La papeterie Tsubaki by OGAWA Ito
I thank Mommy-Bear who introduced me to this book she loves the Japanese writer. I started by reading the back cover, and I immediately knew I was going to love it, because it talks about writing, calligraphy, epistolary letters and papers. These are themes that appeal to me and are part of my daily life (see my article “Taking the time to put words down”).
This novel is very sweet and full of nuggets of happiness. I devoured it in half a day, letting myself be easily lulled by the words, witnessing Hatoko’s journey : she came back to Kamakura in her hometown after the death of the Elder (her grandmother) three years before. She took over her grandmother’s business: running a stationery shop, but she also tried to be a public writer, as her grandmother had wished. A profession that was taught to her by the Elder with great severity.
I was able to discover the profession of public writer which I did not know. Her role is to help people who can’t write well (she was able to meet the needs of a woman with dysgraphia) or who can’t express themselves well in writing. So I thought it was great that there was such a profession, because there have been times in my life when I have turned to my best letter-writing friend to help me write my letter so that my message would be clear to the recipient. Just like this writer, she always knew how to find the right words and reflect my thoughts perfectly. (Thank you!) So I could understand the joy of people who use these services to write a letter that is very important to them.
Hatoko does not only write, nothing is left to chance ! I like it very much, it’s like putting together a bouquet of flowers where the content and the container are equally important : Hatoko carefully chooses the style of writing (horrizonal or vertical), the pen used (ballpoint pen, fountain pen, brush…), the color of the ink, the texture of the paper, its form (letter, postcard…), right down to the stamp to be used. The letter is filled with little messages that only the recipient will understand. I was able to see a letter of condolence, a divorce announcement (I think it’s thoughtful), a break-up letter with a friend, etc. I was touched by the words used with accuracy and kindness.
I am therefore in admiration of this profession which requires attention, benevolence. The words seemed so alive that it made me want to write.
The story that touched me was that of a 90 year old woman living in a nursing home who was a little delirious, wanting at all costs to return home to see if she had received a letter from her (deceased) husband. Her daughter, who was unaware of her mother’s past, discovered her father’s letter-writing correspondence, and the letters full of tenderness and love that he wrote to her mother. She then asked Hakoto to write a last letter from her father (from Heaven) to her mother, to appease her… A beautiful and romantic story, isn’t it?
How beautiful it is to keep letters for so many years, witnessing a love without fault or a friendship epistolary that has no hold on time. Writing is without context, a part of us that we reveal.
I felt like a part of me was going away. A letter is always a pleasure to wait for. Let’s hope it arrives safely !Hakoto posting a letter for the little QP
The benefits of writing
Hakoto had a difficult relationship with the elder, she was not present at her death. She left her hometown in a fit of rebellion, blaming her grandmother for stealing her youth and her life by practicing the art of writing. Gradually, her interactions with her clients and friends provided her with answers about her conflicted relationship with her grandmother. She remembered the affection she had forgotten, and realized that despite her severity, her grandmother loved her very much.
This is my favorite book of the summer, an ode to kindness, love and reconciliation.
Hakoto has found herself.
It brought tears to my eyes to read these words that warm and free the heart.
It is a novel that leaves me with a feeling of lightness, like a simple whisper in the ear and reminds us of the simple happiness of life around friendship, love and sharing. An inspiring novel that I highly recommend.