Andrew's Reviews > Kokoro

Kokoro by Natsume Sōseki
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Jul 28, 2010

bookshelves: japanese-fiction, prewar-japanese-fiction
Read in July, 2010

There's a common thread of wistfulness through so much Japanese art... think of the films of Ozu, Mizoguchi, and Kurosawa circa "Ikiru." Kokoro is a story of human relationships and the peculiar transitions of the Meiji era, in which traditional Japan became increasingly supplanted by Western-imported culture. Our nameless narrator is a young, modernist student befriending a nameless, somewhat older man, and their lives and letters and histories take us through the growing pains of late 19c-early 20c Japan. Natsume's analysis is harsh but fair. Our narrator is gloomy and alienated by modern society, but traditional Confucian society is shown to be as unforgiving and rigid as Dutch Calvinism. Rather than going on a didactic tirade, Natsume simply sketches social forces with a minimalist's grace, sighing softly at the world.
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