Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Three Cornered World (Arena Books)” as Want to Read:
Blank 133x176
The Three Cornered World
Natsume Sōseki
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Three Cornered World (Arena Books)

3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  1,323 Ratings  ·  154 Reviews
The Three Cornered World is the novelistic expression of the contrast between the Western ethical view of reality and the Eastern ethical view by one of Japan's most beloved authors.
Paperback, 190 pages
Published November 22nd 1984 by Arrow Books Ltd (first published 1906)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Feb 22, 2014 Praj rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ns, にほん

“And when its difficulties intensify, you find yourself longing to leave that world and dwell in some easier one- and then, when you understand at last the difficulties will dog you wherever you may live, this is when poetry and art are born...”

For the very first time on a murky morning, I saw a set of colours come alive on the wall of my living room. The orderly row of comatose crayons suddenly sprang like a newborn foal twirling on the pasty canvass. Amid the angry voices of my parents I giggl
Mar 19, 2014 Rowena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rowena by: Praj
Shelves: japanese-lit
“Yes, a poem, a painting, can draw the story of troubles from a troubled world and lay in its place a blessed realm before our grateful eyes.”- Natsume Soseki, Kusamakura

Natsume Soseki might soon be a new favourite of mine. This is a book I read after reading Praj's wonderful review.

Kusamakura tells the story of an unnamed artist looking for artistic inspiration while walking through the Japanese mountains, and his encounters at the on-sen (Japanese hotspring) where he encounters the beautiful N
Stephen P
Dec 18, 2014 Stephen P rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Stephen by: Ben Winch
Shelves: favorites
A thirst for the purity of an openness that eschews all restrictions of internal will or external codes. The rare locale of an artist. A place of imagination and dreaming existing apart from the vulgarity of movement-the world. Seeking it removes any chance of finding it. The locale is something which arrives. A splendor of reverie for those patient enough to wait. A book that replenishes the inspiration of awaiting.

We travel with the narrator, a 30 year old Japanese artist. His steps takes him
Apr 18, 2011 Mariel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: thesaurus rex
Recommended to Mariel by: velocityraptor
"Clearly I am thinking about nothing. I am most certainly looking at nothing. Since nothing is present to my consciousness to beguile me with its color and movement, I have not become one with anything. Yet I am in motion: motion neither within the world nor outside it- simply motion. Neither motion as flower, nor as bird, nor motion in relation to another human, just ecstatic emotion."
To me, that is the "nonemotion" from Kusamakura of life as nature as art as life as poetry. In my own hazed de
This is a beautiful book that recounts a physical climb up a mountain which is also a spiritual climb. As always, Soseki's prose is sparse but highly evocative. This is one of the beautiful works he wrote before becoming quite depressed and despondent with Kokomo and The Gate. A must read for relaxation and putting yourself in a zen-like spiritual mood.
This is a beautiful book which takes place a metaphorical and physical mountain climb. I would consider it Soseki's more interior-facing work and one of incredible zen-like wisdom and imagery. Again, do not expect laughing geisha and dancing no actors but rather the mature musings of a Japanese master writer grappling with middle age at 39.
Here is an example of his irony-laden highly reflective pose chosen at random:

I eased my law-abiding buttocks down on the cushioning grass. One could remain
A wandering look at the creation of poetry. Slow and meditative.

This short little book treats life with a sort of nostalgia for something that was, or might not ever have been. It relays the process of creating a poem, of finding inspiration, of rebirth and renewal and of wandering the countryside to escape the neuroticism and 'fart-smellers' of the big city.

As you might have guessed from the last remark, this does not mean that Sōseki's tale is wholly humorless and austere. On the contrary. Ou
Eddie Watkins
Jun 10, 2009 Eddie Watkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japanese-fiction
Pure simple enchantment, with a healthy helping of farts. Soseki set out to write a “haiku-novel” and Kusamakura does bear many resemblances to Basho’s haiku travel book, The Narrow Road to the Deep North; but it is less a novel than a treatise on “aesthetic living”, which in the context of this book is akin to a path to enlightenment. So it is filled with asides, with brief discourses on how to live “non-emotionally”, free from petty social entanglements, so to clear the way for reaching the “h ...more
Ben Winch
Dec 17, 2014 Ben Winch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japanese, asian, 5-stars
Beautiful. Joyous. Sharp, clear, precise. Soseki’s best, I think, for its freedom, for its glow. True, from here on near everything he wrote had the magic, but like Kafka’s his characters were hemmed in, in darkness. Here, from when the unnamed “I” appears on a mountain path until he disappears at a train station as the world calls from down the tracks, all is glittering. I couldn’t read this when I was down; it demanded I engage with it, bring heart to it, enjoy it. I know not everyone (few peo ...more
Oct 19, 2012 umberto rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, japan


