Ruth Ozeki, Tale for the time being

Happy new year! first read after a very long time is Ruth Ozeki’s Tale for the time being.If you’re suffering from a reading slump, this book may help. It’s well-written and pulls you in, very engaging.

This book explores: reader-writer relationship, images of readers and writers, humanity and search for home. There are lots of references to Japanese culture.

.A young girl Nao who spent most of her conscious life in the States, is forced to return to the home of her parents after her father loses his job in USA and they lose their visas. Struggling to fit in a home she doesn’t know , she writes a diary that in the aftermath of 2011 tsunami finds its way to novelist Ruth across the Pacific. Ruth reads the diary and investigates the girl. Filled with references to Japanese culture, which is described and questioned as Nao tries to fit in in a narrative of return “home” from abroad and characteristic humour, this is an inventive, extremely page-turning and pretty lovely book about time, connections and what it means to be home. I loved the connection across time and the reader-writer relationship as explored through this idea. The diary is Nao’s solace and for Ruth a means to know her and her family, the girl who is driven to say she wants to end her life with all her social circumstances in which we ponder humanity, search for home, what it means to be a hero and the atrocities of war.

The way it creates the relationship between reader and writer, ponders on the past, causality and multiple outcomes is intriguing. On one level we have a coming of age story of Nao who returns to her native Japan from the States after her father had lost her job. She goes through a series of hardships at school and uncertainty about her father. Then she meets her Buddhist nun grandmother, discovers the story of her son. I loved how the story of what happened to her and her father unraveled and came together, how she learned the truth. On the other hand, we have the story of Ruth who finds Nao’s diary years later. she becomes engrossed in the girl’s fate and tries to discover what happened. Who writes whom? Is Ruth the reader or the writer? Is Rught only a projected reader? There’s a number of questions the book asks inserting surreal, fantastical elements to make the idea of time, its elusiceness and transcience more highlighted. An interesting read, for sure interesting literature and one told with a heart.

It’s engaging and easy to get into, it’s also reflective and meditative.


A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.

Time itself is being, he wrote, and all being is time . . . In essence, everything in the entire universe is intimately linked with each other as moments in time, continuous and separate.

I will write down everything I know about Jiko’s life in Marcel’s book, and when I’m done, I’ll just leave it somewhere, and you will find it! How cool is that? It feels like I’m reaching forward through time to touch you, and now that you’ve found it, you’re reaching back to touch me! If you ask me, it’s fantastically cool and beautiful. It’s like a message in a bottle, cast out onto the ocean of time and space.

If you’ve ever tried to keep a diary, then you’ll know that the problem of trying to write about the past really starts in the present: No matter how fast you write, you’re always stuck in the then and you can never catch up to what’s happening now, which means that now is pretty much doomed to extinction

The past is weird. I mean, does it really exist? It feels like it exists, but where is it? And if it did exist but doesn’t now, then where did it go?

In Japan, some words have kotodama, which are spirits that live inside a word and give it a special power. The kotodama of now felt like a slippery fish, a slick fat tuna with a big belly and a smallish head and tail (..)

Then is the opposite of now. So saying now obliterates its meaning, turning it into exactly what it isn’t. It’s like the word is committing suicide or something

Wow. I’m really going to miss you. It’s crazy, I know, since you don’t even exist yet. And unless you find this book and start to read, maybe you never will. You’re just my imaginary friend, at least for now.

memories are time beings, too, like cherry blossoms or ginkgo leaves; for a while they are beautiful, and then they fade and die.


I will write in French, ma chère Maman, following the good example of your idol, Kanno-san, who faithfully persisted in her English lessons right up until the moment they led her to the gallows. Like her, we must keep up our studies even as civilization collapses around us.

I couldn’t believe it. I stared at him, sitting all hunched over on the panda’s head, and I felt like my heart would burst with pride. My dad was a total superhero, and I was the one who should be so ashamed, because the whole time he was being persecuted for his beliefs, I was just pissed off at him for getting himself fired and losing our money and ruining my life. Shows you how much I knew.

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