"The subject of Kokoro, which can be translated as 'the heart of things' or as 'feeling,' is the delicate matter of the contrast between the meanings the various parties of a relationship attach to it. In the course of this exploration, Soseki brilliantly describes different levels of friendship, family relationships, and the devices by which men attempt to escape from their fundamental loneliness. The novel sustains throughout its length something approaching poetry, and it is rich in understanding and insight. The translation, by Edwin McClellan, is extremely good." (Anthony West, The New Yorker)
©1957 Regnery Publishing (P)2015 Regnery Publishing
This is a complicated review. I found and read this book because of another book I just finished reading. That title was The End of Life Book Club--a story about a mother and son who used books and reading to cope with terminal illness, loss, connection and family. They raved about this Japanese title so I found it and listened.
The writing is spare and poetic. The book was written in 1914 and offers an interesting exploration of loneliness and connection in "modern" times. These concepts are strangely applicable to our modern times. But more than this it offers deeper insight into The End of Life Book Club. Soseki speaks about not closing your life off by walling yourself in behind mountains of books. The mother and son from End of Life often lost opportunities to truly talk and connect on deeper personal levels because they focused so much on the current book. Don't get me wrong, reading and discussion of books is expansive, enriching and powerful. But, at times books became a safe haven and functioned as insulation from difficult conversations.
Back to this current book review-- Kororo is a fascinating look at life and transcends the limitations of time, culture and perspective. A universal story which has much to offer to current day readers. The reading style is soft and gentle. The story tackles difficult issues and does so with beauty and grace. An unusual book which I really enjoyed. Interesting to see that issues of coping with family and finding ways to connect with others isn't just a current day--modern problem.
College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.
Japanese classics of teacher and student, love and tragedy. A must read when one is exploring Japanese literature
The concept of the book is what was important not any 1 character.
IMO a nice book It touches on a few concepts of the human heart and stays there. Not as involved or complex but it's an honest story about few not many and was told well with that in mind.
"Not for me perhaps."
I think I'm glad I listened to it, but I don't think I would go back to it again. I found the narrator frustrating at times, mostly his pronunciation of 'okaasan' (oak'sun) which drove me mad. But I also found the narrative a little difficult to engage with - I found myself getting quite annoyed with these foolish young men and their poor decision-making. I think part of the point of the book is that loneliness can make one foolish, but they came across to me as rather self-important and not as sympathetic as perhaps the author wanted. I do wonder if I would have found it more engaging if I were male.
I've not experienced any of Natsume Soseki's writing before. The closest I've come (being the other early-mid 20th century Japanese writer I've experienced) would probably be reading Yukio Mishima's "The Temple of the Golden Pavilion", which I think has a similarly unsympathetic male character who doesn't deal with his problems in a particularly healthy way. Give me "The Tale of Genji" any day.
His Japanese pronunciation. He also didn't really distinguish vocally between different speakers. Most of the time this was OK (and far better than very forced different voices), but occasionally it meant I got a little confused about who was speaking during dialogue.
It has been adapted at least three times, according to Wikipedia. I can see it working on the screen, although I find it difficult to imagine it being anything other than an art house movie.
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