AS FOR THE FOLLOWING 6 WELL-WISHERS: Sonja, Ben, Aubrey, *Bar*, Garima, and Aziz, please move your 'Like' by reclicking your 'Like' on this review (for 'Unlike') then click 'Like' on this one for the right book review: thanks for your kind help. However, I have
Jan 04, 2017 umberto rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, japan
Formerly translated in an edition entitled "The Three-Cornered World" by Alan Turney, this is a new translation by Meredith McKinney. Reading this compact novel by Natsume Soseki was similar to reading a haiku-like one that requires literary interpretations according to, I think, one's interests, backgrounds and appreciation. The more we read it farther from Chapter 1 onwards, we'd gradually realize why Soseki has rightly been acclaimed as " the father of modern Japanese literature" and in his o ...more
Jun 15, 2015 Edward rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Note on the Translation
Suggestions for Further Reading


Mar 28, 2014 Gearóid rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was really lovely and refreshing to read.
From the start I was captivated by the nice sense of peace
and beauty.
The narrator is so interesting as he describes what it means to
be a true artist but he is also very funny at times.
Made me think a lot about when I look at a piece of art and
really like it but can't explain why that this is ok as the artist
just wants you to feel the emotion he is trying to portrait.
Also makes you realise that just by appreciating nature and beauty
you are an art
Hà Nguyệt  Linh
Jul 12, 2016 Hà Nguyệt Linh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-favourites
Hồi bạn tặng cuốn này đã bảo: mi thích vẽ với tính mi rứa chắc sẽ thích cuốn này. Mình nhìn bản với vẻ mặt: ta ứ tin đâu nhá, định lừa ta với mấy cuốn văn học Nhật sầu thảm rồi nhìn ta tự sát chứ gì. Mà lật ra trang đầu tiên đã phủ phục quy hàng với nó ngay:

"Theo lí trí thì gặp trở ngại. Theo tình cảm thì bị cuốn theo. Theo chí hướng riêng thì bế tắc. Nhìn theo kiểu nào thì thế giới con người cũng là một nơi khó sống.
Khi cảm thấy khó sống quá thì người ta thích tìm đến nơi nào dễ chịu. Và khi nh
If Kokoro is a study of loneliness, this is a study of beauty - that's what I thought after the first pages and it's still appropriate after I read the end.

The style is extremely poetical. Sōseki even goes as far as to focus on description of landscape, clothing and objects instead of plot. Nevertheless, there is a plot. I sometimes found it hard to wait for it to continue as the protagonist wanders through untouched nature far from civilization and watches everything from the viewpoint of a pai
Jul 29, 2012 Mike rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
Shelves: overrated, novels
I am an artist
So listen to me.
I am an artist
So don't you dare
Count my farts.
Van Nguyen
Feb 02, 2015 Van Nguyen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mình đã bị thu hút từ cái bìa cho đến lời tựa của Nhật Chiêu, người mà mình ngưỡng mộ. Sau đó, giở ngẫu nhiên trang nào cũng đọc được phần mình thấy ổn nên mua. Mình đã hi vọng là mình sẽ thích nó. Lần đầu mình đọc nó là tháng 7 năm ngoái.

Lần 1: đọc cực kỳ mệt và thấy khó chịu trước sự soi mói của tay họa sĩ bằng tuổi. Anh ta so sánh, chê bai, nghĩ ngợi, không vẽ gì ra hồn. Bất cứ cái gì cũng đem ra để đối chiếu giữa phương Đông và phương Tây. Thực sự mình đã nghĩ họa sĩ này biết đâu có vấn đề g
Susan Budd
Jun 20, 2015 Susan Budd rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Exquisite prose. Natsume Soseki described this book as “a haiku-like novel, that lives through beauty.” That’s exactly what it is. Every sentence is a delight. This translation is by Meredith McKinney. I’ve compared it with the translation by Alan Turney titled The Three-Cornered World and McKinney’s translation is much more poetic and representative of the Japanese aesthetic.
Nhu Khue
Mình cũng chả biết nên thích hay nên ghét cuốn sách này. Bởi vì trước khi đem nó về nhà, mình đã đọc thử vài đoạn bất kì trong sách mấy lần và cảm thấy vẫn muốn mua. Cơ mà có vẻ mình đã bị mấy cái mỹ từ trông có vẻ nghệ thuật “lừa tình”, vì từ trước đến giờ mình đều thích các tác phẩm Nhật Bản, vì cách viết rất chậm rãi và có vẻ cảm thông. Nhưng Gối đầu lên cỏ thì khác, ngoại trừ một vài đoạn miêu tả và chương một tác giả nói về nghệ thuật trong đời sống ra, các phần còn lại mình có cảm giác tác ...more
Another fine book by one of my favorite authors. This is a hard one to rate because it can't be judged as a normal event sequence book but rather taken from an artistic point. I would like to re-read this just because there was so much to digest. Being an artist, I could step into what the author was conveying and I found myself lost in the prose or the offered haiku. Don't expect to understand this book on the first reading, I certainly didn't.
Nek0 Neha (BiblioNyan)
Every so often, I find myself holding a book that I absolutely love yet despise with such intense vehemence. After a long period of years, I have once again found such a novel—Kusamakura written by Natsume Soseki.

