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CAT Book Club: A First Look at Lion Cross Point

A look at the next book in #TheCATBookClub: a novel by Japanese author Masatsugu Ono.

Thank you to everyone who came out to see Chris Clarke, Kit Schluter, and Stephen Sparks discuss Marcel Schwob last week in San Francisco. More takeaways from that event to come.

Until then, we’re looking at the next book club pick, published by our own Two Lines Press:

Lion Cross Point by Masatsugu Ono, translated from Japanese by Angus Turvill

In Lion Cross Point, celebrated Japanese author Masatsugu Ono turns his gentle pen to the mind of ten-year-old Takeru, who arrives at his family’s home village amid a scorching summer, carrying memories of unspeakable acts against his mother and brother. As Takeru befriends Mitsuko, his new caretaker, and Saki, his spunky neighbor, he meets more of his mother’s old friends, discovering her history and inching toward a new idea of family and home. All the while he begins to see a strange figure called Bunji—the same name as a delicate young boy who mysteriously vanished long ago on the village’s breathtaking coastline at Lion Cross Point.

Read an excerpt from Lion Cross Point on Words Without Borders.

From a 2015 interview with Masatsugu Ono:

“The places I write about are always based on my hometown, a small fishing village in the south of Oita prefecture. Recently, my focus has been on families that have many difficulties.”

Sound familiar? The small village where a majority of the novel takes place resembles Ono’s own hometown. And through intermittent flashbacks we glimpse a wholly different landscape: the derelict city apartments where Takeru and his older brother were abandoned for long stints by their mother.

“When I first went to university, I studied French philosophy, but it was hard for me, and my professor recommended I read Chamoiseau. I read his first novel, Chroniques des Sept Misères (Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows), and I felt the book was full of people from my hometown. I abandoned—with pleasure—my philosophy studies. I found French literature much easier to ‘eat.'”

Fun fact: Ono is an accomplished translator as well as a writer. Among his translations are works by Èdouard Glissant and Marie NDiaye!

Reviews: On Translation, Trauma, and Childhood

A recent review marvels at Angus Turvill’s translation and touches on the issue of how to translate dialect:

I think we who read translations are all aware of the pitfalls of translating dialect, or not translating it. The German translation of Kelman’s masterful How Late It Was, How Late, a novel written wholly in Scottish dialect, is rendered entirely in standard German. A difficult decision, but what dialect would you pick to mimic Scottish? There are many more examples like this. In Lion Cross Point, translator Angus Turvill has opted for a clever middle ground between dialect and standard English. He uses small contractions, and “g-dropping,” to signify country dialect. The way it is employed makes the fact of dialect very clear—g-dropping is today a particularly clear sign of down-to-earth, lower-class usage of English—without committing to any specific dialect. It’s not a perfect solution (I have a personal obsession with the topic of translating dialect), but I found it an unusually brilliant and effective one.

From a review of Lion Cross Point by Kris Kosaka in Japan Times:

Because Ono filters information from Takeru’s perspective, details unravel deliberately incomplete. “As I became immersed in the writing, I began to see the protagonist not as a character in the story, but as a real person,” says Ono. “I wanted to write as if I knew him. This boy has been deeply traumatized, and the more I wrote, the more I realized that I couldn’t allow myself to go into his mind and touch on things he didn’t want to reveal, or reveal what he had forgotten and was meant to forget.”

Ono also mentions having lived for five years in France with the founder of a museum and a scholar, both of them interested in the effects and representations of genocide. Ono is quoted as saying, “I was greatly impressed by their work and began to read the testimonies of children who had survived trauma and read many essays about this issue.”

This week Masatsugu Ono is setting out on his first-ever U.S. book tour, concluding at the Bay Area Book Festival on April 28. Don’t miss this opportunity to meet the award-winning Japanese writer!

Saturday, April 21, 7:00 pm
Elliott Bay Book Company
1521 10th Ave, Seattle, WA

Tuesday, April 24, 7:00 pm
Interabang Books
10720 Preston Rd #1009B, Dallas, TX

Wednesday, April 25, 7:00 pm
Brazos Bookstore
2421 Bissonnet St, Houston, TX

Thursday, April 26, 7:30 pm
Powell’s Books on Hawthorne
3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR

Saturday, April 28, 3:15 pm
Bay Area Book Festival
Panel: Knots of Wonder: Stunning Short Fiction