. I don't think it's ever a necessary evil to "read" through something where you have to look up 75% of the words. There are other, more efficient, ways to increase your vocabulary than this -- you can look through forum archives like this one and see many examples of people trying to decode manga or novels in this way, and it rarely works (although that tends to be because of a lack of grammar knowledge than vocabulary.)

But decoding can be useful. I use to go through the Tensei Jingo column of the Asahi Shinbun frequently, and I often had to look up 20-30 words for just the short column, but it still helped me out a lot. Like furrykef says, what I did was print the article out so that it took up about 2/3 of the paper. First I would try to read it through without any reference materials and see what I could get out of it. Then I would go through it and look up everything. I only wrote on the bottom third of the paper; I never wrote any definitions or furigana in the main text. Then I would read through it again and try to understand it without looking at the word definitions I had written, and then I would do the same thing again the next day.
Last edited by Yudan Taiteki on Fri 01.25.2008 9:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: What novels to start with

Postby furrykef » Fri 01.25.2008 6:41 pm

No, it's not necessary and probably not very productive to try to read something which you can hardly understand at all -- at least, not if you're trying to read for fun or for the sake of learning. That's why I'm not trying to read El Hobbit (I study Spanish as well). I can't even get past the first page of that and truly understand most of what it says, unfortunately. Sure, I can get the gist of it, but what's the fun in getting only the gist of things? But it may still not be a bad idea to compile vocabulary lists and interesting grammar structures from the text, and revisit it later.

If you only need a dictionary for a word here and there, then it's a different story. I still need a dictionary to understand most "real" Spanish, but in most cases I can very easily fully understand what I'm reading in so doing, not merely get the idea.

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RE: What novels to start with

Postby Shirasagi » Sat 01.26.2008 4:53 am

When I was doing third-year Japanese, I took a Japanese lit class that read the material in the original Japanese. We started with 伊豆の踊り子. I was not ready for that! The sentences were long, most of the vocabulary I couldn't understand without looking things up, and I found that the best way for me to read and follow anything was to make a time-consuming rough translation. Which, while it kept me up with the class, is IMO absolutely the worst way to read anything -- particularly something creative like the works of Kawabata. However, the class really "stretched" me, and brought me up to a higher level. That's kind of the trade off. But I'm a believer in exposing yourself to it all. Novels, non-fiction, magazines, dramas, anime, manga, TV, movies -- do it all. That's how you develop a sense of what is real and what is not, what is good to use in one situation, and not in another. If you have to look up everything you read, then you're in over your head, but using a dictionary by itself is not a bad thing, IMO. I still come across terms I'm not familiar with in my reading.

In that vein, here's what I recommend --

In fourth year Japanese, we read some of "Kitchen" by Banana Yoshimoto. I think her works are relatively easy to read and follow. (Much easier than 吾輩は猫である, which we also read an excerpt from.) Also, for my senior project I read and (later) translated some short stories by Amy Yamada (山田泳美). I can certainly recommend her writing. What you'll come up against in both of these is the idiom wall. The first time I came across one woman saying ironically of another, 「〇〇子、やるね」 I was completely at a loss, and the explanation I got from my teacher didn't really help. I really had to see it in a lot more contexts to figure out it's nuance. The good thing is, with the internet you have more resources at your disposal than I did over 10 years ago.

An off the wall recommendation I can make is 東京困惑日記 by Harada Munenori (原田宗典). It's a collection of short, humorous essays. It's hilarious.

Recently I've read and enjoyed two novels by Hata Takehiko (秦 健日子). Hata is a TV writer who's recently branched out to novels. He wrote 推理小説, a fantastic book that was turned into the drama "Unfair" starring Shinohara Ryoko. The drama was a decent piece of suspense television, but the book is a wonderful take on the Japanese mystery novel genre. He then a wrote a sequel, アンフェアの月. I was a little skeptical that he could really follow up 推理小説 because of the unique structure of the first book, which couldn't be duplicated in a sequel, but he wrote a book that's just as good, if not better, than the first. Although they have some police jargon that can be tough to follow, the Japanese in these books is not particularly difficult. Highly, highly recommended.

I must also recommend 調子いい女 by 宇佐美 游, if only because it was written by the old friend of a friend of mine. But it's a good book, a good primer on what goes on underneath the cute exterior of Japanese girls, as well as on the hostess club industry of Japan. According to my friend, the earlier drafts were especially brutally honest regarding 女の本音, but the publisher asked for things to be scaled back a bit.
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RE: What novels to start with

Postby katafei » Sat 01.26.2008 9:23 am

Oracle wrote:
I definitely agree with Mike about deciphering, but I'll still throw one name out there if you're serious about tackling real Japanese books: Murakami Haruki (村上春樹) is heavily influenced by western authors (he's also translated many books from English into Japanese) so his writing style is quite 'western' and relatively accessible to people learning Japanese (in my opinion anyway). Perhaps grab a collection of his short stories to begin with.

Well, the OP had ruled out Murakami....
But I just received 海辺のカフカ, which I read in English a few months ago, in the post and I can't believe I can actually understand most of it without using a dictionary!!!
(knowing the story does help, of course, but still...)
So, yes, very accessible reading, indeed.
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RE: What novels to start with

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sat 01.26.2008 10:44 am

Soseki is actually relatively easy to read in my experience; 坊ちゃん in particular is not too bad, but I'm not exactly sure what the OP's Japanese level is.
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RE: What novels to start with

Postby AJBryant » Sat 01.26.2008 1:19 pm

Soseki.

Argh.

As God is my witness, I can't understand the appeal. Kokoro left me totally cold and all "meh."

I swear, if it wasn't for the *era* in which he was writing (when, of course, he *was* cutting edge as a "modern style" novelist), I don't think he would have the rep he does.


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RE: What novels to start with

Postby inuinu » Sat 01.26.2008 2:50 pm

Soseki.

心について、こんな英文の解説がありました。
http://ci.nii.ac.jp/naid/110004836178/
新しい視点から読み解くのも面白いと思いますよ。

本題ですが、
私もskrhgh3bさんと同じく、星新一のショートショート作品をおすすめします。
仰るように、阜サは簡潔でわかりやすいし、話も短いので、飽きが来ないと思いますよ。
「午後の恐竜」という作品は、子供の頃に読んで、今でもかなり印象に残ってます。
短い導入部にも関わらず、読者にあの「異常の中の平常感」「平常の中の異常感」を
自然に受け入れさせてしまう文章告ャ力は凄いと思います。是非ご一読をどうぞ。
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