Recent Translations of Japanese or Korean novels?
June 3, 2013 10:03 PM   Subscribe

I've been on a Murakami bender for a while, and I have only two novels of his left to read. I'd like to find some other Japanese or Korean novels in translation, now that I can see the end of all this is near.

I'm particularly interested in stuff that's been written very recently. I'm not necessarily looking for the deepest stuff out there, just good fun reading that gets me turning pages. Extra points for stuff that's written for a domestic as opposed to international market. I'm not so into the fantastic elements of Murakami as I am the realistic, so I'd prefer not to read anything that's too oriented toward fantasy.

Thanks for your help!
posted by Hennimore to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Yoko Ogawa (The Housekeeper and the Professor)
Banana Yoshimoto (The Lake)
posted by sunset in snow country at 10:07 PM on June 3, 2013

If you like realism, you should track down Teru Miyamoto if you can, although I think Autumn Brocade is the only book of his translated into English. I can't be sure (I've only read him in the original Japanese).

Hirokazu Kore'eda (the "heir to Ozu", and another very fine example of Japanese Realism and humanism) adapted Miyamoto's book Maborosi ("A Trick of the Light") into an excellent film of the same name in 1994. The film holds a special place in my heart because it was filmed and takes place on the Noto Peninsula, a rural part of Japan where I first lived nearly 20 years ago (when the film was made).

Miyamoto comes from Toyama (where I also used to live) and writes mostly about the lives of regular folks living in and around Osaka.

I guess you could say he's very Raymond Carveresque... Dirty Realism.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:29 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm always talking up Kim Young-ha, a Korean writer who has seemed to have achieved more fame abroad than in his native South Korea. Very dark and disturbing, but amazing evocations of contemporary life in Seoul.

I Have The Right To Destroy Myself

Your Republic Is Calling You
posted by bardic at 10:36 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Big yes to Banana Yoshimoto! Kitchen is actually my favourite of all the books she's written.

I loved Out by Natsuo Kirino. Did not like her second translated book, Grotesque, as much though.

I absolutely cannot talk up Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin enough. I wish more of her books were translated into English.
posted by peripathetic at 11:08 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

just good fun reading that gets me turning pages

Haikasoru has a bunch of Japanese science fiction in translation, some of which is on point. Battle Royale and All You Need is Kill are page-turners with interesting qualities (the latter is being made into a movie starring Tom Cruise). The Stories of Ibis is an extremely good SF fix-up novel / story collection. I've read all three of those as well as a pile of Murakami, and I don't see any overlap in content or style, but I would say that they were all fun and interesting.

I haven't read Self-Reference Engine, but it's apparently more experimental. And I recall Harmony getting a good review from an SF author / English professor.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 3:31 AM on June 4, 2013

I'll back up peripathetic on "Out" – it's one of my all time favorites of its kind (if it can even be said to have a "kind," but in my mind it fits with a very small cluster of other books that are similarly evocative). I also agree that "Grotesque" was definitely not as good.
posted by taz at 5:34 AM on June 4, 2013

You could try Keigo Higashino if you like crime fiction.
posted by Cat Set Go at 7:12 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa
posted by moons in june at 10:30 AM on June 4, 2013

I've said it before, I'll say it again: David Mitchell writes the best Murakami novels these days.
(I know, I know, but really...)
posted by OHenryPacey at 5:23 PM on June 4, 2013

Seconding Kim Young-ha. Your Republic Is Calling You is a particularly breezy read, a fairly good translation, with some fun twists.
posted by war wrath of wraith at 8:55 PM on June 4, 2013

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