How Do You Live?

Translation: Bruno Navasky


How Do You Live? became widely-known in the world as Hayao Miyazaki’s favorite childhood novel (and as an inspiration for the master’s next film, planned for 2023), but in Japan it is long been a classic for children and teenagers. However, it has the irresistible charm of an old-styyle classic that makes it suitable for adults as well.

The protagonist of the novel, taking place in late 1930s, is Copper – a bright boy interested in the world around him, who is being raised by his mother and uncle. Curiosly, Copper is not a nickname taken from the English copper, but from Nicolaus Copernicus. Copper dreams of becoming an equally outstanding person in the future as the Polish astronomer. He studies with enthusiasm and asks his uncle about everything; the uncle also writes letters to the boy in the evenings in his journal, explaining theories from various fields of science, like economics and sociology, using examples from their everyday life. Together with his uncle Copper is constantly looking for an answer to the question: how do you live?

The beautifully published edition, with an introduction by Neil Gaiman, immediately brings the reader pleasure; you follow the childhood adventures of Copper and his friends with flushed cheeks, and the intertwined journal outtakes will give you a moment for relection. While some might object that the story is a little outdated, How Do You Live? is like Christmas classics that everyone gladly returns to every year – regardless of age.

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