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“Desert Dolphin” by Masahiko Shimada 『砂漠のイルカ』📚by 島田雅彦

We read and discussed “Desert Dolphin” by Masahiko Shimada. The title itself is oxymoronic and eye-catching. What do you think of when you look at this title? What do the two words represent respectively?


He made a debut as a writer when he was a student studying Russian at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. The first work of his is entitled “Divertimento for Gentle Leftists”. He used katakana instead of kanji to express leftists, which resulted in his getting harsh criticism from many of the baby boomers who had committed their lives to the student movement in the 60s.


“Dream Messenger” translated by Philip Gabriel was extolled in the review section of the New York Times. His style was unique enough to be accepted as a writer of a new generation. The main themes with which he has dealt are diverse, among which are capitalism, inequality, historical incidents, and mythology.


He’s such a versatile person that he writes not only novels but also librettos for operas and has played a role in several movies. His “Jr.Butterfly” is a sequel to Madame Butterfly, through which we can understand what kind of life the person led who was the model of Madame Butterfly. More importantly, he has been teaching at Hosei University since 2003.


In the textbook I use, Masahiko Shimada comes between Haruki Murakami and Banana Yoshimoto, who are the most internationally recognized writers. I believe he’s worth getting more attention. This class has also been a great opportunity for me to delve into his works more.


In the next class, we are going to read and discuss “In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom” by Ango Sakaguchi, one of the contemporaries of Dazai. It is a well-known story and translated by Jay Rubin. A new participant is going to join our class.

I will look forward to it!




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