Friday, January 15, 2010
Oh, bother. I've somehow managed, again, to go and read a novel I didn't really like by an author I love. This hardly seems fair. Dostoevsky, Soseki - heroes of mine, both of them. What next, you malicious dog-turd of a universe, will David Mitchell's new book be a stinker? Will Stephanie Meyer win the Nobel for literature? Will Cormac McCarthy write 5 complete sentences in a row?
Me not liking a Dostoevsky novel and THEN also not liking a Soseki novel can herald no less than the end of days. Surely, it can be no coincidence that something that looks somewhat like a locust features on the cover of this Soseki debacle, Botchan: A Modern Classic.
I know. This is sacrilege. Soseki has been considered Japan's best author for the last 100 years; Botchan continues to be his most beloved work. But I didn't like it. I agree with the translator's admission that "its phrasing and structure are often loose and bumpy" (p. 6). I don't, however, feel charmed by it the way most people seem to be and J. Cohn tells me I should be as well. I found the narrator's moralizing to be infinitely yawn-worthy when not mildly annoying, and his characterizations of his fellow teachers just....pedestrian and predictable. There's almost nothing I can abuse in a heartless but hilarious way here. Double disappointment.
In case you're wondering what Botchan is about: a young man from Tokyo, full of energy and principles if not brains, finds himself exiled to the country as a school teacher. The book chronicles what little punk-ass bastards his students are and what slimy shitheads the majority of his coworkers are. Botchan should bode unending hilarity. Dammit! I smiled sardonically to myself once while reading this book! The rest of the time, I was feeling grateful that it was so short.
I feel terrible that this is how I'm completing my participation in Bellezza's lovely Japanese Literature Challenge the Third. I really thought that if I chose a Soseki novel, I couldn't fail to read something that would add to the love-fest that the JLC3 has been. I especially wanted this to be the case because not only did I not read 6 novels for this challenge as I'd planned, but I also didn't even pick up The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon as I was so looking forward to doing. Le sigh.