Banana Yoshimoto: Asleep – Shirakawa Yofune (1992)

Asleep

It’s been a while since I’ve last read a book by Banana Yoshimoto, who has always been one of my favourite writers, although I can’t say I loved all of her books. There was always the one or the other that didn’t work as well as a whole, but I always loved her themes and certain elements in every story.

Asleep is a collection of two long short stories (65 and 75 pages ) and one shorter story (30 pages). The stories circle around similar themes. Loneliness, longing, sadness, dreams, sleep, loss, and grief. A character, always a young woman, looks back with longing on a time in her life in which she was with someone she felt very close to or had an intense relationship with. At the time when she tells the story she’s in an uncertain situation. Maybe unemployed, dating a married man, grieving. What the characters in the three stories share as well is that they are visited by the ghosts of beloved dead in their dreams. Sleeping is important in the stories, dreaming can be more intense that staying awake.

Asleep is one of Yoshimoto’s books that I didn’t love as a whole. I loved the dreamy mood, the sorrow and loss, the loneliness and exquisite sadness she described but I found the stories a bit repetitive. Looking back, the three stories blend into each other. The one I liked the most was The Night and Night’s Travellers. The other two could have done with some editing. She moves back and forth in time and occasionally it’s confusing.

Asleep, the title story was interesting as well because I knew someone just like the narrator. A young woman who fell asleep constantly. Or slept for days and days. When you spoke to her, you had the feeling she was never really there. She too, like the main character in Asleep, had experienced something very painful and couldn’t come to terms with it. It was like her consciousness was trying to retreat all the time, shied away from fully confronting her situation. That’s exactly what happens to the young woman in Asleep.

In a way, one could say that these are ghost stories. Not that they are scary but they are eerie and the dead people talk to the living. The dream states are just as real as being awake. Reading this collection, I noticed that while atmosphere is a key element of European ghost stories, in most Japanese ghost stories I’ve read so far, mood is more essential.

While Asleep isn’t my favourite of Banana Yoshimoto’s books, I liked a lot of it and really enjoyed getting re-aquainted with her sadness-infused, eerie stories, in which dreams and dead people play such a prominent role and the characters occupy an in-between world.

This is book four of my 20 under 200 project.

German Literature Recommendations II – 89 Novella and Short Story Writers You Should Read

First of all, welcome to German Literature Month. I’m sure it will be an exciting journey for all of us. If you participate, please leave comments so that we can visit your blogs and add your posts to a final list. We will most probably not do as many wrap up posts this year but the occasional update will surely appear on the one or the other blog.

Last year I published a post called German Literature Recommendations – 20 German Novels You Should Read. It was based on Marcel Reich-Ranicki’s famous “Der Kanon der deutschen Literatur”. There were many questions about missing authors in the comment sections. Many famous and outstanding writers were not on that list which made it look like an omission but in many cases they were not on that list because Reich-Ranicki considered them better at writing novellas and short stories.

In order to fill the gap left by last year’s post, I have decided to post his list on novellas and short stories. I indicate the authors (over 80 names) and some of their best stories with their German titles. For those who are famous it’s easy to find the English equivalent as it will be in collections, for others it’s more difficult. If you have a particular interest in an author or a story but difficulties to find it in English – or French… Don’t hesitate to send me an e-mail. If it’s available, I’m sure I can find it for you.

The first week of this year’s German Literature Month is dedicated to novellas and short stories, if you still don’t know what to read, I’m sure you will find suggestions on the list.

I’ve already read two, one of them is on the list below, it’s Schnitzler’s Leutnant Gustl, which is available under the same title in English.

For more details on the different weeks, please visit the German Literature Month Announcement.

