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The Three-Cornered World

3.9  ·  Rating details ·  1,477 Ratings  ·  174 Reviews
"An artist abandons city life to wander into the mountains to meditate, but when he decides to stay at a near-deserted inn he soon finds himself drawn to the daughter of the innkeeper. This strange and beautiful woman is rumoured to have abandoned her husband and fallen in love with a priest at a nearby temple. The artist becomes entranced by her tragic aura. She reminds h ...more
Paperback, 190 pages
Published 2011 by Peter Owen Publishers (first published 1906)
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Community Reviews

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Feb 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ns, にほん

“And when its difficulties intensify, you find yourself longing to leave that world and dwell in some easier one- and then, when you understand at last the difficulties will dog you wherever you may live, this is when poetry and art are born...”

For the very first time on a murky morning, I saw a set of colours come alive on the wall of my living room. The orderly row of comatose crayons suddenly sprang like a newborn foal twirling on the pasty canvass. Amid the angry voices of my parents I giggl
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rowena by: Praj
Shelves: japanese-lit
“Yes, a poem, a painting, can draw the story of troubles from a troubled world and lay in its place a blessed realm before our grateful eyes.”- Natsume Soseki, Kusamakura

Natsume Soseki might soon be a new favourite of mine. This is a book I read after reading Praj's wonderful review.

Kusamakura tells the story of an unnamed artist looking for artistic inspiration while walking through the Japanese mountains, and his encounters at the on-sen (Japanese hotspring) where he encounters the beautiful N
Stephen P
Dec 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Stephen by: Ben Winch
Shelves: favorites
A thirst for the purity of an openness that eschews all restrictions of internal will or external codes. The rare locale of an artist. A place of imagination and dreaming existing apart from the vulgarity of movement-the world. Seeking it removes any chance of finding it. The locale is something which arrives. A splendor of reverie for those patient enough to wait. A book that replenishes the inspiration of awaiting.

We travel with the narrator, a 30 year old Japanese artist. His steps takes him
Michael Finocchiaro
This is a beautiful book that recounts a physical climb up a mountain which is also a spiritual climb. As always, Soseki's prose is sparse but highly evocative. This is one of the beautiful works he wrote before becoming quite depressed and despondent with Kokomo and The Gate. A must read for relaxation and putting yourself in a zen-like spiritual mood.
Apr 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: thesaurus rex
Recommended to Mariel by: velocityraptor
"Clearly I am thinking about nothing. I am most certainly looking at nothing. Since nothing is present to my consciousness to beguile me with its color and movement, I have not become one with anything. Yet I am in motion: motion neither within the world nor outside it- simply motion. Neither motion as flower, nor as bird, nor motion in relation to another human, just ecstatic emotion."
To me, that is the "nonemotion" from Kusamakura of life as nature as art as life as poetry. In my own hazed de
Michael Finocchiaro
This is a beautiful book which takes place a metaphorical and physical mountain climb. I would consider it Soseki's more interior-facing work and one of incredible zen-like wisdom and imagery. Again, do not expect laughing geisha and dancing no actors but rather the mature musings of a Japanese master writer grappling with middle age at 39.
Here is an example of his irony-laden highly reflective pose chosen at random:

I eased my law-abiding buttocks down on the cushioning grass. One could remain
A wandering look at the creation of poetry. Slow and meditative.

This short little book treats life with a sort of nostalgia for something that was, or might not ever have been. It relays the process of creating a poem, of finding inspiration, of rebirth and renewal and of wandering the countryside to escape the neuroticism and 'fart-smellers' of the big city.

As you might have guessed from the last remark, this does not mean that Sōseki's tale is wholly humorless and austere. On the contrary. Ou
Ben Winch
Dec 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japanese, asian, 5-stars
Beautiful. Joyous. Sharp, clear, precise. Soseki’s best, I think, for its freedom, for its glow. True, from here on near everything he wrote had the magic, but like Kafka’s his characters were hemmed in, in darkness. Here, from when the unnamed “I” appears on a mountain path until he disappears at a train station as the world calls from down the tracks, all is glittering. I couldn’t read this when I was down; it demanded I engage with it, bring heart to it, enjoy it. I know not everyone (few peo ...more
Eddie Watkins
Jun 10, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japanese-fiction
Pure simple enchantment, with a healthy helping of farts. Soseki set out to write a “haiku-novel” and Kusamakura does bear many resemblances to Basho’s haiku travel book, The Narrow Road to the Deep North; but it is less a novel than a treatise on “aesthetic living”, which in the context of this book is akin to a path to enlightenment. So it is filled with asides, with brief discourses on how to live “non-emotionally”, free from petty social entanglements, so to clear the way for reaching the “h ...more
Oct 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, japan


