Book review: The Great Passage by Shion Miura

For someone who loves words so much I didn’t realise how rarely I pay attention to them. In the world of contemporary Japanese fiction this book is surely not be missed. The lovable quirky team at Gembu Publishing that has undertaken the mammoth task of publishing the new age The Great Passage dictionary know how to revere words and how to meet them at an intimate point. Ahh, makes me feel as if I have never known words at all. 

The Great Passage is a fictional book that is as cosy as a hot cup of tea on a cold winter day. The characters of Majime, Professor Matsumoto and Araki are those humans which see the world only through words and are always on lookout for more new words. Sounds eccentric, right? Their dream undertaking of The Great Passage dictionary is a delightful unravelling of a multi-layered gift with interwoven stories of love and perseverance and following that individual dream no matter how eccentric and difficult. For them, “a dictionary is a repository of human wisdom not because it contains an accumulation of words but because it embodies true hope, wrought over time by indomitable spirits.”
Then there is the worldly Nishioka and Mrs. Sasaki later on joined by Ms. Kishibe that add an outsiders dimension to this eccentric world but who also fall for its charming trap. 

And how can I forget Kaguya the chef who steals Majime’s heart and gives him sleepless nights and who inspires him to word a 15 page epistle of love that made me roll with laughter. 

The book moves seamlessly between these characters and their inner world all the while with the silent dictionary leading them onto their lives. The language is at once conversational and literary making you want to resesrch more. Fifteen years might seem a long time but is just a speck in the world of dictionaries. It’s one of those books which makes you pay attention to the world around you in an unexpected way. Here that way is through the dictionary. 


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