(Book Review) ‘A Tale For The Time Being ‘ by Ruth Ozeki / 「あるときの物語」ルース・オゼキ

by Miki
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A Tale For The Time Being was originally published in 2013 – I actually had a chance to read this when I was at uni, however I couldn’t get into it at that time (I really wonder why!). Having been gifted a new copy with beautiful cover art by Canongate I gave it another go as part of #ATaleForTimeBeingReadalong , and couldn’t be more thankful for this opportunity. I loved it so much!!!

2013年に出版された「A Tale For Time Being」は日系アメリカ人の ルース・オゼキ さんの小説。邦訳は「 あるときの物語」実は以前も大学生の頃に英語で手に取ったことがあるのですが、そのときはなぜか全く響いてこず…今回、新装版の出版に当たり、出版社さんからいただいて改めて読んでみることにしました。今読んでみると本当に面白くて、再読の機会をいただけたことに感謝です!

The Author Ruth Ozeki is a novelist, filmmaker and Zen Buddhist priest (!!!). The book contains all these three aspects of her point of view, and Ruth herself appears in the book as one of the two storytellers. She finds a mysterious diary written by a teenage girl in Japan – Nao – at the beach in Canada, and it starts unwinding Nao’s life story in Japan. The diary tells of all the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and the cultural differences between Japan and the West. Nao experiences horrible bullying upon her return to Japan from the US, struggles with her suicidal father and finds peace of mind supported by her great grandmother who is a Zen Buddhist.


Capturing moments in history very vividly, including the critical sentiment of 911 preceding the Iraq war, the tragic natural disaster of 311 in Japan, and Kamikaze soldiers in WW2. Going back and forth in time, the story has a touch of magical realism as well, but the overall tone of the story is more realistic than magical.

9.11とイラク戦争、 3.11と原発、神風特攻隊と、多様な歴史の瞬間を鮮やかに描き、ストーリーに組み込んでいる本作。時を行ったり来たりしながら、その瞬間のナオの様子を日記を通してルースとともに垣間見ます。

Having listed some of the key elements this book covers, it’s such an achievement to write a beautiful story with so much depth and complexity. Although the book highlights lots of typically creepy/weird social issues in Japan, I felt deep appreciation for Japanese culture from the Japanese American author, it felt so honest.


The title suggests the core theme of the book – ‘time being’ – which comes from Zen teaching. Every life has drama and history and everyone struggles with challenges, but how do we treat them and overcome those times? Such an empowering book.

タイトルにもある「time being」とは道元の時間論に由来しているそうで、著者自身も仏教徒。どんな人の人生にも苦難やチャレンジがあって、でもそれらをどうやって乗り越えていけるか。そんなことを考えさせる、力強く背中を押してくれるストーリーでした。



早川書房 「あるときの物語」田中文 訳

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