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Shipwrecks

by Akira Yoshimura

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5053137,463 (4.02)116
Isaku is a nine-year-old boy living in a remote, desperately poor fishing village on the coast of Japan. His people catch barely enough fish to live on, and so must distill salt to sell to neighboring villages. But this industry serves another, more sinister purpose: the fires of the salt cauldrons lure passing ships toward the shore and onto rocky shoals. When a ship runs aground, the villagers slaughter the crew and loot the cargo for rice, wine, and rich delicacies. One day a ship founders on the rocks. But Isaku learns that its cargo is far deadlier than could ever be imagined. Shipwrecks, the first novel by the great Japanese writer Yoshimura to be translated into English, is a stunningly powerful, Gothic tale of fate and retribution.… (more)
  1. 00
    A Luminous Republic by Andrés Barba (stretch)
  2. 00
    The Blue Sky by Galsang Tschinag (meggyweg)
    meggyweg: Both of these books involve young boys eking out a living in very poor and difficult circumstances in different parts of Asia. One of them is much bleaker than the other.
  3. 00
    Le Convoi de l'eau by Akira Yoshimura (raton-liseur)
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» See also 116 mentions

English (29)  Hebrew (1)  French (1)  All languages (31)
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
A superb read about a small Japanese village probably medieval--as the plague figured (in small part) into the story. It's one of those books where the last sentence can be interpreted in two ways! Recommended 180 pages ( )
  Tess_W | Jul 5, 2021 |

En español, «Naufragios».

En esta novela se narran los eventos ocurridos en el transcurso de más o menos tres años en la vida de Isaku, un niño que vive en una aldea pesquera japonesa. La atmósfera en general es de una miseria extrema, en la que se persigue más la supervivencia que la subsistencia; la clase de miseria que hace que no se distinga si es un relato del año 100 o de fines del siglo XIX (aunque por la mención de daimyos o señores feudales japoneses podemos reducir un poco el rango entre el siglo XIV y el XVIII).

Los aldeanos se dedican, como mencioné anteriormente, a la pesca, aunque también obtienen algunos recursos de los bosques aledaños. No obstante, estos elementos son insuficientes. Muchas bocas para alimentar, demasiadas para el sustento disponible. Hombres y mujeres suelen venderse como esclavos por cierta cantidad de años a cambio de un poco de dinero para sus familias. Sin embargo, la aldea aún se mantiene en pie gracias a un secreto que comparten sus habitantes: o-fune-sama. Se trata de barcos que durante la tormenta, quedan encallados en los arrecifes cercanos, y son tomados por los habitantes como una forma de regalo divino, mana caído del cielo. Por lo que han establecido como tradición diversos rituales (y tretas) para acrecentar el número de estas "bendiciones". Actos que, en cualquier otro lado, serían considerados piratería y asesinato.

Una novela con una atmósfera extraordinaria. Las descripciones de la aldea y de sus usos y costumbres son magníficos; ni siquiera el cíclico pasar de los años las tornan repetitivas en lo más mínimo. El final, si bien es hasta cierto punto esperado, no deja de ser una buena conclusión sobre los límites de lo moralmente correcto y la retribución divina. ( )
  little_raven | Jun 1, 2020 |
The publisher blurb on the front cover of my copy says it is 'a thrilling tale of murder and retribution set on the wild seacoast of medieval Japan' - which gives a quite false impression of what this book actually is. The LA Times quote, also on the front cover, calls it 'a haunting read', which is much closer to the mark.

This is a stark, Gothic morality tale, where the passing of the seasons is observed by ritual and humility, and the isolated village and its inhabitants live on the bounty or frugality of Nature. It's not a 'thrilling' tale, in that it's not a fast-paced whodunnit or anything like that. The prose is austere, but masterful, and the slow inevitability of the book's conclusion is equally beautiful and devastating.

If you want happy, then look away. But if you want to be immersed in a small masterpiece of Japanese literature, you must read this. Stunning and powerful. ( )
  Alan.M | May 11, 2020 |
Set in a coastal village in Medieval Japan, this is the story of young Isaku, who has had to step up, at ten years old, and help his mother in trying to keep his younger siblings from starvation. Isaku's days are spent learning to fish, searching the forest for vegetables and firewood and praying for O-fune-sama, the gifts and rice that come from the merchant ships that crash upon the rocks. That the villagers would surely starve to death if they didn't lure the ships in with their salt fires, and that any surviving sailors must be killed by the villagers in order to save themselves is a hard truth that Isaku must face in order to take care of his family.
First published in 1982 and translated by Mark Ealey. This is such an engrossing story, as the reader is watching a very young boy who has no time to behave like a child. He realizes the life and death struggle that his family and his village are in daily and does his best to shoulder great responsibilities. ( )
  mstrust | Feb 7, 2020 |
This is a beautifully written book about a small fishing village living at the edge existence. Life is hard, and when his father indentures himself to pay for much needed grain, Isaku needs to grow up fast.

Its an impressive novel, in that as the seasons turn and repeat, each iteration is the same, but also new as Isaku starts off as a child, but than becomes an adult (by village standards) a few years later.

Than there is a mysterious even that happens every so often - O-Fume-Sama, which is when a ship is wrecked on the villagers coast. However, this wreck isn't a coincidence, the villagers cook down sea water for salt at night on the beach, in hopes of a ship getting foundered on the rocky coast.

However, the beauty of this book is not the shipwreck. Its only a minor part. Where the story shines is the day to to day life, and the struggles of surviving. Not enough food, not enough fish, not enough of anything makes for a lot of death. ( )
  TheDivineOomba | Sep 15, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Akira Yoshimuraprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ealey, MarkTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Old conical hats made of sedge moved in the line of surf.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Isaku is a nine-year-old boy living in a remote, desperately poor fishing village on the coast of Japan. His people catch barely enough fish to live on, and so must distill salt to sell to neighboring villages. But this industry serves another, more sinister purpose: the fires of the salt cauldrons lure passing ships toward the shore and onto rocky shoals. When a ship runs aground, the villagers slaughter the crew and loot the cargo for rice, wine, and rich delicacies. One day a ship founders on the rocks. But Isaku learns that its cargo is far deadlier than could ever be imagined. Shipwrecks, the first novel by the great Japanese writer Yoshimura to be translated into English, is a stunningly powerful, Gothic tale of fate and retribution.

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