This novel is everything that I love about intellectual writing. The imagery and poise of the story truly touch base with the artist within me. However, the pretentious arrogance of the unnamed protagonist as well as his habitual inclination to spew about every minute detail drives me
Aug 22, 2013 Rage rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan
I can't tell if this is written as nothing more than a meandering reflection on nature, art, and human emotion, or a satire about people who take these things too seriously and completely miss the point.

the narrator never paints anything - which he excuses because of the fundamentally artistic quality of his character, but, are we really supposed to take his inner narrative at face value? even though he keeps saying that everyone reminds him of figures in a painting, he's hardly cool, objective
the gift
this is not a novel. this is not an essay. this is somewhere in between, and possibly requires certain knowledge of history and society and aesthetics, all from Japan 1906. depending on what your ideas are, about art, about literature, about how these are changing through contacts with Europeans, this can be frustrating, or boring, when the author follows tangents, describes moments but not plot, moments of other encounters with nature or emblematic others, priest, barber, innkeeper, young woman ...more
Alexander Páez
Mar 02, 2015 Alexander Páez rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nihon, 2015
La traducción es excelente. Fluida y a la vez refleja a la perfección la sensibilidad de Sôseki. Un libro complicado de recomendar pero que me ha llegado en el momento correcto. Sôseki sigue afianzado en la posición de mis escritores preferidos.

Además Chidori Books pasa a ser una editorial MUY a tener en cuenta.
Mar 29, 2008 Sluggo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title comes from a passage that explains what I find simultaneously attractive about making art and repulsively air-headed. Its beautiful but removed, in a way it denies any reality outside of aesthetics- and that necessarily makes one a cripple:

"Even something frightening may appear poetic if you stand back and regard it simply as a shape, and the eerie may make an excellent picture if you think of it as something which is completely independent of yourself. Exactly the same is true with di
Jun 26, 2013 Jewel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asian-lit
for some reason, I originally thought this book was going to focus on geisha, though after Three-Cornered World arrived in my name at my library and a day later, I realized I was mistaken. whoops. the story only really ended up having maybe two sentences about geisha but did feature an off-beat, mysterious female character which was good enough for me.

Soseki is known for being THE Japanese writer of the Meiji era
(just before pre-WWII). like Kokoro, Three-Cornered World is a very Japanese novel,
Benjamin Chandler
I'm a little conflicted about this book. Maybe it's worth more than 3 stars, maybe less. I think a lot of that depended on my mood and patience while reading it.

To say it's a "haiku-style novel" is not a bad way of putting it. Natsume describes the settings and moments with lovely detail, paying special attention to nature and "the simple life." The narrator is an artist (who never paints anything in the whole novel) who travels to a mountain inn and meets different people, including the lovely
Mar 05, 2013 Benjamin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am not sure what to say about this one. It took me two months to read, mostly one or two pages at a time on my lunch break. On the other hand, I gladly spent two months reading it. It is the literary equivalent of syrup; too rich to do a lot of at one go but really, really good. The descriptions are among the most beautiful things I have read, and the characters--particularly the lady who is the focus of what I guess you have to call this novel's story (not much happens)--are lifelike even to ...more
Mark Folse
Jan 18, 2013 Mark Folse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japanese-novel
Rated highly but difficult to recommend to just anyone, this fascinating and peculiar little book may be called a novel by virtue of the Japanese school of the I-novel but most readers would find it most un-novel like. There is no arc to the story such as it is, none of characters--including the first person narrator--is fully fleshed in a conventional western sense. Much of the book is giving over to the narrator mediating on what it means to be an artist, to live as an artist. The tone reminds ...more
Oct 26, 2011 Elizabeth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Beautiful, slow, lovely. I believe this was written as if it were a long haiku and it certainly felt that way (at least to an untrained in haiku reader) in that the scenes were unraveled slowly and full of carefully chosen details. It is the story of an artist who travels to a remote mountain town and his interactions with some of the inhabitants. Originally published in 1906, Natsume really gives you a feel for the time, the village, the hotel the artist stays in, and everywhere the artist visi ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Wild Geese
  • The Old Capital
  • Blue Bamboo: Japanese Tales of Fantasy
  • Some Prefer Nettles
  • The Waiting Years
  • Rivalry: A Geisha's Tale (Japanese Studies Series)
  • Kappa
  • Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness: Four Short Novels
  • Tales of Moonlight and Rain
  • Fires on the Plain
  • The Paper Door and Other Stories
  • One Hundred Leaves: A new annotated translation of the Hyakunin Isshu
  • Black Rain
  • Anthology of Japanese Literature: From the Earliest Era to the Mid-Nineteenth Century
  • The Tale of the Heike

Share This Book

“Approach everything rationally, and you become harsh. Pole along in the stream of emotions, and you will be swept away by the current. Give free rein to your desires, and you become uncomfortably confined. It is not a very agreeable place to live, this world of ours.” 21 likes
“And because I am an artist I find any passage of a novel interesting even when it is out of context. I find it interesting talking to you - so much so in fact that I'd like to talk to you every day while I'm here. I'll even fall in love with you if you'd like; that would be particularly interesting. But however deeply I were to fall in love with you it would not mean that we had to get married. If you think that marriage is the logical conclusion to falling in love, then it becomes necessary to read novels through from beginning to end.” 6 likes
More quotes…