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Kokoro: A Novel
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Kokoro: A Novel

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  7,352 ratings  ·  530 reviews
Thieves, gamblers, prostitutes, confidence men: these and other such types mingled with priests, merchants, and ordinary citizens along the great trunk road between Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto in early 19th century Japan. This colorful cast of thousands eddies and swirls around ne'er-do-well narrator Katsu Kochiki (1802-1850). Written after he had retired and adopted the name "M ...more
Paperback, 248 pages
Published June 28th 1967 by Regnery Publishing (first published 1914)
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A languid, melancholic dream of a novel which pierces the heart of the reader with its quiet intensity.

Cautious in its narrative tread on the ground of contentious issues, delicate in its broaching of subjects like the indignity of death, sin and redemption, existentialist ennui, self-recrimination and misanthropy, 'Kokoro' is a masterful recounting of a tragedy which unfolds against the backdrop of the dying years of the Meiji era. As Emperor Meiji breathes his last taking along with him the an
Apr 22, 2011 Mariel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: when it dies
Recommended to Mariel by: when it lives
Kokoro translates to "the heart of things". I only know this because the translator's forward said it was so. I need a translator, from my heart's mind to yours (anyone?)... I am afraid that I will wander around in the dark mental spaces again. Gray shades of life experiences and emotional (not necessarily reality) experiences. Who could pick up on the undertones and relevances? I'm truly afraid that worse than making no sense, I'll be sitting at the feet (Muppet babies feet? Peanuts gang feet? ...more
"How can I escape,except through faith,madness or death?"

Kokoro is an epic melodrama of isolation and self-inflicted guilt. A beautiful heartfelt experience from the exploring friendship between a young graduate student and his mentor(Sensei).Soseki brilliantly unveils an intricate web of egoism,guilt,temptations and loneliness through various anecdotes on Sensei's reclusive living. No wonder Soseki succeeded Lafacdio Hearn as a lecturer in English Literature in the Imperial University(1903).
A few years ago I had arranged to meet up with a girl I was loosely dating. I liked her a lot, but as she is a DJ, who works late nights, seeing each other was not easy. I had agreed to go to the club she was playing at that night and wait for her to finish, which would be something like 3am. As I didn’t want to spend the entire night stood at the side of the DJ booth waiting for her I asked my brother if he wanted to join me. I explained why I wanted to go out, I assured him that I would be fre ...more
Reread, 4/29/2015.

I was reminded about this book by some of Kate Beaton's lovely comics (here, with some plot spoilers) and I thought to reread it again.

All humor aside, this book has stirring emotional set pieces which seem even more interesting and important on second reading.
About the Title
Suggestions for Further Reading


This novel, centered around the friendship of a young student and an elder "Sensei", deals with the transition from Japan's Meiji society to the modern era. The young student develops a strange fascination with the misanthrope Sensei and through vague conversations, and ultimately a tell-all epistle, discovers the truth behind the Sensei's ennui and malaise. The book moves slowly, and the reluctance of the characters to just say what they are thinking is a bit tedious, but it is well written and ...more
This is a very quiet book, one that whispers its way through the details of a friendship between two men but which brings us to an understanding of how the understated detail can be more intense and painful than one which is expressed loudly and with force. The level of restraint and discipline displayed are admirable in many ways, but they coexist with an a great deal of hypocrisy and an expectation of self-imposed subservience .

However the book was marred ,for me, from the beginning by the fa
I was concerned that I was finding it a bit dull, and Sensei felt too dramatic and self-important to care what happens to him. He certainly isn't likeable, but his testament in the last chapter is enthralling and makes the book. It leaves us with a very strange ending.

"loneliness is the price we have to pay for being in the modern age, so full of freedom, independence, and our own egotistical selves"

"But what affected me most was his last sentence, which had perhaps been written as an afterthoug
I am deeply drawn into the atmosphere in Kokoro. There is something so "Japanese" about the book that I could not describe. Quiet, slow, serene, beautiful and seemingly calm, yet somehow so strong, so unsettling, stirring my heart. I enjoyed this feeling, the deeply unsettled emotions.

The story flows and unfolds so very slowly, still somehow I found myself devouring every single word. The mere 250 pages seem to last a lot longer, as if I have experienced the deep, silent, cautiously guarded sadn
Camille Stein
“El camino a la verdad es solitario, remoto, escondido.
Pero con un corazón limpio, por él recorro pasados y presentes.
¿Hay un yo en las aguas azuladas, en las azuladas colinas?
Todo es cielo, todo es tierra: artificio no hay en ellos.
En la luz mortecina del crepúsculo, la luna se aparta de la hierba;
y la voz sorda del viento de otoño se queda entre los árboles.
Olvidaré mis ojos y mis oídos; perderé el cuerpo.
Solo en el vacío entonaré de la nube el blanco cántico.”

