Jayaprakash Satyamurthy's Reviews > Botchan

Botchan by Natsume Sōseki
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Feb 09, 12

Read in February, 2012

This translation has such an engaging voice - in-your-face, unapologetic, a little given to posturing but largely honest and down-to-earth. That sums up the narrator as well. He's a young man who is inclined to be tactless and rash. He has no especially strong ties except to a lady who works for his family as a servant and emerges as a kind of mother figure.

Botchan wanders into a career as a teacher in a provincial school and comes face to face with treachery, hypocrisy and the complexities of human nature. His trials are related with verve, energy and the occasional leavening of lyricism. The characters Soseki paints may not be the deepest but his satire does strike home.

There are some rough passages, but all in all this was a gripping and thoroughly enjoyable portrait of a blunt-spoken, naive young man blustering through things like a bull in a china shop before finding a place of his own in life. Excellent stuff and very different from the more sophisticated, layered work of Tanizaki and Kawabata and perhaps from Soseki's own later work, which I have not read yet.
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