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“Read by Books” by Atsuko Suga

When I went to Rome and Naples with my wife for our holidays, I decided to bring with me a book by Atsuko Suga, who was a renowned essayist, translator, and scholar. As she was studying abroad in Italy, she was completely fascinated by its people, language, and culture. While there, she got married to an Italian, was involved in the running of a bookstore, and dedicated herself to translating Japanese literature into Italian. Unfortunately, her husband died young, and she came back to Japan after that and worked as lecturer at Sophia University and became a stellar essayist herself.


This book is a collection of her book reviews ranging from those of Marguerite Duras and Paul Bowles to that of Natsuki Ikezawa. Her quintessential essay like book reviews always fascinate me. Her distinctive writing is so beautifully and delicately crafted that some of her passages literally capture me in them. One of her episodes sticks in me. When Kawabata stopped by Rome after he had been awarded the Nobel Prize, Suga shared a dinner table with the Kawabatas. When she talked about her deceased husband, being regretful that she was not able to interact with him anymore, Kawabata said, “That is where novels begin”. Inspired by one of her reviews, I’m currently reading Paul Bowels.

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