This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Great Passage by Shion Miura

The Great Passage

by Shion Miura

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
263963,434 (3.44)25
Recently added bytkgbjenn1, awilk, libraryrobin, private library, thewitchescupboard, phido, WoodsieGirl, linlef



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 25 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
A real unexpected treat where generations, and couples, and coworkers, and the work of words all touch and change one another's lives. ( )
  nkmunn | Nov 17, 2018 |
Kohei Araki falls in love with words and dictionaries as a boy. When a university education makes it clear to him that he's a good but not academic-level lexicographer, he goes to work for Gembu Books, and makes dictionaries.

More than thirty years later, he's nearing retirement. His greatest work, The Great Passage, a top-level dictionary of the Japanese language, is well under way, but not yet complete, and he needs to recruit a successor.

He finds Mitsuya Majimi, a disheveled, seemingly unpromising, young man, who nevertheless proves to share his love of words and their power.

They each find other people along the way, wildly different from each other, and each bringing something different to the dictionary project, and to the other, lesser, dictionaries they make along the way. Those lesser dictionaries, including dictionaries for fictional worlds, help make the dictionary department pay, to keep the company happy while they work on their other, great project.

The plot here is overcoming the challenges of publishing--getting the contributions they need from scholars who don't necessarily share their priorities, getting the specialized paper they need, and other seemingly mundane concerns. The real story is the people--Araki, Majimi, their coworkers, friends, and wives, all centering around the love of words, and what they learn from the words, past dictionaries, and each other.

This doesn't sound like much to describe, but I truly enjoyed this book and the people that populate it. Recommended.

I bought this audiobook. ( )
  LisCarey | Sep 19, 2018 |
Translated from Japanese, this is a charming tale of the lives of obsessive lexicographers struggling to put together an epic dictionary over a 12 year period. The book has the charm of a pilgrimage novel (Howard Frye) but the journey is all in the assemblage of words, their meaning, and usage in contemporary language. There is a love of words, and there are words of love. And if they are not struggling with notations on an index card, then they are sitting down to thoroughly described Japanese cuisine.

This a charming story and enjoyable light reading. ( )
  tangledthread | Jul 12, 2018 |
The love of words and words of love. This tale of the making of the dictionary to be called The Great Passage, a guide to the sea of words tells of the great love of 3 men for words and the art pf capturing them to share and also 3 different, very human love stories. Well translated from Japanese, there must be some enormous loss in only in the context of the word play, but what's left is quite substantial for the length. ( )
  quondame | May 12, 2018 |
A love letter to a process that is slowly disappearing - the process of putting together a dictionary. With the decision to switch to online/e-book only formats for newer versions of some popular dictionaries, chances are that the last new dictionaries will be printed this century. Because the dictionary is not just the words - these will continue to live in the e-dictionaries. But once away from paper, an editor does not need to agonize over which words to include and which ones to remove; how to rewrite a sentence so that it fits a given space, leaving almost no white space on a page.

I love dictionaries - I own a lot of them and I tend to buy new ones when they catch my eye for one reason or another - multilingual and monolingual, generic and thematic. And yet, I had not thought about the process of creation, the editing job that goes into it. I knew it is not easy but somehow I never wondered just how much.

And this novel did. "The Great Passage" is the name of a new Japanese dictionary and the novel spans the 15 years it takes for the dictionary to be completed. In these 15 years not everything is about the dictionary - making one is expensive, dictionaries in Japan are not subsidized with public funds and the team that works on it needs to find other means to make money. So the process lags behind and slowly crawls - never stopping but moving very slow. The novel can be split into two parts - the arrival of Mitsuya Majime and his introduction to the fascinating life of lexicography and dictionaries and then, 13 years later, the arrival of Midori Kishibe and her transition from someone that does not care about it to someone that lives for it. The first part is closed with the departure of one of the members of the team (and his understanding just when he is losing it how much he loved the process); the second open opens with the outsider looking in.

And of course, noone can put life on hold so within the 15 or so years it takes to get the dictionary to the market so there are clumsylove stories (symmetrical between the parts again), a couple of cats, food, secondary characters and a lot of word play. The translator, Juliet Winters Carpenter, had done an awesome job translation a novel that was written in Japanese, for Japanese readers and full of the oddities of the language. There are places where I wish she had added some notes and explanations - I know how kanji and kana are used or what a particle is but if one does not know, some passages would not make sense (including the introduction of Majime) but these are small gripes. And it looks like her choices when to leave the word in Japanese and when to translate it from the start worked very well.

And then there is the actual love letter - the one from Majime to the woman he marries - written in an old style and flowery style, full of Chinese poetry and wordplay. The translation of that is also exquisite but that is the part where you can see what you are missing not reading it in Japanese.

When I started writing this review I wondered if I want to call it a love letter or a farewell letter. And somehow could not make myself calling it the latter - even when death strikes, there is nothing final or foreboding in this novel; reading it you would think that this process will continue for decades and centuries to come. And maybe my thoughts that it will not will turn out to be too pessimistic.

It takes a few pages to get used to the style but once it starts working, it just does. Highly recommended - even if you do not like dictionaries - if you like language, reading or words, the book will probably resonate with you. ( )
1 vote AnnieMod | Jan 7, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Miura, Shionprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Carpenter, Juliet WintersTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Information from the Russian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
First words
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
A charmingly warm and hopeful story of love, friendship, and the power of human connection, award-winning Japanese author Shion Miura’s novel is a reminder that a life dedicated to passion is a life well lived.

Inspired as a boy by the multiple meanings to be found for a single word in the dictionary, Kohei Araki is devoted to the notion that a dictionary is a boat to carry us across the sea of words. But after thirty-seven years creating them at Gembu Books, it’s time for him to retire and find his replacement.

He discovers a kindred spirit in Mitsuya Majime—a young, disheveled square peg with a penchant for collecting antiquarian books and a background in linguistics—whom he swipes from his company’s sales department.

Led by his new mentor and joined by an energetic, if reluctant, new recruit and an elder linguistics scholar, Majime is tasked with a career-defining accomplishment: completing The Great Passage, a comprehensive 2,900-page tome of the Japanese language. On his journey, Majime discovers friendship, romance, and an incredible dedication to his work, inspired by the bond that connects us all: words. (Amazon page Book Description)
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

No library descriptions found.

Quick Links

Popular covers


Average: (3.44)
2 4
2.5 2
3 9
3.5 2
4 10
4.5 1
5 3

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 131,743,588 books! | Top bar: Always visible