Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Great Passage, by Shion Miura (author), Juliet Winters Carpenter (translator), Brian Nishii (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, June 2017 (original publication January 2011)

Kohei Araki falls in love with words and dictionaries as a boy. When a university education makes it clear to him that he's a good but not academic-level lexicographer, he goes to work for Gembu Books, and makes dictionaries.

More than thirty years later, he's nearing retirement. His greatest work, The Great Passage, a top-level dictionary of the Japanese language, is well under way, but not yet complete, and he needs to recruit a successor.

He finds Mitsuya Majimi, a disheveled, seemingly unpromising, young man, who nevertheless proves to share his love of words and their power.

They each find other people along the way, wildly different from each other, and each bringing something different to the dictionary project, and to the other, lesser, dictionaries they make along the way. Those lesser dictionaries, including dictionaries for fictional worlds, help make the dictionary department pay, to keep the company happy while they work on their other, great project.

The plot here is overcoming the challenges of publishing--getting the contributions they need from scholars who don't necessarily share their priorities, getting the specialized paper they need, and other seemingly mundane concerns. The real story is the people--Araki, Majimi, their coworkers, friends, and wives, all centering around the love of words, and what they learn from the words, past dictionaries, and each other.

This doesn't sound like much to describe, but I truly enjoyed this book and the people that populate it. Recommended.

I bought this audiobook.