• Monday, June 24, 2024

A Japanese Book Group Located in the Middle of Delhi

Join Dokusha Book Club to explore Japanese literature in Delhi. Connect with fellow readers and dive into captivating Japanese stories.
on May 20, 2024
A Japanese Book Group Located in the Middle of Delhi | Frontlist

Members can explore modern Japanese literature as well as classic authors and translators.

Arunima Mazumdar's experience with Japanese literature began in 2010, when a friend gave her a copy of Haruki Murakami's Sputnik Sweetheart. "You can say that I didn't choose the book, instead the book chose me," she replies. Over a decade later, her love of Japanese literature, in translation, inspired her to establish the Dokusha Book Club in order to meet others who shared her passion for Japanese stories.

"Dokusha means a reader in Japanese," Mazumdar explains. "The idea to create the book club occurred to me in December of 2020. It had been more than a decade since I had read Japanese literature in translation, and while many of my friends were ardent readers, they were not interested in Japanese fiction. 

So I didn't have somebody to talk about the books with. At the same time, I was always interested in discovering new and old Japanese authors and translators, so I decided to create an Instagram page to capture what I was reading and welcome other readers to join in," she says.

Despite its limited focus, the page has nearly 3,500 Instagram followers since its launch in January of last year. 

Membership in the book club is straightforward and free; all you have to do is register. Following an initial "great" reaction, it has grown to a community of 600 registered members of all ages and from a variety of locations, including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad, as well as Dehradun, Jorhat, Guwahati, Cuttack, and others.

"Because the community is on Instagram, there are far more young people who use the platform. In India, however, readers of Japanese novels range in age. Mazumdar explains that professors and academics of Japanese literature at Jadavpur University in Kolkata, Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, and The English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad read and live Japanese language and literature.

The first novel the club read was Sayaka Murata's Life Ceremony. The members are now reading Asako Yuzuki's Butter. "While we generally read literary and crime fiction, I occasionally introduce works by lesser-known authors, as well as women authors. So yet, we have just read fiction. However, I intend to introduce nonfiction—possibly in the second half of the year. Sometimes we choose a hot book to read, such as a brand-new title, because it is easier for members to obtain a copy from bookstores or Amazon," she adds.

While the book club began online, members aim to meet offline frequently, with two real meet-ups so far, both in Delhi, the first at Kunzum bookstore in cooperation with The Japan Foundation in July last year, and the most recent at the Oxford bookstore in February. "The discussion was largely on the overall interest in Japanese fiction, and many readers shared their love for Japanese books," Mazumdar said.

The Dokusha Book Club wants to hold more in-person meetings, not only in Delhi but also in Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Kolkata. Meanwhile, Mazumdar considers creating a literary magazine based on this. "There are so many ideas with respect to scaling the book community," she says.

Despite all of the comments about declining book readership, particularly in the age of social media, the emergence of such book clubs is a positive indicator. Not just Dokusha, but other silent clubs operate throughout cities, where people assemble at a certain spot to read in silence while having the freedom to leave at any time or interact with other readers. For example, a club meets every weekend at Delhi's Lodhi Garden, while another meets at Bengaluru's Cubbon Park.

While Mazumdar's major purpose for Dokusha is to encourage increased reading of Japanese literature in India, "another important goal is to encourage more translations of Japanese literature into Indian languages." Currently, a few novels and authors have been translated from Japanese into Malayalam, Bengali, and Marathi, and I'd like to help encourage more of these translations," she says.

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