I wanted to read The Pine Islands for my Japanese Literature project, and I was curious about what a German author would write about Japan. I’m so glad I read this one. It was fun reading about a man trying to figure out his life by travelling to Japan, alone.
I’ll be frank with you; you’ll not like Gilbert Silvester. He is a lecturer and does research on beards. I know, he sounds interesting, but he leaves for Tokyo after having a nightmare. He sees in his dream that his wife is cheating on him. So, he confronts her; she says she doesn’t cheat him. But Gilbert believes that she did, and he goes to Japan without any plan. From the very first pages, he will make you uncomfortable. But that is not very important, I guess.
If you know a little about Japan, you’ll read about some familiar names, enjoy haikus and visit some of the popular suicide destinations. You’ll feel like you are on the road and contemplating your own life. If you don’t know much about Japan, you’ll learn a lot and may become a new haiku lover.
The Pine Islands
When Gilbert Silvester, a journeyman lecturer on beard fashions in film, awakes one day from a dream that his wife has cheated on him, he flees – immediately, irrationally, inexplicably – for Japan.
In Tokyo, so he discovers the travel writings of the great Japanese poet Basho. Suddenly, from Gilbert’s directionless crisis there emerges a purpose: so a pilgrimage in the footsteps of the poet to see the moon rise over the pine islands of Matsushima.
Falling into step with another pilgrim – a young Japanese student called Yosa, clutching a copy of The Complete Manual of Suicide – Gilbert travels with Yosa across Basho’s disappearing Japan, one in search of his perfect ending and the other the new beginning that will give his life meaning.
The Pine Islands is a serene, playful, so profoundly moving story of the transformations we seek and the ones we find along the way.
Marion Poschmann is a German author, a novelist and so poet. Poschmann grew up in Mülheim an der Ruhr and Essen. From 1989 to 1995 she studied German, Philosophy, and Slavic studies in Bonn and Berlin. Her novel The Pine Islands was shortlisted for Man Booker International Prize in 2019.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: