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3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  705 ratings  ·  74 reviews

A stunning new translation-the first in more than forty years-of a major novel by the father of modern Japanese fiction

Natsume Sōseki's Kusamakura follows its nameless young artist-narrator on a meandering walking tour of the mountains. At the inn at a hot spring resort, he has a series of mysterious encounters with Nami, the lovely young daughter of the establishment. Na

ebook, 176 pages
Published January 29th 2008 by Penguin Group (USA) (first published 1906)
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“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...more
Apr 18, 2014 Rowena rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
May 02, 2011 Mariel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Eddie Watkins
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
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...more
Translated in a previous edition entitled "The Three-Cornered World" by Alan Turney, this is another edition by another translator. 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 own...more
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...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 11, 2012 Mike rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
Shelves: novels, overrated
I am an artist
So listen to me.
I am an artist
So don't you dare
Count my farts.
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...more
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
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...more
Như Khuê
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
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,...more
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
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...more
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...more
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
Less a novel than a collection of meditations on poetry, art, and the beauty of nature, Kusamakura drew me in instantly. Somewhere along the way, though, I became a bit less enchanted with the book. The narrator's lofty opinion of himself and the supremacy of his artistic nature may have had something to do with it, or maybe I just let myself become disengaged. Either way, I must admit that I forced the last 30 or so pages of this book down, but in light of how taken I was with the first 1/2 or...more
Ben Loory
We are being dragged yet deeper into the real world, which I define as the world that contains trains.
Jan 16, 2013 Lisa rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa by: Tony from Tony's Reading List
Shelves: kindle, japan, 20thcentury
Kusamakura is a bit like a bring-a-plate smorgasbord where you might end up with a mixture of cuisines on your plate, and you find yourself preferring the sushi to the dolmades because the sushi seems refreshing after all the strong flavours. Kusamakura tests the reader by contrasting the moody and sometimes pompous posturing of his central character with the boorish characters that he meets. So the novel combines the elegance that I have come to associate with J-Lit with crude dialogue and occa...more
Stuart Blackadder

At the time this no doubt inadvertently served as Imperial propaganda, throughout the musings Western art forms are patronisingly dismissed the instant they are invoked. There is a battle in the nameless narrator's head as he tries to shake off a few years of Western education he despondently partook of in London.

The short, humble journey this novel recounts show him reverting back to an Eastern psychology allthewhile learning that it is seemingly incompatible with most Western thought. Soseki...more
"Basta concepirne l‘immagine perché nasca la poesia, scaturiscano i versi. Anche senza fermare sulla carta l‘ispirazione percepiamo in fondo all‘anima il tintinnio cristallino delle sue gemme. Anche senza spalmare sul cavalletto il rosso e l‘azzurro, lo splendore dei colori appare spontaneamente agli occhi della nostra anima. Basta riuscire a vedere così il mondo in cui viviamo, questo impuro e volgare mondo terrestre, e a riprodurlo limpido e sereno nella macchina fotografica della nostra mente...more
I am Cat。
I wanted to finish this book [and like it], truthfully. But the narrator was so annoying and full of himself at times that I just couldn't stick through it. The parts in which there's actual dialogue are brilliant but so few and far between. The rest of the text contains so little actual material; just unfiltered brain goo that could be described as "philosophical" at times and I have the feeling that's what the author was going for. But at the end of a long day when I curl up with a book, the e...more
An engrossing read from start to finish, dealing with an attempt to see the world in a different, more objective light. The author speaks of entering the enlightened realm of poetry. What I like most about this book is that it is so unique, so distinguished from all other works I've ever read. Instead of telling you to follow your passions, your dreams (the way the lion's part of western civilization reasons) it tells you to let go of everything subjective, a most startling point of view. The bo...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mark Folse
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
Three-Cornered World, also know as Grass Pillow, is a story of little narrative substance. The main character stays for a time at a country inn. He struggles with the meanings of being an artist and the ability to convey his thoughts and emotions in the written word or on canvas. The innkeeper's daughter is a source of inspiration and intrigue for him.

There are beautiful passages in the story in which Soseki muses about art, and this is the main focus. He published this novel after Botchan. Thr...more
Penguin Classics also published this as Kusamakura. This is exceptionally beautiful writing that not only survives the translation but takes on an English delicacy of its own. It's a philosophical novel about the nature of peace of mind, full of vividly serene imagery. One scene strikes me in particular where the protagonist is walking through a heavy storm, bogged down in rain - wondering whether he should appreciate the whole scene as a form of poetry, or face up to the bad feelings of it. He...more
Neil Latner

Have i been brushed with the the shimmering winds of heaven and earth or hear in my soul the harmonies of nature's ethereal harp.

Well maybe not but still a good read .
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Natsume Sōseki was the pen name of Natsume Kinnosuke, who is widely considered to be the foremost Japanese novelist of the Meiji Era (1868–1912). He is commonly referred to as Sōseki. He is best known for his novels Kokoro, Botchan, I Am a Cat and his unfinished work Light and Darkness. He was also a scholar of British literature and composer of haiku, Chinese-style poetry, and fairy tales. From 1...more
More about Sōseki Natsume...
Kokoro Botchan I Am a Cat Sanshirō And Then

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“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.” 13 likes
“The average novel invariably reads like a detective's report. It is drab and tedious because it is never objective.” 3 likes
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