(Natsume Sōseki, 20 de noviembre
Modern Japanese writers have this knack of tugging at one’s heartstrings. They express deep and honest sentiments without too much fuss. Their honesty is their own subtlety. They can avoid sentimentalism by hiding under its veil and peeking from it from time to time. Sōseki is one such writer, and in Kokoro he has given us an anatomy of loneliness and mortality. The existential pain is muted, as if dampening the piercing cries of a melodrama, only to produce a howling silence.

The novel is divide
It's a classic revered among the Japanese. Even though it did not disappoint me in any way, I must say that I did not enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed books by Kawabata or Tanizaki. Not to mention Murakami, but he is a different era altogether.
Kokoro means heart in Japanese, and it stands for not only the physical heart but also for the metaphorical heart of the matter and the spiritual center of being. In the book, it can be taken to mean all of the above, and some aspects of it can even be
I found the first two parts of this book compellingly brilliant -- and had decided that the book was an allegory. The narrator of Parts I-II, who speaks in the first person, is not the author (note the ages/dates), but an exemplum of Japanese Modernity -- where Sensei is an exemplum of the Meiji period. But by the end of Part III, this interpretation was untenable, and the sheer neurosis of the story had begun to weigh on me. Hence the 4-stars (instead of 5).

The Emperor Meiji died in 1912; this
James Murphy
I found the similarity of social issues with our own surprising in this novel of early 20th century Japan. They're issues we recognize and deal with: one's relations with family, the difficulty of finding work and a career following university, an older generation's perception of the irresponsibility of youth. It's a quiet novel full of gentle Japanese sensibilities. Yet beneath the calm surface is a story of young love and loneliness. And it's also about death as a solution in Japanese society. ...more
ジェイムズ・n. パウエル
As do many novels from this island nation, the protagonist here seems insular because immersed in a sea of feeling.

Here the emotion is the one coined by Japanese philosopher Motoori Norinaga: mono no aware,'a poignant feeling of the transience of things,' which Norinaga argued formed the sap of much of Japanese culture: from cherry blossom viewing to The Tale of Genji.

At the opening we find the protagonist immersed in this emotion while carrying out an odd daily ritual.

During the course of a l
I found reading Soseki's "Kokoro" interestingly enjoyable and impressive because at first I didn't think I'd reat it at all due to its plain title. I knew it's Japanese but it meant nothing to me, however, I read somewhere this novel is one of his outstanding works. So I thought reading it should be worth spending my free time.

"Kokoro" meaning "the heart of things" (p. vi) superbly translated by Edwin McClellan whom I've never read before is definitely one of Soseki's masterpieces since we reade
Daniel Clausen

This is the first line of Kokoro, a fantastic line that sets the stage for the story of the relationship between a young man and an older gentleman he refers to as Sensei.

"I usually call the person "sensei." And so, here I will just refer to him as "sensei" without revealing his true name."

Like much of Soseki's books, the tone is gentle with quite a bit of dialogue and not much of what Westerners would call action. Many of the book's themes are univer
Eddie Watkins
This was a pleasant change of pace for me. After tearing through some Dennis Cooper where characters commit the most heinous acts without a pang of conscience, I enjoyed luxuriating in the soul-poisoning lifelong qualms of a man consumed by quilt and regret for something he wasn't even directly responsible for.

Kokoro would definitely resonate on more levels for someone deeply familiar with Japan's social history, its transitions from one era to another - in this case the ending of the Meiji era
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Natsume Soseki, the man whose face used to be on the 1000 yen note, single-handedly brought the modern era of literature to Japan. Kokoro is the story of a young student who befriends an often distant and unpredictable man he names "Sensei" and his discovery of Sensei's hidden past. I'd recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a novel of grand proportions that unfolds beautifully amidst the sensibilities and poetics of Japanese tradition while breaking way for the modern Japanese novel ...more
John David
This novel, one of Natsume Soseki’s last and written on the cusp of Japan’s epochal rise to becoming a world power, reflects the author’s preoccupation with conflicting cultural attitudes in the transition from the feudalist Late Tokugawa Shogunate to the capitalist, more modernized Japan it would become during the Meiji Restoration. Of course, this period wasn’t just marked with bureaucratic, political, and military reforms; it also trickled down into the personal lives, families, and friendshi ...more
Loneliness is the price we have to pay for being born in this modern age, so full of freedom, independence, and our own egoistical selves.

