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The Miner

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  727 ratings  ·  105 reviews
Written in 1908, this absurdist novel about the indeterminate nature of human personality anticipates the work of Joyce and Beckett. Almost devoid of plot and characterization, it unfolds within the mind of the protagonist. His ruminations constitute the theoretical core of the book.
Hardcover, 189 pages
Published March 1st 1988 by Stanford University Press (first published 1908)
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Average rating 3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  727 ratings  ·  105 reviews

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L.S. Popovich
I didn't expect this novel to leave such a big impression on me. It seemed like a throwaway novel in Soseki's oeuvre, with hardly any character development, almost no plot and little adornment. But it is a subtle exploration of character, theme and atmosphere. It’s an adventure novel disguised as fictitious reportage. It’s falsely autobiographical, it’s heart-breaking by accident and it managed to worm its way into my psyche. Soseki wrote it for a fan, based on a scattered retelling of a ...more
May 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Translator's Note
Introduction: A Nonchalant Journey Through Hell, by Haruki Murakami

--The Miner

Translator's Afterword
Auntie Terror
Jun 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
J.M. Hushour
Aug 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"It was a gloomy life, no doubt, and that's what made it exactly right for me."

The subject of much superfluous and winge-inducing critical analysis for being an 'outlier', 'mutant', or downright 'tumor' amongst Natsume's better-known works, The Miner, as Jay Rubin points out in his docile afterword, fits nicely in Natsume's oeuvre. It comes somewhere midway between the fun and funny earlier works like Botchan and the later, more brooding psychological works. I think what might throw off scholars
Paul Ataua
Dec 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was drawn to “The Miner” after seeing it referred to twice in Haruki Murakami’s ‘Kafka on the Shore’. I finally tracked it down in a bookstore in Portland, and waited three months for it to arrive by the slowest of boats. It was just enough time to read how the book had been panned by critics, and how it was considered so disappointing when compared to the rest of Natsume Soseki’s work. To my surprise, I read it from beginning to end in one sitting. It’s certainly an experimental book. It is ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
This is not a book to read when you are feeling down and out. One of Soseki's many masterpieces and a true psychological tour de force, we enter the mind of this miner and see the world through his eyes and it is a rough life. It is also extremely Proustian in its analysis of the protagonist's thought process and entirely existentialist in outlook. A beautiful but not uplifting read.
Aug 29, 2008 rated it liked it
Sōseki’s second novel is experimental and dense in structure. There is hardly any narrative. A pampered, middle-class kid runs away from home. He gets recruited to a mine, he realizes he can’t hack it as a miner’s assistant, and the novel ends abruptly. The novel is comprised chiefly of the kid’s inner thoughts over four days. The minute attention to the boy’s individual thoughts, which swing from naive to cynical and back again, remind me of my own thought processes, but the novel becomes ...more
Dec 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Aug 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japan
Been walking through this pine grove for a long time now. These places are way longer than they look in the pictures. Just pine trees and pine trees and more pine trees that don't add up to anything. No point walking if the trees aren't going to develop. Better stay put and try to outstare a tree, see who laughs first.

So I made this joke about how The Miner is the exact opposite of The Alchemist . As Aubrey pointed out, it's not; whatever dimension you measure on, fact of the matter is that
Sep 23, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan, fiction
When I first saw the book covers, I had no idea what they represented till I read the Kafka-like story inside narrated in the first person on a young man’s incredibly surrealist trial as a miner from Tokyo. They simply suggest being inside a black hole leading toward a glimmering light in front, that is, something like the light at the end of a tunnel that gives us hope and survival. Having enjoyed reading his “Sanshiro” (Penguin Books, 2009), “Kusamakura” (Penguin Books, 2008), “Botchan” ...more
Issues with the translation (see: any time "willy-nilly/tit for tat is used.)

"Now it seems ridiculous, but there are times in life when we come to feel that the only comfort left us is to move ahead towards death. Of course, the death we're aiming for probably has to be pretty far away for us to feel this."

