The Great Passage by  Shion Miura

The Great Passage

Shion Miura

This book is just up my street - great for lovers of language and words. I enjoyed it tremendously and almost forgot the Japanese dictionary Majime worked on for 13 years was a work of fiction. Was almost on my way out to buy it! Not only does the story tell in detail how dictionaries are made, from the collation of words to the making of special paper, but it has humour and is also a gentle and tender love story.


Picking up Wide Garden of Words, she remembered the word meren that Majime had used before and looked it up. The definition read: 'to drink a great quantity of alcohol; extreme drunkenness.' Now she understood. Majime had been telling her, 'Yesterday you were rip-roaring drunk.' Well, if that’s what he meant, why not come out and say so? She started to get angry. The definition was followed by an illustrative quotation from Kanadehon Chushingura, The Revenge of the Forty-Seven Samurai - the story of the 1703 vendetta carried out by samurai to avenge their master’s death. But puh-leez! The example was incomprehensible, written in classical Japanese. A period drama, set centuries ago! Who in their right mind used a word like meren in this day and age?

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