Strange Weather in Tokyo and Visitation

Two more books in January, and 7th on the way. Very different in nature, with their own compelling atmospheres. One is a slice of life love story , the other an elegiac reflection on one hundred years of German history.

Strange weather in Tokyo Hiromi Kawakami

  • It’s charming and old-fashioned romance of connection between souls
  • Mono no aware feel to it
  • Slice of life
  • References to Japanese culture
  • Loved the professor

‘That’s how love is,’ she used to say. ‘If the love is true, then treat it the same way you would a plant – feed it, protect it from the elements – you must do absolutely everything you can. But if it isn’t true, then it’s best to just let it wither on the vine.’

Strange weather in Tokyo

An absolutely lovely book. It’s charming in the way I like charming to be, I absolutely love the professor. It’s a series of vignettes about a woman in her forties who meets her old Japanese lit teacher and they reconnect. The vignettes show them in various situations, on trips ,on dates, during arguments. Everyday life. Two lonely souls, who feel stranded outside normal flow of time, caught up in their own introspective lives and fears, find a connection, understanding and ultimately intimacy. It’s full of poetry and lyricism, and references to Japanese culture. I felt the translation was a little iffy in places. Still, the overall feel was exactly the sort of thing that speaks to me. Old-fashioned character and a younger career woman, seemingly so different, but sharing implicit understanding where it matters. They do things their own way, there are moments I chuckled at how awkward they could be and I loved that.

The story has that “mono no aware” feel to me that I enjoy. It’s sweet and sad heartwarming and wistful. It gives me a sense of peace and ultimately brings a smile to my face, even if partings are inevitable. The people we meet in our lives, no matter how long they stay, always give us something precious.

There’s a lovely companion story, Parade, that imagines a day in their life because

“The world that exists behind a story is never fully known, not even to the author”.

Hiromi Kawakami

Definitely not my last by the author.


Visitation , Jenny Erpenbeck

  • The character is a place, the setting
  • Language fits each era, reflects its problems abd chaos
  • Characters are nameless except, significantly, the Jews
  • Timelessness but at the same time how time is stolen away, elegiac tone
  • Twelve lives seeking to make their home in the houses by the lake and how it all turns out
  • The chapter that struck me the most was “the girl”

A village and nearby forested property on a lake outside Berlin is the protagonist. The story encompasses over 100 years of German history, from the 19th century to the Weimar Republic, from World War II to the Socialist German Democratic Republic, and reunification and its aftermath.We see how the land and the house witness the turbulences of history and how the interconnected characters, its tenants who seek home here are swept into its tides. The novel shows the everyday life of the house, while presenting the fates of its inhabitants and their relatives. It tears open wounds, dealing with topics such as time, estrangement, death, displacement.

“If no one knows she exists any longer, who will know there is a world when she is no longer there?”

Visitation



The language and structure of the novel reflect the confusions and turbulences of each era. Author describes customs, surroundings and then all of a sudden brings out the essence and meaning in one single sweep of a sentence.

And in all this is a landscape that never really changes, despite humans and their constant fights, just like the gardener who tends to it. The descriptions of the garden and his work emphasize the changeless constancy of the garden that witnesses so many stories…until the gardener grows old and weary.. and what happens then?

You need to pay attention, it’s not an easy read, it’s descriptive, slow and thoughtful, meditative, characters don’t have names in (which adds to the book’s sense of timelessness), but it is a beautiful read.

And one to return to, to read a second time and notice what you missed the first time. Jewish characters are, significantly, named.

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