Because of my positive experience reading Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book, I thought I’d try some more Japanese literature. Amanda wrote a positive review of The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa and I noticed that this was the selected book for the Japanese Literature Book Group run by tanabata at In Spring it is the Dawn. Then I noticed it was less than 200 pages, and I thought it was sign I should give it a try.
Obviously, comparing Ogawa’s modern novel to Shonagon’s 1000-year-old journalistic notes is like comparing apples to oranges. If you ask, I’ll say I much prefer the old classic. But I did enjoy the Japanese novel too. Now I feel I am about to embark on a new genre of interest: Japanese literature, classic and new.
The professor of the title was once a famous mathematician, but a car accident 25 years ago left him unable to remember more than 80 minutes at a time. Now he lives in the past and every 80 minutes he must learn again the events and people from the 25 years he’s forgotten. Nevertheless, the housekeeper is able to develop a friendship with him as she learns about the beauty of numbers. Mathematics, not memory, is a universal language of their friendship. Although the science of the memory aspect of the book seems suspect, the themes of friendship are universal. In the end, it was an enjoyable book, although not a favorite.
As a part of the book group, Tanabata at In Spring it is the Dawn asks a few questions and includes the publishers’ book group questions. Note that this post (and probably the comments) will include spoilers as a part of the discussion of the book.Continue Reading