Thursday, 15 April 2021

Lee, Min Jin "Pachinko"

Lee, Min Jin "Pachinko" - 2017

I was drawn to this book because of its Asian appearance. These lovely drawings can only come from the Far East. The title didn't tell me anything. Pachinko? Who or what is Pachinko? I had to find out. The description convinced me further.

Now, if - like me - you don't know what Pachinko is, let me tell you. It's a Japanese mechanical game that is mainly situated in game arcades. I have never set foot in any of those slot machine places, so even if it is also known in Europe, this is not my world.

And there isn't much about the world inside those parlours, more about the life of Koreans in Japan. If you don't know anything about that, there is a lot to learn. I know there have been animosities toward foreigners no matter when and where. Always. I have lived abroad most of my life. Being German, I have experienced much the same hatred towards me and my family as the Koreans in this story had to endure in Japan.

Maybe that's why I liked this book so much, I could identify with their feelings. Unlucky for the family here, they couldn't go back to Korea since they came from the Northern part. And that is the case with many immigrants. Even if the first generation still would love to, the second and further generations are even less inclined to because for them, their new country is home, not the one where their ancestors come from.

The Koreans in this book are hard-working, honest people and, yet, they have no chance to ever get accepted. Sound familiar? This book could go onto any list of books about racism. The characters are loveable and unforgettable.

In any case, this is such a great tale about a family through several generations. If you like this kind of literature, you should read this book.

Min Jin Lee includes a a quote by Benedict Anderson, author of "Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism". I absolutely love this:

"I propose the following definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community - and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.

It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion…

The nation is imagined as limited because even the largest of them, encompassing perhaps a billion living human beings, has finite, if elastic, boundaries, beyond which lie other nations. No nation imagines itself coterminous with mankind…

It is imagined as
sovereign because the concept was born in an age in which the Enlightenment and Revolution were destroying the legitimacy of the divinely-ordained, hierarchical dynastic realm…

Finally, it is imagined as a
community because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep horizontal comradeship.

Ultimately it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries, for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willingly die for such limited imaginings.

Could anyone explain it better? I have to read that book!

From the back cover:

"Yeongdo, Korea 1911. A club-footed, cleft-lipped man marries a fifteen-year-old girl. The couple have one child, their beloved daughter Sunja. When Sunja falls pregnant by a married yakuza, the family face ruin. But then a Christian minister offers a chance of salvation: a new life in Japan as his wife.

Following a man she barely knows to a hostile country in which she has no friends, no home, Sunja's salvation is just the beginning of her story.

Through eight decades and four generations,
Pachinko is an epic tale of family, identity, love, death and survival."


  1. I loved Pachinko! In my "sovereign" nation we harbor all kinds of hatreds and discriminations. A nation is indeed an imagined concept.

    1. I remember seeing it on your page. I had bought it already (otherwise I probably wouldn't remember where I saw it) and was really looking forward to it.

      I'm reading another book for my book club called "Behave", a non-fiction book about why we behave as we do and how we always need to belong to an "us" and oppose "them". It's in our nature but it's not a good side of it. We have to work for it not to happen in a negative way.

      This novel is such a good way of depicting how it should work.

      I'll have to see whether I find your review of Pachinko. See you there, then.

  2. I so want to read this novel. Nice review! I'll be adding to my reading wishlist.

    1. I know, we keep doing that forever, right? But I'm looking forward to reading a review by "Captivated Reader". I had only read good reviews about it before and I'm sure you'll enjoy it just as much as we all did.

      Happy Reading!

  3. I've heard good things about this book, but I STILL haven't gotten around to reading it. One of these days! Glad you enjoyed it.

    1. And I'm sure you will just as well, Susan. Happy Reading!

  4. I have heard so many great things about this book, and I enjoy multi-generational stories, when I have time for more intense fiction reads. Great review!

    1. This would certainly be one you'd enjoy, Sarah.

  5. I have heard a lot of good things about this book, glad you enjoyed it

    1. I'm sure there is a reason for this, Emma. It's such a great book.