  • Johann Wolfgang Goethe: Die Sängerin Antonelli; Die wunderlichen Nachbarskinder; Der Mann von funfzig Jahren
  • Friedrich Schiller: Der Verbrecher aus verlorener Ehre
  • Johann Peter Hebel: Der kluge Richter; Eine merkwürdige Abbitte; Kannitverstan; Drei Wünsche; Moses Mendelssohn; Ein teurer Kopf und ein wohlfeiler; Unverhofftes Wiedersehen; Drei Worte; Glimpf geht über Schimpf
  • Jean Paul: Des Feldpredigers Schmelzle Reise nach Flätz
  • Ludwig Tieck: Des Lebens Überfluss
  • E. T. A. Hoffmann: Ritter Gluck; Der Sandmann; Das Fräulein von Scuderi
  • Heinrich von Kleist: Das Erdbeben in Chili; Die Marquise von O…; Michael Kohlhaas; Die Verlobung in St. Domingo; Der Zweikampf; Anekdote aus dem letzten preußischen Krieg
  • Clemens Brentano: Die Schachtel mit der Friedenspuppe; Geschichte vom braven Kasperl und dem schönen Annerl
  • Adelbert von Chamisso: Peter Schlemihl’s wundersame Geschichte
  • Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm: Hänsel und Gretel; Aschenputtel; Rotkäppchen; Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten; Der Gevatter Tod; Dornröschen; Schneewittchen; Rumpelstilzchen
  • Joseph von Eichendorff:
    Das Marmorbild; Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts; Das Schloss Dürande
  • Franz Grillparzer: Der arme Spielmann
  • Annette von Droste-Hülshoff: Die Judenbuche
  • Jeremias Gotthelf: Die schwarze Spinne
  • Heinrich Heine: Aus den Memoiren des Herren von Schnabelewopski; Florentinische Nächte; Der Rabbi von Bacherach
  • Wilhelm Hauff: Die Geschichte von Kalif Storch; Der Zwerg Nase
  • Eduard Mörike: Das Stuttgarter Hutzelmännlein; Mozart auf der Reise nach Prag
  • Adalbert Stifter: Turmalin
  • Georg Büchner: Lenz
  • Theodor Storm:
    Immensee; Die Söhne des Senators; Hans und Heinz Kirch; Der Schimmelreiter
  • Gottfried Keller: Romeo und Julia auf dem Dorfe; Die drei gerechten Kammacher; Kleider machen Leute; Der Landvogt von Greifensee
  • Theodor Fontane: Schach von Wuthenow; Stine
  • Conrad Ferdinand Meyer: Der Schuss von der Kanzel; Gustav Adolfs Page
  • Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach: Krambambuli
  • Ferdinand von Saar: Schloss Kostenitz
  • Eduard von Keyserling: Die Soldaten-Kersta
  • Arthur Schnitzler: Sterben; Der Ehrentag; Leutnant Gustl; Der Tod des Junggesellen;Fräulein Else; Spiel im Morgengrauen
  • Gerhart Hauptmann: Bahnwärter Thiel
  • Frank Wedekind: Die Schutzimpfung
  • Heinrich Mann: Gretchen
  • Jakob Wassermann: Der Stationschef
  • Hugo von Hofmannsthal: Das Märchen der 672. Nacht
  • Thomas Mann: Der kleine Herr Friedemann; Tristan; Tonio Kröger; Schwere Stunde;Wälsungenblut; Der Tod in Venedig; Unordnung und frühes Leid; Mario und der Zauberer
  • Rainer Maria Rilke: Die Turnstunde
  • Hermann Hesse: Knulp; Klein und Wagner
  • Martin Buber: Abraham und Lot
  • Robert Walser: Sebastian; Ein unartiger Brief
  • Alfred Döblin: Die Ermordung einer Butterblume
  • Robert Musil: Das verzauberte Haus; Tonka
  • Stefan Zweig: Die Weltminute von Waterloo; Schachnovelle
  • Ernst Weiß: Franta Zlin; Die Herznaht
  • Franz Kafka: Das Urteil; Die Verwandlung; Vor dem Gesetz; Ein Bericht für eine Akademie; Ein Landarzt; In der Strafkolonie; Ein Hungerkünstler
  • Lion Feuchtwanger: Höhenflugrekord
  • Egon Erwin Kisch:
    Wie ich erfuhr, daß Redl ein Spion war; Die Himmelfahrt der Galgentoni
  • Ernst Bloch: Fall ins Jetzt
  • Gustav Sack: Im Heu
  • Gottfried Benn: Gehirne
  • Georg Heym: Jonathan
  • Kurt Tucholsky: Rheinsberg
  • Franz Werfel: Der Tod des Kleinbürgers
  • Joseph Roth: April; Stationschef Fallmerayer; Die Legende vom heiligen Trinker
  • Heimito von Doderer: Acht Wutanfälle
  • Carl Zuckmayer: Geschichte von einer Geburt
  • Bertolt Brecht: Der Augsburger Kreidekreis; Der verwundete Sokrates;
    Die unwürdige Greisin
  • Elisabeth Langgässer: Saisonbeginn
  • Anna Seghers: Der Ausflug der toten Mädchen; Post ins Gelobte Land;
    Bauern von Hruschowo
  • Hans Erich Nossack: Der Untergang
  • Marie Luise Kaschnitz: Der Strohhalm; Lange Schatten; April
  • Marieluise Fleißer: Avantgarde
  • Elias Canetti: Die Verleumdung; Die Lust des Esels
  • Wolfgang Koeppen: Schön gekämmte, frisierte Gedanken;
    Ein Kaffeehaus; Jugend
  • Max Frisch:
    Der andorranische Jude; Skizze eines Unglücks; Glück
  • Arno Schmidt: Seelandschaft mit Pocahontas; Die Umsiedler
  • Peter Weiss: Der Schatten des Körpers des Kutschers
  • Wolfgang Hildesheimer: Ich schreibe kein Buch über Kafka;
    Das Ende einer Welt
  • Heinrich Böll: Der Mann mit den Messern; Wiedersehen in der Allee; Wanderer, kommst du nach Spa …; Doktor Murkes gesammeltes Schweigen
  • Wolfdietrich Schnurre: Das Manöver
  • Friedrich Dürrenmatt: Die Panne
  • Wolfgang Borchert: Das Brot
  • Ilse Aichinger: Spiegelgeschichte
  • Franz Fühmann: Das Judenauto; König Ödipus
  • Siegfried Lenz: Der Verzicht; Ein Kriegsende; Ein geretteter Abend
  • Martin Walser: Ein fliehendes Pferd; Selbstporträt als Kriminalroman
  • Günter Grass: Katz und Maus
  • Günter Kunert: Alltägliche Geschichte einer Berliner Straße; Die Waage
  • Christa Wolf: Kein Ort. Nirgends
  • Thomas Bernhard: Die Mütze; Wittgensteins Neffe
  • Gabriele Wohmann: Wiedersehen in Venedig; Sonntag bei den Kreisands
  • Adolf Muschg: Der Ring; Der Zusenn oder das Heimat
  • Uwe Johnson: Jonas zum Beispiel
  • Ulrich Plenzdorf: kein runter kein fern
  • Peter Bichsel: Die Männer; Sein Abend; Der Mann mit dem Gedächtnis
  • Hans Joachim Schädlich:
    Besuch des Kaisers von Russland bei dem Kaiser von Deutschland
  • Jurek Becker: Die beliebteste Familiengeschichte
  • Hermann Burger: Der Orchesterdiener
  • Peter Handke:
    Das Umfallen der Kegel von einer bäuerlichen Kegelbahn
  • Christoph Hein: Der neuere (glücklichere) Kohlhaas
  • Botho Strauß: Die Widmung
  • Christoph Ransmayr: Przemysl

