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Jasmine

Jasmine - Noboru Tsujihara, Juliet Winters Carpenter Tsujihara demonstrates that Japanese novelists are capable of the straight literary novel as opposed to the surrealist post-modern piece or purely crowd-pleasing thriller hit. Jasmine takes on the extremely tough issue of Sino-Japanese relationships against the backdrop of the 1989 Tiananmen affair and the '95 Kobe earthquake. Mo Hayder told us in tokyo that the country of Japan is composed almost entirely of gangsters covering up their complicity in the Nanjing Massacre opposed only by the young English women who risk life and fortune to bring out the truth. and was it Natsuo Kirino in Grotesque (Vintage International) who seems to think China is a country inhabited 80% by male prostitutes? (?) fortunately we have Tsujihara whose experiences of the Japanese community in Shanghai and the city itself are informed by his real life experience, so instead of stereotypes pandering to home audience appeal, we get nuance, local knowledge, and plenty of intertwining incidents, a diplomat and historian's eye view rather than paper-thin cut-out characters if the occasional didact's lesson steps in here or there.

oddly enough, I found this novel's tone similar to the 1992 bestseller Fatherland: A Novel. anyone is free to disagree, of course, but the idea of people searching for things in a totalitarian country whilst various underground or police forces battled has the same airy, but gray-toned mood feel as a fictional Germany in the 60s. hmmm. finally, the ending is really quite good. congrats to Tsujihara on his impressive 2004 work, and to the Cultural Affairs Ministry for subsidizing this English translation. 5/5