How Do You Live? by Genzaburō Yoshino
translated by Bruno Navasky forward by Neil Gaiman
Genzaburō Yoshino's literary classic is now available in English. Published in 1937, this exploration of science and history, cowardice and bravery, morality and friendship has enthralled generations of readers.
Jun’ichi Honda is known to his friends as Copper. His uncle started referring to him as Copernicus when his perseptions began to shift from "the world revolves around me" mindset to a Copernican model of oneself and the universe. Eventually Copernicus was shortened to Copper.
Copper is a charming young man. Small in stature, he often seems younger than his years. After the death of his father, he spends time with his uncle, sharing his observations and questions. This uncle expands on these interactions in his journal. The narrative alternates between a narrator who speaks directly to readers and the uncle’s journal entries written as advice to his nephew.
It is easy to empathize with this slight young man who lives alone with his mother following the death of his father. He sees wonder in the world. He also puzzles over conflicting and confusing ideas.
The political sections, particularly the passages where the uncle expounds on the leadership of Napoleon, are rather lengthy. Younger readers may be unfamiliar with this historical figure.
As Neil Gaiman states in his forward to How Do You Live? this is a strange book, and such a wise book.
It transcends conventional definitions of a specific genre or audience. This story examines the universal question of what it means to be human. A book that expands the mind and the heart.
Gather your courage, Copper, and do what you must.
Internationally acclaimed Japanese animator, director, and manga artist Hayao Miyzki has announced that his next and possibly last film will be an animated retelling of How Do You Live.
While this film will attract manga and anime fans, the universal themes and captivating storytelling of this Japanese classic will appeal to a wide audience.