Antonio Tabucchi Week – Wrap Up

Tabucchi Week is already over and I wanted to thank all of you who joined, read along, wrote reviews, commented and read other’s posts. I’m really happy that it was quite interactive and people visited each other’s blogs. There were quite a few very interesting discussions. I’m also happy that those who joined who didn’t know Tabucchi found an author whose work they want to continue exploring and those who knew him felt like returning to an old friend. I enjoyed the two books I chose a great deal and I’m also glad that I have discovered a few new blogs.

What I also loved was that many of the posts showed how wide Tabucchi’s range is and that everyone can find something else in his books. Quite a few people have read Pereira Maintains but every single post was completely different and highlighted other things, something I’ve rarely noticed when many people read the same novel.

Once more – Thank you so much for participating.

Below are all the participant reviews again (they are also in the intro post). In a few days I’ll set up a page which will allow to find the posts more easily. I’m pretty sure this isn’t the last author week I’ve hosted and knowing that I like a bit of a theme the next week will most probably also be dedicated to an Italian writer. No worries, though, not before next year.

It’s Getting Later All the Time – Brian (Babbling Books)

On Dreams of Dreams – Tom (Wuthering Expectations)

Pereira Declares – Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)

Pereira Maintains – TBM (50 Year Project)

Pereira Maintains – Vishy (Vishy’s Blog)

Pereira Maintains – Bettina (Liburuak)

Pereira Maintains – Andrew Blackman

Piazza d’Italia – Scott (seraillon)

Requiem – Caroline (Beauty is a Sleeping Cat)

The Edge of the Horizon – Caroline (Beauty is a Sleeping Cat)

The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico – Stu (Winstons Dad’s Blog)

The Last Three Days of Fernando Pessoa with Bonus Lobster Recipe – Tom (Wuthering Expectations)

The Missing Head of Damasceno Monteiro – Richard (Caravana de Recuerdos)

Vanishing Point -1streading

Pereira Maintains (Book and Movie) and Requiem – Scribacchina (Parole/Words)

Antonio Tabucchi Week

Antonio Tabucchi Week is finally approaching. It’s starting tomorrow and this is really just a very quick introduction to the week and some info for those who participate. I’m going to post two reviews, one on Tuesday and one either Friday or Saturday and will wrap up on Monday in a week.