"Just as illnesses have an incubation period, there is an incubation period for our thoughts and feelings. Although we posses these thoughts and are controlled by these feelings during
Nov 10, 2017 rated it liked it
An odd duck as far as Natsume's novels go. Very experimental in its presentation, and reads more like a stream of consciousness narrative than the comedies which exemplified his earlier work, or the outright tragedies of the later novels.

As an experimental novel that marked a sort of turning point for Natsume, it isn't exactly fun to read. The novel consists of a series of overwrought musings by a retrospective narrator. Although the novel only charts the course of several days, a solitary
Wendy Ballard
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
I'm not sure what the point is of this book except that we remember our past differently as we age.

It was a difficult read for me. There isn't a plot to hang on to. The characters are eclectic, but the reader is told, told, told - not much showing. Dense.
Mar 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is hard to believe that this novel was written more than a century ago. Though its roots are obviously deeply embedded in the era of imperialism, class structure and culture with which the author was familiar, it is, at the same time, striking in its modernity.

The young protagonist has fled his home, and pampered existence, in disgrace following romantic indiscretions. Searching for a place where he can end his life in isolation, his path crosses with that of a labour procurer for a mining
Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)
I received a copy of The Miner by Netsume Soseki from its publishers, Gallic Books, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review. This is my fourth book towards Sophie And Suze's NetGalley Challenge and I am also counting The Miner as my 1900s read for the Goodreads / Bookcrossing Decade Challenge as it was first published in 1908. In my ignorance of classic Japanese literature I didn't realise that Soseki is one of their lauded authors although apparently The Miner, an experimental work, is ...more
Jan 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Although the narrator keeps insisting that his experiences do not amount to a novel, this IS a novel of sorts, with a some memorable, grotesque characters. The part I enjoyed most was the account of the nightmarish journey on foot and train to the mine. There are many deliberate gaps--the precise reasons for the nineteen-year-old narrator running away from home, for example--while on the other hand, we have rather too much self-reflective agonizing. I don't believe in getting angry with ...more
Jan 28, 2009 rated it liked it
"Apparently, I was willing to do anything within reason but still wanted to leave myself an escape, which is probably why I said I was planning to take it. (I know it's a little strange for me to be writing about myself in this tentative way, as though I were someone not myself, but humans are such inconsistent beings that we can't say anything for certain about them — even when they're us. And when it comes to past events, it's even worse: there's no distinguishing between ourselves and other ...more
Zoe Tuck
What an odd book. It reminds me of Dostoyesvky's Notes from Underground and Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth. A novel of consciousness with a bratty bourgeois youth for a narrator takes place in landscapes that would seem allegorical but aren't. What Soseki depicts are the movements of an egocentric character for whom the external landscapes are a kind of mirror of his internal state. However, the setting and the other characters function independently enough so that the reader not ...more
“A person’s resilience can really be measured by the power to forget” - S.Kierkegaard (Either/Or)

The Miner strikes me as a quintessentially (proto-)existentialist novel. Many of the philosophy’s signature themes are there: Man’s erring in a foreign, nonsensical universe; the inscrutability of freedom and choice; the fluidity of human subjectivity; the experience of dread and Angst. What I retain from a reading that I concluded a few months ago is an odd, intuitive feeling of empathy with this
Aug 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Fleeing Tokyo and a failed relationship, a young man has thoughts of suicide. Then he meets a mysterious stranger who asks him if he wants a job. For want of anything better to do he says yes, and ends up, after a long journey, going down a copper mine. An environment he is patently unsuited for so comes up again....And that's about it as far as plot goes. The novel is rather a long meditation, all in the young man’s mind, about identity and destiny and character. Strangely compelling, it has a ...more
Romel Anthony
Oct 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Detractors would say that the whole book is pointless, but maybe that's the point... A very deconstructivist read. It was the first book I read that really showed me what was possible with the novel form.
Stephanie Pullen
Aug 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book was so remarkable that I wrote a song about it.
Oct 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Can't tell if I'm making headway with only trees around. No point walking if the trees aren't going to *do* something - develop. Better to stay put and try to outstare a tree, see who laughs first.'

