The Great Passage

Narrated by: Brian Nishii
Length: 7 hrs and 31 mins
4 out of 5 stars (332 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A charmingly warm and hopeful story of love, friendship, and the power of human connection. Award-winning Japanese author Shion Miura's novel is a reminder that a life dedicated to passion is a life well lived.

Inspired as a boy by the multiple meanings to be found for a single word in the dictionary, Kohei Araki is devoted to the notion that a dictionary is a boat to carry us across the sea of words. But after thirty-seven years creating them at Gembu Books, it's time for him to retire and find his replacement.

He discovers a kindred spirit in Mitsuya Majime - a young, disheveled square peg with a penchant for collecting antiquarian books and a background in linguistics - whom he swipes from his company's sales department.

Led by his new mentor and joined by an energetic, if reluctant, new recruit and an elder linguistics scholar, Majime is tasked with a career-defining accomplishment: completing The Great Passage, a comprehensive 2,900-page tome of the Japanese language. On his journey, Majime discovers friendship, romance, and an incredible dedication to his work, inspired by the bond that connects us all: words.

©2012 Shion Miura (P)2017 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved. Translation © 2017 Juliet Winters Carpenter.

Critic Reviews

"Brian Nishii is the perfect narrator for this audiobook... The book's translation combined with Nishii's narration makes the story sound and feel Japanese - there's a subtle choppiness, and certain word choices and phrases aren't what native English speakers would say - and it's all entirely fitting and charming....a unique and fascinating listen." ( AudioFile)
What members say
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Engaging, unusual, fun

Engaging performance of a topic of importance to all bibliophiles. Fascinating cast of characters. Also, a nice depiction of productive obsession. This makes it sound stuffy, but it isn't - it's fun!

7 people found this helpful

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Absolutely Delightful!

I will never again pick up a dictionary or look up a word without remembering this wonderful story! The dedication of the main characters to portray the accurate meaning of words, and how that mission defines them, is amazing. I also enjoyed learning a bit about Japanese culture. If you have a love for words, and enjoy how people interact, this story is a win/win!

3 people found this helpful

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A Fun, Light Novel

It's not going to change the world. The characters are pretty much stock characters -- the nerd, the guy who thinks he's much cooler than he is, the beauty who sees beyond beauty (and thus, hope this isn't a SPOILER, falls for the nerd).

The goal isn't that important. Creating a physical dictionary in the internet age? And yet, if you love words and reading, this is a worthwhile, but not a profound, listen. Think of this as dessert, rather than a meal with all major food groups represented.

7 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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For those who share the love of words

Kohei Araki falls in love with words and dictionaries as a boy. When a university education makes it clear to him that he's a good but not academic-level lexicographer, he goes to work for Gembu Books, and makes dictionaries.

More than thirty years later, he's nearing retirement. His greatest work, The Great Passage, a top-level dictionary of the Japanese language, is well under way, but not yet complete, and he needs to recruit a successor.

He finds Mitsuya Majimi, a disheveled, seemingly unpromising, young man, who nevertheless proves to share his love of words and their power.

They each find other people along the way, wildly different from each other, and each bringing something different to the dictionary project, and to the other, lesser, dictionaries they make along the way. Those lesser dictionaries, including dictionaries for fictional worlds, help make the dictionary department pay, to keep the company happy while they work on their other, great project.

The plot here is overcoming the challenges of publishing--getting the contributions they need from scholars who don't necessarily share their priorities, getting the specialized paper they need, and other seemingly mundane concerns. The real story is the people--Araki, Majimi, their coworkers, friends, and wives, all centering around the love of words, and what they learn from the words, past dictionaries, and each other.

This doesn't sound like much to describe, but I truly enjoyed this book and the people that populate it. Recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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So enjoyable

Who knew all the work that went into publishing a dictionary? Miura's interesting, delightful and poignant novel takes us into the center of a book company as a team works together to publish a new Japanese dictionary, the "Great Passage." Miura captures the precision of the Japanese, along with their dedication to their work. He also gives us a poignant glimpse into the personal lives of those who are involved in this massive project. This is a measured novel - there is no "action" so to speak but in the quietness of the book, Miura allows the reader to experience the tension as well as the joy and respect that the characters bring to launching the dictionary. The love letter from Majime-san to his wife in itself is a work of art.

1 person found this helpful

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"Knitting the Boat"

I didn't really care much for the beginning of the book, especially not the love story between Majime & Kaguya. (I found Nishioka's love story more interesting.) I do find the relationships between Majime and the rest of the characters, and the relationships among the rest of them, very interesting. I like the details on dictionary making and found parts of the 2nd half moving. I could do without the last 30 minutes or so, though.

I found through wikipedia that the original title of the book is "Knitting the Boat". Keeping that title would have helped readers better understand the book. The great passage is a process. It couldn't have been accomplished without each character's efforts in knitting the boat.

1 person found this helpful

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If you're a word nerd, you'll like this book.

I listened to this because I was interested in it from both a topic and a cultural perspective. If writing dictionaries is anywhere near as complex as this novel presents it to be, it's completely amazing. And the thoughtful aesthetics and cultural details in the book (especially the paper selection) are fascinating. The characters and story weren't surprising, but they were really lovely. This nerdy little book about dictionaries made me smile.

1 person found this helpful

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I want to be a lexicographer!

Wonderful descriptions of endearing characters, a book full of passion for words and work, and different kinds of love. I so enjoyed my time with these characters! I want to work in the Dictionary Editorial Department of Gembu Books! Very beautifully narrated, with clear distinctions in tone for different characters. Highly recommend!

1 person found this helpful

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Just Beautiful

This book shows how important words are and how passion is contagious. It's so hard to describe but if you have a love of words you have found your new favorite novel. You not only watch unlikely characters find love but also watch them fall in love with words and the beauty in order and the importance of clear communication.

1 person found this helpful

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Awkward at a Whole New Level

If you've read one socially awkward book about the many different meanings of Japanese words and language, and the efforts of an unusual cast of characters that forms an unlikely team to create the world's greatest dictionary despite endless obstacles and setbacks, then you've read them all. ;)

This was heartfelt and charming, even though it often reads like a rough week at quiz bowl camp. There's something so uneasy about some of the characters themselves, that you almost feel awkward and uncomfortable just reading about them. . . and I mean that as a compliment, as I think this group of complete misfits was fascinating. I'd like to be friends with all of them. Honestly, I probably am, since I'm also a word nerd and tend to collect unusual people.

When I picked this up, I expected it would suck, and yet I was very close to bumping this up to 5 stars. I think it fell just shy in that I wanted a bit more, especially from some of the side characters. In fact, this is a book that could have benefited from 50 more pages, even though the story is interesting and complete as it is.

1 person found this helpful

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  • mad E
  • 08-09-18

Perfect

Found this from its anime and it’s just as good definitely in my top 3 audiobooks of all time

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-08-18

Geeky, charming

Who would ever think that a story about dictionary publication could be so charming, funny and engaging. Generally, translated stories should be written in a way that disguises the fact that in was originally written in another language, but this story is an exception to that rule given that the central theme is the meaning and organisation of Japanese words. Juliet Winters Carpenter mixes the right amount of Japanese in for the content to stay relevant and interesting. Brian Nishii as usual does a great job performing for the audiobook. I recommend also trying to track down the film which does a terrific job of bringing the story to life.