When beard scholar meets suicidal student in The Pine Islands

PHOTO: SERPENT’S TAIL

German writer Marion Poschmann's The Pine Islands is shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize

For three months, German writer Marion Poschmann walked around the gardens of Kyoto. She stared at gravel. She circled ponds. She wanted, she thought, to write a book about pine trees.

Take the Japanese black pine for instance, says the 49-year-old in an e-mail interview. "It is formally trimmed in a way that looks absolutely wild, so nature is formed into a picture of nature or an idea of nature."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2019, with the headline 'When beard scholar meets suicidal student'. Print Edition | Subscribe