I spent the last week reading Tabucchi and was quite captivated by my choices. I wanted to read Pereira Maintains but then I dipped into another two of his books and one of them hooked me right away.

Tabucchi has written quite a few very short books, so if you haven’t started yet, there is still time until Sunday.

If you are participating and have reviewed something, please, leave a link in the comment section of this post.  I’ll add it to this post. Once the week is over you can still access the links either via this post or via the page I will set up.

Participant reviews

It’s Getting Later All the Time – Brian (Babbling Books)

On Dreams of Dreams – Tom (Wuthering Expectations)

Pereira Declares – Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)

Pereira Maintains – TBM (50 Year Project)

Pereira Maintains – Vishy (Vishy’s Blog)

Pereira Maintains – Bettina (Liburuak)

Pereira Maintains – Andrew Blackman

Piazza d’Italia – Scott (seraillon)

Requiem – Caroline (Beauty is a Sleeping Cat)

The Edge of the Horizon – Caroline (Beauty is a Sleeping Cat)

The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico – Stu (Winstons Dad’s Blog)

The Last Three Days of Fernando Pessoa with Bonus Lobster Recipe – Tom (Wuthering Expectations)

The Missing Head of Damasceno Monteiro – Richard (Caravana de Recuerdos)

Vanishing Point -1streading

Pereira Maintains (Book and Movie) and Requiem – Scribacchina (Parole/Words)

Kleist Novellas Giveaway – The Winner

It’s finally Sunday and I’m glad to be able to announce the winner of the giveaway of the following two novellas by Kleist, courtesy of Melville House Press.

The giveaway is part of Lizzy and my German Literature Month in November.

The winner of this week’s giveaway – drawn by random.org number generator – is Vishy from Vishy’s Blog.

Please send me your contact details via beautyisasleepingcat at gmail dot com.

We hope you will be able to read and review at least one of them during Kleist week in November.

Happy reading, Vishy.

The next giveaway will take place next Wednesday.

Wednesdays are wunderbar – Kleist Novellas Giveaway

As Lizzy already announced last week, you should get used to our “Wednesdays are wunderbar” series that will take place on a fairly regular basis until the end of November. They are an integral part of our German Literature Month in November.

This week’s giveaway has been kindly provided by Melville House Press. We have two of Heinrich von Kleist’s novellas to give away, The Duel (aka Der Zweikapmpf) and Michael Kholhaas (Michael Kohlhaas deutsch).

Heinrich von Kleist died 200 years ago, on November 21 1811. Kleist was 34 years old when he died or – to be more precise – killed himself together with his friend, Henriette Vogel. As much as we appreciate his work now, that was not the case during his life. He got little recognition at the time. His plays and novellas that are considered to be among the finest in German literature had to wait until the 20th century to be discovered and treasured.

Like Jean Paul, or the equally tragic Friedrich Hölderlin, Kleist didn’t belong to any specific movement. He was neither a classic nor a romantic, but somewhere in between and quite unique. He certainly was a troubled man who was too sensitive for his time. Not being understood and the fear of losing his livelihood made matters worse.

He may be more famous for his plays but he has written some extremely impressive novellas. The stories are often violent and somewhat stretching believability but the accuracy of the descriptions and his use of language are what make him one of the very great German writers. He has a voice entirely his own.

Below you can see the two novellas we are giving away. As I haven’t read these two, I added the blurbs.

Based on actual historic events, this thrilling saga of violence and retribution bridged the gap between medieval and modern literature, and speaks so profoundly to the contemporary spirit that it has been the basis of numerous plays, movies, and novels. It has become, in fact, a classic tale: that of the honorable man forced to take the law into his own hands. In this incendiary prototype, a minor tax dispute intensifies explosively, until the eponymous hero finds the forces of an entire kingdom, and even the great Martin Luther, gathered against him.

One of the few novellas written by the master German playwright, The Duel was considered by Thomas Mann and others to be one of the great works of German literature. The story of a virtuous woman slandered by a nobleman, it is a precise study of a subject that fascinated von Kleist: that people are sometimes seemingly punished for their very innocence. This new translation reinvigorates a key work by this revolutionary German writer

If you are interested in reading these two novellas, please leave a comment. The only condition is that you read and review them during the Kleist and Other German Classics week of our German Literature Month in November (week 4).

The giveaway is open internationally, the books will be shipped by the editor. The winner will be announced on Sunday 16 October 20.00 – European – (Zürich) time.