Translation Works
The 3rd Selected Works
Plainsong
TITLE
Plainsong
(Purensongu)
AUTHOR
Translator
ENGLISH / Paul Warham published
FRENCH / Julien Calas
Originally Published by:
Kodansha (1990)
KEY POINTS
  • Award winning author.
  • In the same genre as Yasujiro Ozu's films.
  • Profound and realistic writing style.
SYNOPSIS
The first-person protagonist is a male office worker "around thirty". We are not told his name. One after another, three people aged around twenty make their way to his small (two rooms plus a kitchen) apartment in Tokyo: Akira and Yoko, a couple, and Shimada, a company worker. The year is 1986. The strange communal life of this foursome, extending over half a year from the end of winter to midsummer seaside, quietly unfolds.
The narrator may be the eldest, and he may own the place, but he is no leader. He accepts the interlopers without protest. Though fond of a stray kitten, he takes charge of it only after a nudging from the affirmative Yoko. In fact, the characters are all passive and do not assert their individuality. Yet a slight bond unites them, and out of their conversations and chains of association grow new feelings and actions. This chemical reaction is brilliantly depicted.
Another feature of this work is the insertion, amid a discussion of film theory, of a theory of fiction writing. Gonta, a young aspiring filmmaker who appears halfway through the book, says, "I can never remember stories, plot outlines". He claims no desire to "film dramatic events or flashy stories, anything like that". This is a statement of the author's own thinking about the novel. In his debut work, Hosaka boldly set out his own theory of fiction writing.
Kazushi Hosaka is the standard-bearer of a group of writers that came together in the generation after postwar baby boomers like Haruki Murakami. The group might be called the "nothing much happens" school, and is supported by many young writers. The fiction they write consists of matter-of-fact expositions of daily life, without any notable occurrences.
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1st JLPP International Translation CompetitionTo the PublishersFRANKFURT BOOK FAIR 2010