Home » JAPAN UNDER THE TREE by Caterina Franciosi (Il Salotto Letterario)

JAPAN UNDER THE TREE by Caterina Franciosi (Il Salotto Letterario)

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JAPAN UNDER THE TREE by Caterina Franciosi (Il Salotto Letterario)

Christmas is already in the air, with all its lights, its atmospheres and its scents. What better time of year to give a book as a gift (maybe if we’re even a little short of ideas)? In this article I propose five oriental-themed readings, not very Christmassy but designed to keep you in good company all year round. Because a book may not be a diamond, but it could still stay with you forever.

The first reading tip is Shogun by James Clavell, the first volume of the author’s “Asian Saga”. Freely inspired by the events of Tokugawa Ieyasu and the English navigator William Adams, the novel sees the English protagonist John Blackthorne who, on the armed merchant ship Erasmus, shipwrecked on the coast of Japan. From this moment on, Blackthorne’s life changes drastically, as he will be forced to meet and clash with a culture very different from his own, full of wonder but also of profound contradictions. Despite the almost thousand pages of the Bompiani edition, Shogun it is a novel that you will hardly want to put down before having finished it, capable of transporting you far away in time and space.

The second novel to put under the tree is The feather dress by Banana Yoshimoto. This story, like the author’s others, is characterized by a delicate and introspective style; in this particular context we have a deep melancholy but also a sense of hope and rebirth that accompanies us chapter after chapter together with the protagonist, Hotaru. The feather dress is one of the novels that I most appreciated by Banana Yoshimoto as it deals with great poetry with the theme of life beyond death through the figure of ten’nyocelestial creatures capable of moving between the earthly and otherworldly worlds thanks to their hagoromothe feather dress from which the original title of the novel also comes.

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Third reading to give as a gift during these holidays is a horror novel by Ono Fuyumi, The impure house. The author tackles the theme of the “haunted house” in an innovative and captivating way, telling the story in first person and in the form of a reportage and exploring the consequences of the persistence of impurities that have never been exorcised and of an “evil” that continues to creep and spread everywhere. The horror atmospheres are outlined in perfect oriental style as anguish and terror never manifest themselves openly but prefer to nestle in the details of an increasingly destabilized and alienating everyday life.

The fourth gift idea is not a novel, but a manga, specifically xxxHOLiC of the CLAMP group of authors, very linked to another work of the collective, Tsubasa RESERVoir breaking latest newsbut still appreciable even independently. xxxHOLiC tells the story of the young Kimihiro Watanuki, a boy persecuted by supernatural creatures, who one day meets the beautiful Yuko Ichihara, a sort of “witch” with many names capable of granting people’s wishes in exchange for a fair reward. In addition to the actual story, the manga is particularly appreciable for the atmospheres always in precarious balance between dream and reality, between the tangible and the impalpable and for the numerous details belonging to oriental tradition and folklore.

Fifth and last (but not least) reading tip is Seta, by Alessandro Baricco. A quick story, made up of sometimes very short chapters, but equally incisive which narrates the vicissitudes of the silkworm merchant Hervé Joncour who, following an epidemic of larvae, must personally travel to Japan to buy new ones. Here, at the court of the mysterious Hara Kei, he meets an equally enigmatic young woman and a particular feeling is born between the two. Seta it is a poetic story, made of images and sensations, of dreams and reflections and of feelings sometimes silent, sometimes deliberately hidden. With few details, almost as if tracing the brushstrokes of a Japanese painting, the author outlines unforgettable characters and evocative scenarios. It’s a bittersweet story full of poetry.

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