The Beginning: I always called him “Sensei”

When I started reading Kokoro, I had just abandoned another book. A – to me – soulless book driven by plot alone. What I needed was a true reading experience. Not a book meant to shock or entertain, but a book where the words, sensations and characters drag you deep into their world. Natsume Soseki‘s poetry provided
Gertrude & Victoria
Kokoro by Natsume Soseki is a penetrating work with deep psychological insights. The novel is told in two parts: the first by a young student and the second by "sensei", meaning "teacher" in Japanese, through a confession in a series of letters. With the burden of the past weighing on his mind, "sensei" resigns himself to a life of solitude and private agonizing. During the story he reveals with repose his lurid past to his younger acquaintance.

Three aspects of the novel stand out: the first is
The novel is about the relationship between a young student with an old man; Sensei (which means teacher). The book is divided into 3 parts, and each part could have been a standalone story by itself! The 1st part is about Sensei and the young student, The 2nd part is about The young student with his parents, and the 3rd part (which is the best part in the novel) is about the long message from Sensei to the young student.

From the very beginning, and before even the novel starts, there are a coup
Una vez mas hay que tomar la nota respecto a lo que me ha hecho sentir el libro y no como si yo juzgara literariamente las cosas, que luego se me enfada el personal si puntúo los intocables. Y le voy a dar 2 estrellas a Kokoro, porque se me ha hecho tremendamente cuesta arriba su lectura.

Nos vamos al Japón Meiji y a la generación justamente anterior a la de Mishima, que es un autor que si que disfruto, pero al que entiendo un poco mejor tras leer a Sōseki y es que, por ponerlo en termino sencill
Marat M. Yavrumyan
Ճապոնական ոչ միայն ավտոմեքենաներն են բարդ (հայ ուստա եմ ասել, որ գլուխ հանի)։ Գրքում ամենահետաքրքիրը երկխոսություններն են։ Երբեք գլուխ չես հանի, ինչու հարց տվեց, ինչու հենց այդ հարցը, ինչու էր պատասխանն այնպիսին, ինչպիսին էր։ Գիրքը հիանալի նկարագրություն է՝ հոգեկան իրավիճակների, առանց հոգնեցնող երկարաբանությունների, ու անընդհատ լարվածության մեջ պահող։ Կարդալ սկսելը դժվար է, համարյա չի գրավում, բայց հետո, քիչ-քիչ բացվում է։ Երկրորդ գլուխը ամենահարազատը թվաց ինձ։ Փիլիսոփայություն կա ամբողջ գրքում։ ...more
Diana (Reflejos)
Ahora mismo, con todo el dolor que aguardo en mí interior, podría fácilmente dejarme llevar por la corriente, y sumergirme en la miseria. Por ejemplo, podría salir al balcón, y dejarme caer al vacío. En cualquier sentido o dirección, me da igual. No me importa ya. ¿Notan mi arrebato tan... infantil? xD

Creo que me afectó mucho. Me siento muy mal. Por favor, he aguantado tantas cosas (el destino de Anna Karénina, por ejemplo), ¡¿y no poder superar las últimas páginas de Kokoro?! Por Dios Diana, ¡

It's funny but I find myself returning to Japanese literature if I've been either feeling unsettled in my reading or life. It makes a great palate cleanser for me. This is also a return to this book. The first time I read it I was far from being in the right place to appreciate it and only read about half. On the re-read I'm finding I appreciate it much more. The change in narrative perspective really helped to balance the story. Going from an almost cold and distant recital of the Narrator's li
Wendy Feltham
Kokoro is one of those books I'll always look at and feel sadness, and more than simply sadness, a deep feeling of emotional intensity. Kokoro tells the story of the friendship between a young student and an older man he calls Sensei (teacher). The story is divided into three sections, first the developing friendship between the narrator and Sensei, then the narrator's return home with his parents, and finally a long, agonizing letter from Sensei to the narrator. This book, published in 1914, al ...more
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“I believe that words uttered in passion contain a greater living truth than do those words which express thoughts rationally conceived. It is blood that moves the body. Words are not meant to stir the air only: they are capable of moving greater things.” 175 likes
“You seem to be under the impression that there is a special breed of bad humans. There is no such thing as a stereotype bad man in this world. Under normal conditions, everybody is more or less good, or, at least, ordinary. But tempt them, and they may suddenly change. That is what is so frightening about men.” 124 likes
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