AS FOR THE FOLLOWING 6 WELL-WISHERS: Sonja, Ben, Aubrey, *Bar*, Garima, and Aziz, please move your 'Like' by reclicking your 'Like' on this review (for 'Unlike') then click 'Like' on this one for the right book review: thanks for your kind help. However, I have
Emilio Berra
Aug 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: letto
"... nel paese delle candide nuvole"
La trama del romanzo non è di per sé molto rilevante : si tratta del percorso di un viandante, durante il quale incontra luoghi e persone, storie suggestive, ma soprattutto l'ambiente naturale nelle sue varie forme e meraviglie. La voce narrante è quella di un artista, poeta e pittore, capace di posare lo sguardo sulla bellezza ovunque sia.
Nel libro, oltre a questo tema e profondamente legato a esso, emerge la piena e serena accettazione della caducità delle
Jan 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, japan
Formerly translated in an edition entitled "The Three-Cornered World" by Alan Turney, this is a new translation by Meredith McKinney. Reading this compact novel by Natsume Soseki was similar to reading a haiku-like one that requires literary interpretations according to, I think, one's interests, backgrounds and appreciation. The more we read it farther from Chapter 1 onwards, we'd gradually realize why Soseki has rightly been acclaimed as " the father of modern Japanese literature" and in his o ...more
Jun 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Note on the Translation
Suggestions for Further Reading


Mar 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was really lovely and refreshing to read.
From the start I was captivated by the nice sense of peace
and beauty.
The narrator is so interesting as he describes what it means to
be a true artist but he is also very funny at times.
Made me think a lot about when I look at a piece of art and
really like it but can't explain why that this is ok as the artist
just wants you to feel the emotion he is trying to portrait.
Also makes you realise that just by appreciating nature and beauty
you are an art
Hà Nguyệt  Linh
Jul 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-favourites
Hồi bạn tặng cuốn này đã bảo: mi thích vẽ với tính mi rứa chắc sẽ thích cuốn này. Mình nhìn bản với vẻ mặt: ta ứ tin đâu nhá, định lừa ta với mấy cuốn văn học Nhật sầu thảm rồi nhìn ta tự sát chứ gì. Mà lật ra trang đầu tiên đã phủ phục quy hàng với nó ngay:

"Theo lí trí thì gặp trở ngại. Theo tình cảm thì bị cuốn theo. Theo chí hướng riêng thì bế tắc. Nhìn theo kiểu nào thì thế giới con người cũng là một nơi khó sống.
Khi cảm thấy khó sống quá thì người ta thích tìm đến nơi nào dễ chịu. Và khi nh
If Kokoro is a study of loneliness, this is a study of beauty - that's what I thought after the first pages and it's still appropriate after I read the end.

The style is extremely poetical. Sōseki even goes as far as to focus on description of landscape, clothing and objects instead of plot. Nevertheless, there is a plot. I sometimes found it hard to wait for it to continue as the protagonist wanders through untouched nature far from civilization and watches everything from the viewpoint of a pai
Jul 29, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
Shelves: overrated, novels
I am an artist
So listen to me.
I am an artist
So don't you dare
Count my farts.
I dread getting in the bus in the morning. It's exhausting at that hour when I'm still half occupying the world of dreams and I sit down there and reality materializes in front of me and slaps me rudely on the face to wake me up and force me to join it. And it is there in the bus that I see people forcing themselves to go do their dehumanizing jobs. It is there that I can feel the alienation emanating from them. I can see it in their faces that are resembling more and more the cogs they were rec ...more
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Three-Cornered World

By Natsume Soseki (1867-1916)

This short novel, written in the first person, is the story of an artist (maybe the author himself) who is tired of the stress of city life in Tokyo.
He decides to travel to a mountain region to resource himself in nature and a quiet. He only takes his color box for painting and a notepad for writing poems.
He stays at an ancient and more or less deserted hot spring thermal establishment and sets out on day trips in the surrounding country for
Nek0 Neha (BiblioNyan)
Every so often, I find myself holding a book that I absolutely love yet despise with such intense vehemence. After a long period of years, I have once again found such a novel—Kusamakura written by Natsume Soseki.

