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Kokoro by Natsume Soseki

Kokoro (1914)

by Natsume Soseki

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,831405,688 (3.98)1 / 177
  1. 10
    Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata (Limelite)
    Limelite: Another dark psychological novel sharing the theme of isolation or loneliness told mostly through the two main character's thoughts, but more beautifully written.
  2. 00
    A Dark Night's Passing by Naoya Shiga (coolsnak3)

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Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
A fairly short but excellent story. I love the writing style. It seems that not a lot happens in the book yet the events feel very important. The book presents a very honest (but perhaps pessimistic) view on the moral strength of human beings, and I (unfortunately) can relate to the protagonist's feelings of inadequacy in inaction.

After reading this, I definitely want to read more Natsume. It's a pity that used copies of his books are so difficult to chase down! ( )
  jakebornheimer | Mar 27, 2019 |
One of my interesting resources for new books might come as a surprise to some. This occurs when I read a novel with characters who give high praise to a novel they admire. I read a novel by Japanese novelist, Natsume Sōseki based solely on the title, Kafka on the Shore. I loved it and have since read a couple of others. I recently reviewed the latest novel of Haruki Murakami, Men without Women. This novel led me back to Sōseki and, what is purported to be, his masterpiece, . I, too, lavish a ton of praise on Sōseki for this puzzling and interesting novel.

The book is divided into three parts. Part One is “Sensi and I,” which tells the story of a young, unnamed college student. One day at the beach, he sees a man who dives into the ocean and swims out of sight. He continues watching until the swimmer returns. The young man sees him twice more, but he never strikes up a conversation. Finally, he introduces himself, but the man, who he has named “SensI,” seems uninterested. Sensi is a Japanese word meaning “teacher.” He asks Sensi, “Would it be all right if I visited you at your home now and then?” Sensi agrees. Sōseki writes, “Often, during my association with Sensi, I was disappointed in this way. Sometimes, Sensi seemed to know that I had been hurt, and sometimes, he seemed not to know. But no matter how often I experienced such trifling disappointments, I never felt any desire to part from Sensi. Indeed, each time I suffered a rebuff, I wished more than ever to push our friendship further” (8). To westerners, this behavior might seem odd at the least, but apparently, not to the Japanese. As time passes, the two men develop a moderately close relationship. Sensi also holds back some information, when the young man questions him. More about this in Part Two and Three.

Part Two is “My Parent’s and I.” The young man has managed to complete his degree. His father has developed an unspecified illness, and the young man returns home for an extended period. The father pushes his son to determine the course of his life. Sōseki writes, “‘I must go,’ I said, ‘if I am to find the kind of job that you had in mind for me.’ // I made it seem as though I wished to go to Tokyo merely to realize my father’s hopes for me. // ‘Of course, I want my allowance only until I find a job.’ // Secretly, I felt that there was little chance of my finding a decent position. But my father, who was somewhat removed from the realities of the world outside, firmly believed otherwise. // ‘All right,’ he said. ‘Since it will only be for a short time, I’ll see to it that you get your allowance. But only for a short time, mind. You must become independent as soon as you find employment’” (98). Before the son leaves for Tokyo, he receives a manuscript from Sensi. He begins to read, but it is long and complicated. He saves the reading for a later date.

Part Three is “Sensi and His Testament.” The “Testament” is the long manuscript-letter Sensi sent to the young man. In it, Sensi answers the questions the young man had asked during their friendship. Shortly after, Sensi dies. In the letter, he reveals the source of his misanthropy as a way to instruct the young man in his future. This fascinating story of friendship, teaching, learning by the great Japanese writer Kokoro by Netsume Sōseki is a serious philosophical exploration of life and death. 5 stars.

--Chiron, 10/13/18
( )
  rmckeown | Jan 22, 2019 |
A tale of manners and social morals dealing with love, friendship and betrayal. Told in a measured, undramatic way that could be Henry James in Japan. Strong social codes involving honour and shame have been prevalent in many societies from medieaval Iceland with its sagas to Victorian Britain. Japan is amongst them. The end is inevitable. It is reached an an inexorably slow but fascinating pace. In its way tragic but also satisfactory. There was no other way. ( )
  Steve38 | Dec 23, 2018 |
Atmospheric. Haunting. Twists. ( )
  kakadoo202 | Jul 23, 2018 |
Excerpts from my original GR review (Aug 2009):
- The best translation of the word "kokoro" to English is "the heart of things". And so, at its heart, says translator Edwin McClellan in his foreword, this century-old novel is about a man's condition in life, his "loneliness in the modern world".
- The story is formed of three parts. Part I, Sensei and I, involves an unnamed, restless college student's determined befriending of Sensei, a mysterious, brooding, much older married man. The student (as narrator) frustratingly tries to engage Sensei in conversation. All the same, they form a tentative, often silent bond. Sensei obviously harbors a darkness, emphasized by his lonely strolls to a cemetery, of which he'll not speak. The student's grasp for companionship competes with a pull toward his parents' rural home, where his father lies in failing health.
- Part II, My Parents and I, relates the student's return home to care for his father and support his mother. Other relatives pitch in, and his father occasionally rebounds, so that he is tempted to return to college (near Tokyo), and Sensei.
- Part III, Sensei and His Testament, is indeed a very long recollection and rumination on his life, in the form of a letter to the student (which is perhaps too drawn out). He unburdens his soul in a sense, confessing his misguided and self-protecting sins. Through a clear lens to the past, Sensei recounts how he won the object of his desire through deceit, and how that tragic deceit in itself assured a lifelong reminder of that sorrowful episode.
- McClellan says, "In the original, there is beauty beneath the surface simplicity. I can only hope that at least a little of a the beauty has remained in the translation." I believe it does remain, but the beautiful words weave a .. sad story of demise. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | May 17, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Soseki, Natsumeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
McClellan, EdwinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McKinney, MeredithTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McKinney, MeredithIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
I always called him “Sensei.”
Could that delicate and complex instrument that lies in the human breast ever really produce a reading that was absolutely clear and truthful, like a clock's hands pointing to numbers on its dial?
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0895267152, Paperback)

Nineteenth-century Japanese novel concerned with man's loneliness in the modern world.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:28 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"No collection of Japanese literature is complete without Kokoro, the last novel Natsume Soseki complete before his death in 1916. Published here in the first new translation in more than fifty years, Kokoro--meaning "heart"-is the story of a subtle and poignant friendship between two unnamed characters, a young man and an enigmatic elder whom he calls "Sensei". Haunted by tragic secrets that have cast a long shadow over his life, Sensei slowly opens up to his young disciple, confessing indiscretions from his own student days that have left him reeling with guilt, and revealing, in the seemingly unbridgeable chasm between his moral anguish and his student's struggle to understand it, the profound cultural shift from one generation to the next that characterized Japan in the early twentieth century" --Cover, p. 4.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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Average: (3.98)
1 6
2 13
2.5 4
3 68
3.5 27
4 130
4.5 29
5 108

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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