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Isle of Dreams (Japanese Literature Series) Paperback – 17 Dec 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press; Reprint edition (17 Dec. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156478603X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564786036
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 0.1 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 977,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


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

About the Author

Keizo Hino (1929-2002) was born in Tokyo and accompanied his parents to Korea while the country was under Japanese control. After his return to Japan, he worked as a foreign correspondent for YOMIURI SHIMBUN, a Japanese newspaper. He later wrote several novels.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Simon Barrett 'Il Penseroso' on 10 Aug. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This novel - novella, almost - of urban perambulation recalls Teju Cole's Open City, but it's better than that rather strained exercise. This narrator's aesthetic sense is of a quite different order! The translation is exemplary, and definitely English I'd say, despite the usual envision, toward for towards, alcohol stove for spirit stove. Where now? A little ramble with Robert Walser?
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Amazon.com: 3 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Deserves vastly more attention! 14 April 2012
By Guttersnipe Das - Published on Amazon.com
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!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Thoughtful, Japanese fantasy novel 7 Aug. 2011
By Jim70 - Published on Amazon.com
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.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Quasi-scifi 11 Aug. 2013
By Simon Barrett 'Il Penseroso' - Published on Amazon.com
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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