Stephen Durrant's Reviews > And Then: Natsume Soseki's Novel Sorekara

And Then by Natsume Sōseki
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Jun 09, 12

Read in June, 2012

Anyone traveling in Japan has seen Natsume Soseki's face gracing the 1000 Yen bill. Americans are probably surprised to see that in Japan a writer rather than a political figure is given such an honor--if having one's face printed on "filthy lucre" can be considered an honor. I would list Soseki's "Kokoro" among the best "world" novels of the twentieth century, and "And Then" is not far behind. While it is yet one more "male alienation" novel, the alienation in this case is motivated by real, profound social changes. The setting is Japan in the decades following the Meiji Restoration (1868). The largely Confucian society of traditional Japan is crumbling, but the new Western world of personal freedom and individual identity has yet fully to emerge. Daisuke, the protagonist, is caught in this transition. He remains financially dependent upon his old-fashioned father and uses this support to construct a leisurely life of literary and philosophical ponderings. He simultaneously resents his father, particularly when the latter tries to push him toward marriage, and rejects the new world of work In fact, "He had made it his practice not to place too much weight on anything over the past two or three years" (p78). And then he becomes obsessed with an old love, who happens also to be married to his best friend. The emotions become complex and Soseki's strength as a writer is the delicacy with which he explores the tangled world of emotion and alienation (anyone who knows of Soseki's life knows he was himself hugely alienated!). This novel is highly recommended as an intelligent portrayal of one man's attempt, really failed attempt, to negotiate between two quite different worlds.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Scribble (last edited Dec 04, 2012 03:02PM) (new)

Scribble Orca *blushes* The whole time I lived there I never even noticed. Argh. Lovely review.

You suggest "Heart" as being his first to read?


message 2: by Helen (new)

Helen Scribble wrote: "*blushes* The whole time I lived there I never even noticed. "

If you mean 1000 yen bill, he hasn't been on it since 2004. Now it's Noguchi Hideyo. Still, 5000 and 10000 are writers. (Noguchi is bacteriologist.)

Other than that, great review!


message 3: by Scribble (new)

Scribble Orca @Helen...I lived there a long time prior...Stephen had the correct era (for me, anyway).


message 4: by Helen (new)

Helen Ah, sorry. Still, best not to raise any future traveller's expectations.


Stephen Durrant Thanks for the correction, Helen! Shows how out of date I am. And, yes, I think "Kokoro" is the first Soseki novel one should read, any maybe his greatest.


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