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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Who Was Sōseki

Natsume Sōseki (real name Natsume Kinnosuke), born in 1867; discovered first the beauties of Chinese literature; his first compositions were haiku; he signed them Sōseki (stubborn in Chinese, as it seems); sent in 1900 in England with a scholarship that was by far insufficient; he lived in London a very reclusive life (beside the scarcity of funds, he was far too small, a dwarf among Britons his age); he spent all his time there studying English literature; returned to Japan in 1903 to take the chair of English literature at Tokyo University (where he followed Lafcadio Hearn); started to publish by that time; major novels, I am a Cat and Botchan (1905), The Miner (1907), Ten Nights' Dreams (1908), The Gate (1909), Kokoro (1914), Light and Darkness (1916); died in 1916; his portrait was till 2004 on the front of the 1000 yen bill.

Brief notes (chosen at random) on each of his books:

  • I am a Cat: I am a cat and as yet I have no name;
  • Botchan: most of the story occurs in summer, against the drone of cicadas and the sting of mosquitoes;
  • The Miner: being walking through this pine grove for a long time now; these places are way longer than they look in pictures. Just pine trees, and pine trees, and pine trees that don't add up to anything;
  • Ten Nights'Dreams: a riddle to be deciphered after hundred years;
  • The Gate: his prose is so delicate that each page is like looking at a set of dreamy watercolors;
  • Kokoro: it was at Kamakura, during the summer holidays, that I first met Sensei;
  • Light and Darkness: his last novel, a complex analysis of egocentric personalities of the modern age, was left unfinished at his death.

(A Life in Books)

(Japanese Cinema)



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