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May 24, 2011
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It feels a bit strange for my first post after coming back from Japan to be about a book totally unrelated to Japan or Israel, but I immersed myself in the world of Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Unaccustomed Earth” (a collection of short stories) starting from the plane ride back and my first few days here. I’ve read her two previous books (“Interpreter of Maladies” and “The Namesake”) and looked forward to being sucked in to her stories just as I had before. I was not disappointed. I love how simple and approachable her writing is yet her stories have a significant weight. They are the kind of stories I can read over and over again.

(Books, by the way, are very expensive in Israel, at least compared to Japanese or American standards that I’m used to. The prices I’ve seen so far are nearly double of that. This may only be true for English books and not as much for books in Hebrew, however. After hearing a Canadian friend’s experience of waiting nearly 4 months for the books she ordered through Amazon Canada to get here, I didn’t even bother trying to shop for books online. I couldn’t help myself from splurging a bit while in Japan!)

Although Lahiri’s stories about Begali immigrants in the United States seemingly have nothing to do with my being a Japanese in Israel, there were many things I could relate to. The struggle to fit in, the feeling of displacement, the pros and cons of one’s native community in a foreign land, the ties to family and friends back in one’s native country.

In Japan it almost felt like I had never left. Sure, these short trips are a bit unrealistic – it’s like packing in all the great things as much as they will fit in two weeks. It’s like a honeymoon, a small window of everything that is wonderful, no space for anything else. But I couldn’t help but see how easily I would be able to fit back in there.

Back here in Israel I am reminded of the opposite – how much effort I still need to make to find my place, my sense of belonging here. And rather than to fight the sense of unease and difficulty, I acknowledge it, give in to it, and will rely on the comfort of books to fill in the gaps in the meantime. Leat, leat (slowly, slowly), as they say.

日本から戻ってきて最初のエントリーが日本とイスラエルと無縁の本についてなのはちょっと変な気もしますが、こちらに戻る旅の途中からジュンパ・ラヒリ作の「Unaccustomed Earth(見知らぬ場所)」(短編集)の世界にどっぷりのめり込み、帰ってきてからも手放せませんでした。既に読んだ彼女の過去の二作(「Interpreter of Maladies(病気の通訳)」と「The Namesake(病気にちなんで)」)のように、すーっと彼女の物語の世界に吸い込まれてしまいました。彼女の文章はシンプルでとても読みやすいのですが、各物語にずしんとくる重みがあります。何度も読み直したいような物語ばかりです。

(ちなみにイスラエルでは本はとても高い。私が慣れている日本やアメリカの基準に比べると、約二倍はします。これは英語の本に言えることであって、ヘブライ語の本はそれほど高くないかもしれませんが。カナダ人の友達がカナダのアマゾンにオーダーした本がイスラエルに届くのに約4ヶ月もかかった話を聞いてからはオンラインで本を買うこともまだ試みていません。だから日本に帰った時は思わずちょっと衝動買いをしてしまいました。)

ラヒリの本に登場するアメリカに暮らすインド(ベンガル)人たちと、イスラエルに暮らす日本人の私は一見あまり接点がないようですが、共感できることがたくさんありました。異国での孤独感、母国のコミュニティーの善し悪し、母国とのつながり、など。

日本では約一年離れていた気がしませんでした。もちろん、このような一時帰国はいいものばかりが詰まったちょっと非現実的な旅であることは確か。良い所ばかりみえるあっと言う間に過ぎる時間。でも日本に戻ろうと思ったら、すーっと簡単に溶け込めるような気がしました。

イスラエルは対照的で、自分の居場所をみつけるにはまだまだ努力が必要。でもそのぎこちなさを戦うのではなく、認め、受けとめ、まだまだ埋まらない隙間を今は本の世界で埋めようと思います。イスラエル人が言う「レアートゥ、レアートゥ(ゆっくり、ゆっくり)」でいこうと思います。

Much love,
Kaori

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