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Isle of Dreams (Japanese Literature (Dalkey)) Paperback – December 7, 2010

4.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Hino's acclaimed 1985 novel, translated into English for the first time, Tokyo is both a setting and a living being, at once evolving and dying in the eyes and mind of Shozo Sakai. Sakai is a middle-aged widower working for a Tokyo construction firm, whose life, while satisfying, is mundane. His true passion lies within the high-rises his company constructs, and he finds himself drawn to a piece of reclaimed land, the landfill island that gives the book its title. There he meets Yoko Hayashi, a mysterious young beauty. Sakai immediately becomes fascinated with her and allows himself to be drawn into her intriguing life, discovering a Tokyo he's never known. As inventive as the late author's efforts to anthropomorphize Tokyo are, they consume his focus; the human characters never develop and attempts to parallel two stories don't come together. Hino's illustration of the heartbreaking desecration of a Tokyo still haunted by its past is a real achievement, though, and readers will feel genuine empathy for the city. (Dec.)
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Review

“A novel. . . that forces us to contemplate the dark side of our cities.” (Das Neue Buch)

“In this novel, the metropolis of Tokyo is a living creature. Within its inner workings, skyscrapers and massive overpasses alike are born and grow, continually breathing, panting, trembling, maturing, and developing cracks.” (Masashi Miura)
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Product Details

  • Series: Japanese Literature (Dalkey)
  • Paperback: 156 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press; Reprint edition (December 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156478603X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564786036
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #428,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Keizo Hino, Isle of Dreams
Dalkey Archive, 2010
translated by Charles de Wolf

I've lived in Tokyo for almost a decade now and it often seems to me that, although thirty million people live in Tokyo, almost no one looks at it. This book attracted me first because it aims to look. I was also enchanted by its first paragraph, which seemed to me the way all books ought to begin -

"When our consciousness begins to change, for better or for worse, events around us seem to fall in line, starting with mere coincidences, hardly worth noting. Of course, how could it be otherwise?"

What follows is the tale of a widower wandering in Tokyo's reclaimed land: a wasteland built from waste. He nearly gets run down by a woman on a motorcycle and begins a journey through the heart (or guts) of Tokyo.

I live in Tokyo and read endlessly; some of my friends are literature professors or translators, yet I had never heard of this book and, when I try to speak of it to people, I nearly always get a blank look. Yet it is a stunningly strange and interesting book and one of many reasons to be grateful to the Dalkey Archive Press.

Certainly it is not a book for everyone. To whom do I recommend it? To architects, ecologists, and anyone obsessed with Tokyo, mannequins, or trash. Also to fans of Kafka, J.G. Ballard, Joseph Conrad. It is essential for anyone interested in ecological literature - though it certainly provides no obvious moral!

A bit of advice: the first half dozen chapters have a peculiar awkwardness and artificiality that will make sense - but only in retrospect. Persist!
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Format: Paperback
The Japanese J.G. Ballard? The comparison is inevitable for those who discover his work in English; this is a novel that contemplates the repressed desires and secret pathology of living in an urban landscape (Hino, incidentally, was born a few months before Ballard and grew up in the then Japanese colony of Korea). As with Ballard too, there is more attention paid to the conceptual setting of the narrative than to character development, which some readers may find disappointing. For all that, this is an impressive short novel from 1985, rendered in effectively taut prose by translator Charles De Wolf. Not so much the 'satire on urban decay' promised in the cover blurb, as an uncanny and cryptic meditation on post-war Tokyo that uses elements of fantasy-a lost island in Tokyo Bay; a man following strange desires-to explore the idea of living in a mega-city and, implicitly, belonging to (then) economic miracle of modern Japan. It's also a subtly Japanese tale (recalling some of Kobo Abe) that alludes to the history haunting modern Tokyo. What makes the novel especially impressive is that what another author might have presented as a didactic eco-fable or a set of dystopian SF tropes, becomes much stranger and enigmatic, as the novel refuses to disclose the real motivations of the main characters or explain the fantastic forces evoked by the city. Admirers of China Mieville's intelligent fantasy may like to read this.
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Format: Paperback
'Ever since I have begun wandering about on the reclaimed land, I have been shaken and pierced by various forces. My body is full of fissures, like those of a cracking mannequin.'

I think I'd rather have had Margaret Atwood's take - a Western take. I struggle with the Japanese world-view, as refracted through the prism of literature, but this 20th century Baudelaire definitely out-Tejus Cole in the flaneur department, in the depth of his concerns. Preposterous - though in 1988 it was just possible to imagine the tide of concrete being arrested - but powerful
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