Wabi-sabi represents Japanese aesthetics and a Japanese world view solely focussed on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete“. It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence specifically impermanence, suffering and the absence of self-nature.
Wabi-Sabi is also Francesc Miralles’ follow up from his Love in Small Letters, but despite its whimsy is a disappointing, flat read, depicting the inconceivable, indulgent dreams of any university lecturer. Following the journey of lecturer Samuel, after splitting from his girlfriend, Gabriela, the novel follows him as he heads to Japan after receiving a mysterious postcard, which eventually sees him arrive in Kyoto.
However much I truly endeavour to enjoy this book, for I want to enjoy a book that is a stepping stone to finding out about this intriguing Japanese notion, there are qualms that will not rid themselves. Firstly, it does romanticise a mid-life crisis, which inevitably leads to a “life-changing” journey to a far off land where the male finds a woman who satisfies him with a night of passion. Could this be the author’s self indulgent male dream? Furthermore, it is all a bit sketchy in its narrative, as there is much that occurs, which seems inconceivable and highly superficial. Can we really buy into the fact that the karaoke bar was briefly named after him, or that he becomes the godfather to the son of a woman he has met yet a handful of times.
An interesting journey it is but that is all it is. The book clearly references the Sofia Coppola film, Lost in Translation, with the parallels with the lonely gentleman developing a relationship with a much younger female, also with a head nod to the same whisky that the character in the film advertises. Now is this sheer laziness in research or does it simply reinforce that the film had a fantastic research team behind it.
Too flighty with little in the way of substance, Miralles’ book leaves me unsatisfied despite my wish to want to adore this book. Part of me questioned whether the author was subtly reminding us of the concept with this imperfect novel, but if we consider the content, I very much doubt it has that depth.