Review of Kokoro by Natsume Soseki

KokoroKokoro by Natsume Sōseki
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kokoro is a slow book and the first half is hard to get into. It deals with a young man and his admiration of an older scholarly gentleman whom he wishes to make part of his life. Sensei, the older man, is awkward and aloof and is hard to get to know. His only constant is the monthly visits to the grave of a friend from his youth, a part of his life which is clearly a source of pain.

During the second half of the book the protagonist must return home to his parents after his father falls ill and there he receives a letter from Sensei telling him everything he’s been dying to know about his youth.

This book is highly acclaimed and has even been called a masterpiece, at which I wondered even after I was more than half way through. I was tempted to put it down on several occasions, but despite its slowness, it flowed well enough to keep me going. This, coupled with the acclaim, was the reason I didn’t abandon it.

I’m very glad I did keep going because it all comes together at the end. It is a masterpiece of Japanese societal subtlety, culture and mindset and is built with the litotis and balance that the Japanese do so well. It should be read with a Zen frame of mind when action isn’t high on your plot agenda.

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2 thoughts on “Review of Kokoro by Natsume Soseki

  1. Japanese literature really has its own personality. I read a couple novels. Very peculiar, you sure have to get into the mood and the mindframe. But once you do, they open up to you.

  2. I’m just more used to Tanizaki whose books I love, (with an exception or two). He has a level of finesse I’ve come to expect from them all. IMHO he’s superior to Soseki, but it’s all a matter of taste. If you like Japanese literature give him a go. Also Thousand Cranes by Yasunari is good.

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