Originally written in 1908, 'The Miner' is a classic of Japanese literature that has received a mixed reception. In many ways it is an experimental novel, a companion to Kafka, a precursor to Camus or Beckett. Our unnamed narrator is a nineteen-year old man, having walked out of the family home in
Patrick McCoy
Natsume Soeseki's experimental novel, The Miner (1908), is something of a outlier in the output of the great Japanese novelist. It is not traditionally seen as one of his best works by critics and is often only found in the complete works of Soseki. However, it is considered by noted contemporary writer Haruki Murakami to be one of his favorite Soseki novels and he provides the introduction. Murakami's introduction gives background information such as the history of the real-life model Ashio ...more
Apr 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is definitely one of those novels that are more "interesting" than "entertaining". I usually tend to gravitate towards the latter anyway (if I want straight up entertainment, I play video games), so that isn't necessarily a huge contra to me.

Still, the relentless stream of conciousness found in this book can get a bit stale after the first third of the narrative. The further you read, the less dialogue and actual character action or interaction you will find... and this is where the book
Federico Castillo
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
It may be a cliche to say it bu reading an old book is a way to have a, one way, conversation with someone from a different time. That statement is particularly strong in The Miner. This book is about nothing in particular. Even if it describes certain specific of how japanese society was or how rough the mine was, and even if it's a classist statement against the low class, to me that's all white noise.

This book is the voice of one boy just talking his mind. Imagine sitting down with someone
Jessie Scott
A narrative consisting of the introspective thoughts of a nineteen-year-old boy as he accidentally becomes a miner after running away from home. I would never have guessed this was written 110 years ago as the ideas that are explored feel so modern, and I was able to identify in an abstract way with a lot of what was being described, in particular when the protagonist is climbing the ladder out of the mine in absolute terror - this reminded me of year 7 school camp when I had to climb a high ...more
Feb 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The strange journey of a 19 year old running away from home and finding his way to a giant, horrifying copper mine in the mountains. No chapters, not much in the way of story, it's mostly just the kid's ever-swirling thoughts. Nothing about it is satisfying in the way of a typical novel, which Soseki makes sure to note here and there. It's very much NOT a novel, as far as he's concerned, it's a kind of experiment with a character who doesn't change, who doesn't really do anything but go with the ...more
Apr 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this for a dinner book discussion, in accordance with my resolution to read more Japanese authors (I already love Murakami), and my boys have me watching and enjoying anime. I wa surprised how much I enjoyed this early twentieth century novel of a young mans suicide quest, which takes him through the countryside outside of Tokyo, and deep within a dark and sinister mine, and deep within his angst ridden soul. Surprisingly existentialist, to such a degree that I can’t help but suspect ...more
Thomas Coombes
I was disappointed with a reissue and new translation of 1908 ‘tale’ The Miner by Natsume Soseki, who proudly insists it is not a novel. I respect any writer who tries, like George Orwell in The Road to Wigan Pier, to bring to light the dreadful conditions down in the mine, but this book pulls its punches.

The excellent edition from Aardvark Bureau provides a great introduction and post-script, explaining that the story was written just after a major uprising by abused miners in a notorious
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Natsume Sōseki (夏目 漱石, February 9, 1867 – December 9, 1916), born Natsume Kinnosuke (夏目 金之助), was a Japanese novelist. 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, kanshi, and fairy tales. From 1984 until 2004, his portrait appeared on the front of the Japanese 1000 yen ...more
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“Novelists congratulate themselves on their creation of this kind of “character” or that kind of “character,” and readers pretend to talk knowingly about “character,” but all it amounts to is that the writers are enjoying themselves writing lies and the readers are enjoying themselves reading lies. In fact, there is no such thing as character, something fixed and final. The real thing is something that novelists don’t know how to write about. Or, if they tried, the end result would never be a novel. Real people are strangely difficult to make sense out of. Even a god would have his hands full trying.” 7 likes
“What is it they say? Meet the enemy and swallow him. If you can’t swallow, be swallowed. If you can’t do either, make a clean break and keep an eye on the enemy with an attitude of independence and self-respect.” 1 likes
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