Book Diary: The Japanese Chronicles (Nicolas Bouvier)

My mum bought me a book diary in 2008 and I am posting some of the extracts from it here.  It’s shocking to notice that I’ve already forgotten that I even read some of them!

However, not this one.

I used to work at the Amnesty Bookshop in Bristol and a lot of the books in the diary were either bought from there or loaned from other volunteers.  My super-special friend, Phil (he is in his 80s and has been writing his own book for over 50 years, he told me every week that he was scared he was going to die before he finishes it) loaned me this because we have a shared love of Haruki Murakami’s novels.

Here’s what I wrote about it:


(finished reading on 23/06/2009)

The quote on the back says; ‘if you go to Japan, it is unthinkable that you should leave without The Japanese Chronicles.  And if you don’t go, these Chronicles will give you the illusion of having visited the Japan of yesterday and today.’  This summarises it very well because, having just finished it, I do feel (obviously somewhat egotistically!) that I now fully KNOW Japan and it’s people.

The specific joys of this book are the way it has been structured together with Bouvier’s style of writing, which is warm and funny, as well as astute and moving.  It’s not just about Japan, it is also about the nature of travelling/of the traveller and about writing, what travelling does to a writer and how a writer narrates their travels (see pages 192 – 195).  The structure uses a mixture of history, fragments of Bouvier’s travel notebook and narratives from the two periods when he lived in Japan.  His fantastic photographs accompany the writing.

I really, really enjoyed reading the book.  I loved it.  Normally I enjoy yet still struggle to read non-fiction fluidly, but I totally stormed through this one, it was so easy to read.  Easier than some fiction.


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