Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Book Review: An I-Novel by Mizumura Minae (Contemporary / Literary Fiction)

Title: An I-Novel
Author: Mizumura Minae
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication Date: 2021 (1995)
Pages: 348
Format: eBook - PDF
Genre: Contemporary / Literary Fiction
Source: ARC via NetGalley


Minae Mizumura's An I-Novel is a semi-autobiographical work that takes place over the course of a single day in the 1980s. Minae is a Japanese expatriate graduate student who has lived in the United States for two decades but turned her back on the English language and American culture. After a phone call from her older sister reminds her that it is the twentieth anniversary of their family's arrival in New York, she spends the day reflecting in solitude and over the phone with her sister about their life in the United States, trying to break the news that she has decided to go back to Japan and become a writer in her mother tongue.

 

An I-Novel was an intriguing and captivating read. It presented a delightful character study of Minae, and I really felt like I got to know and understand her as she pondered her feelings about leaving Japan, living in America, and her desire to return to her homeland and her native language. This novel was originally written in Japanese, with a bit of English thrown in here and there throughout. That is difficult to replicate in an English translation. What the translator has done is change font for the sections that would have stood out in English in the original. This works as a marker, and it's interesting to see when they occur; however, I don't think you could ever exactly capture the feel of the original work in an English translation. I am currently learning Japanese, so I liked the occasional kanji or phrase that were included, some of which I was pleased to see I could understand. As someone who has moved country (albeit not to somewhere with a different language), I found it easy to relate to Minae and her experiences and feelings, and overall An I-Novel was a thoughtful and interesting read that I really enjoyed. I am giving it 4.5 stars. The only reason it doesn't get five is because I think that, stylistically at least, something gets lost from this work in the English translation.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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