Friday, April 19, 2024

How Do You Live? by Genzaburo Yoshino #1937Club

🖤 Genzaburo Yoshino was graduated from college in the 1920s with a degree in philosophy, but his interest was soon shifted to politics. In 1925, Japan passed the Public Security Preservation Law, forbidding its people to say or write anything critical to the government. Yoshino was arrested and imprisoned for eighteen months after attending political meetings with socialists. After being released, a friend offered him a job of editing ethics textbook series for younger readers, to teach them the importance of free and rich culture to human progress. Yoshino thought such books would bored young readers, so they came up with the idea of writing it as a novel instead. How Do We Live? is the end result.

🖤 The story is about a fifteenth year-old boy called Honda Jun'ichi, but nicknamed Copper. It's an interesting story how Jun'ichi got this nickname. His father died two years before, and his last wish was that Copper would grow into a good human being. So, Copper's uncle begins to guide and advice him. They become very intimate and inseparable.

🖤 One day Copper and his Uncle are on top roof of Ginza, looking down on the busy street of Tokyo. At that moment Copper realized how tiny his existence was, just like a single molecule within the wide world. And that's when his Uncle starts writing a letter-like notes to Copper in a notebook. His topic ranges from science (Coppernicus - that's whom Copper got his nickname from), philosophy, ethics, to culture (Buddhism) and history (Napoleon).

🖤 Through out the story, we are presented alternately with Copper's struggles at school, as well his impressions of human beings; and with the Uncle's long notes on various topics accordingly to what Copper has faced or shared to him about. Inspiring and reflective though they are, I think these lectures could have been too long-winded, if they were addressed to young readers. My favorite part is when Copper befriends a poor boy, whose family own a tofu shop. Well, not so poor as they have few employers, but is considered poor compared to the wealthy families the boy is in school with. I just wondered why the poor family chose this school for the boy in the first place. Anyway, it provides a nice education for Copper. Another one is one of Copper's friends is bullied, and how Copper, when the moment come when he should've stood up for his friend, failed to do so, and it tormented poor Copper. What a huge learning he got from that experience, what with his understanding mother and intelligent uncle! 

🖤 All in all, it's a gem from bygones that I'm very glad to have found, thanks to the 1937 Club! Speaking of 1937, it's refreshing to be able to take a journey to Japan in that era. I would love to seeing newsreel film at the theater, like what Copper and his uncle do for leisure.

A few wonderful quotes:

"A heroic spirit that's not devoted to human progress may be empty and meaningless, but goodness that is lacking in the spirit of heroism is often empty as well."

" When you have made a mistake, to recognize it bravely and to suffer for it is something that in all if heaven and earth, only humans can do."

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read this book for:

hosted by Simon @ Stuck in a Book & Karen @ Kaggsy's Bookish Ramblings


  1. What a lovely book! So often the joy of reading older works is that ability to time travel back to a bygone age!

  2. This does sound like a gem of a read! I enjoy reading Japanese fiction.

  3. Sounds special. You seem to have had a very successful club week!

  4. There's so much wisdom in this book, loved it:


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