Japanese Mystery Writings under the Spotlight at SIBF 2018


Sharjah at SIBF 2018 .When we read a lot of mystery, crime and thrillers, being surprised starts to get rarer and rarer. It isn’t to say that the reading is less enjoyable, but when everyone is discussing how shocked they were by the revelation or twist, we’ve probably figured it out. Mysteries and thrillers make up a huge portion of the Japanese literary market and have significantly proliferated on Western shelves. Japanese novels often have a much darker psychological angle.

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On stage at the eighth evening of the Sharjah International Book Fair was Kanae Minato who has been described as “’the queen of iyamisu’ (eww mystery), a subgenre of mystery fiction which deals with grisly episodes and the dark side of human nature.” In her first novel, Confessions, a teacher takes revenge on the students who murdered her daughter and in her second novel, Penance, a mother threatens the four girls who had been with her daughter before her murder.

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Japanese Mystery Writings at SIBF 2018

Mothers, daughters, revenge, and crime! Minato writes character driven mystery crime novels that take deep dives into people’s psychology; especially, girls and women—with an unflinching look at the dark side of humans. “I don’t like to limit my writing to a specific place and I don’t describe how my characters look. I intentionally leave it to the imagination of my reader’s so that they can put a face to these characters and so that I don’t limit them by my description”.

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The next guest on the panel Fuminori Nakamura came to International attention; when he won the the 2010 Kenzaburō Ōe Prize at SIBF 2018 for his novel, The Thief. The English translation of this novel was well received. Nakamura said: he was greatly influenced by the writing of Franz Kafka and Fyodor Dostoevsk and Agatha Chistie. He elucidated on how his writings are perceived by people of different cultures in different ways and put in different categories. “Publishers have often told me that it’s hard to classify my work. In Japan I am considered a pure literary writer in America they say I am a crime writer. In Europe my work is sometimes considered as crime writing or sometimes as an artform that’s pure literature. But when publishers label my work as crime fiction, they say it sells better”.

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SIBF 2018

Embracing different forms of writing where elements of current events are incorporated is probably the flavour of the day. Concurring with this thought Abdul Wahab Al-Rifa’i who is a GCC novelist specialising in Science fiction and metaphysical says, “I write so that I can transport people to experience extraordinary things. But events like wars and other uprisings that we witness during our lifetime does get reflected through our writings.”

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Concluding the session, the panel acknowledged the works of Japanese mystery fiction writer: Edogawa Rampo who had a great influence on the development of Japanese mystery fiction. In 1955 the organization gave out the first Edogawa Rampo Prize; an award for unpublished mystery novels which has continued to be awarded annually ever since. Furthermore, the prize has not only helped launch the careers of numerous prominent mystery authors; but has simultaneously, led to readers’ catharsis.

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