This novel is everything that I love about intellectual writing. The imagery and poise of the story truly touch base with the artist within me. However, the pretentious arrogance of the unnamed protagonist as well as his habitual inclination to spew about every minute detail drives me
Van Nguyen
Feb 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Mình đã bị thu hút từ cái bìa cho đến lời tựa của Nhật Chiêu, người mà mình ngưỡng mộ. Sau đó, giở ngẫu nhiên trang nào cũng đọc được phần mình thấy ổn nên mua. Mình đã hi vọng là mình sẽ thích nó. Lần đầu mình đọc nó là tháng 7 năm ngoái.

Lần 1: đọc cực kỳ mệt và thấy khó chịu trước sự soi mói của tay họa sĩ bằng tuổi. Anh ta so sánh, chê bai, nghĩ ngợi, không vẽ gì ra hồn. Bất cứ cái gì cũng đem ra để đối chiếu giữa phương Đông và phương Tây. Thực sự mình đã nghĩ họa sĩ này biết đâu có vấn đề g
Susan Budd
Jun 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Exquisite prose. Natsume Soseki described this book as “a haiku-like novel, that lives through beauty.” That’s exactly what it is. Every sentence is a delight. This translation is by Meredith McKinney. I’ve compared it with the translation by Alan Turney titled The Three-Cornered World and McKinney’s translation is much more poetic and representative of the Japanese aesthetic.
Nhu Khue
Mình cũng chả biết nên thích hay nên ghét cuốn sách này. Bởi vì trước khi đem nó về nhà, mình đã đọc thử vài đoạn bất kì trong sách mấy lần và cảm thấy vẫn muốn mua. Cơ mà có vẻ mình đã bị mấy cái mỹ từ trông có vẻ nghệ thuật “lừa tình”, vì từ trước đến giờ mình đều thích các tác phẩm Nhật Bản, vì cách viết rất chậm rãi và có vẻ cảm thông. Nhưng Gối đầu lên cỏ thì khác, ngoại trừ một vài đoạn miêu tả và chương một tác giả nói về nghệ thuật trong đời sống ra, các phần còn lại mình có cảm giác tác ...more
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Another fine book by one of my favorite authors. This is a hard one to rate because it can't be judged as a normal event sequence book but rather taken from an artistic point. I would like to re-read this just because there was so much to digest. Being an artist, I could step into what the author was conveying and I found myself lost in the prose or the offered haiku. Don't expect to understand this book on the first reading, I certainly didn't.
Alexander Páez
Mar 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nihon, 2015
La traducción es excelente. Fluida y a la vez refleja a la perfección la sensibilidad de Sôseki. Un libro complicado de recomendar pero que me ha llegado en el momento correcto. Sôseki sigue afianzado en la posición de mis escritores preferidos.

Además Chidori Books pasa a ser una editorial MUY a tener en cuenta.
Mar 29, 2008 rated it liked it
The title comes from a passage that explains what I find simultaneously attractive about making art and repulsively air-headed. Its beautiful but removed, in a way it denies any reality outside of aesthetics- and that necessarily makes one a cripple:

"Even something frightening may appear poetic if you stand back and regard it simply as a shape, and the eerie may make an excellent picture if you think of it as something which is completely independent of yourself. Exactly the same is true with di
Aug 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japan
I can't tell if this is written as nothing more than a meandering reflection on nature, art, and human emotion, or a satire about people who take these things too seriously and completely miss the point.

the narrator never paints anything - which he excuses because of the fundamentally artistic quality of his character, but, are we really supposed to take his inner narrative at face value? even though he keeps saying that everyone reminds him of figures in a painting, he's hardly cool, objective
the gift
this is not a novel. this is not an essay. this is somewhere in between, and possibly requires certain knowledge of history and society and aesthetics, all from Japan 1906. depending on what your ideas are, about art, about literature, about how these are changing through contacts with Europeans, this can be frustrating, or boring, when the author follows tangents, describes moments but not plot, moments of other encounters with nature or emblematic others, priest, barber, innkeeper, young woman ...more
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Born Natsume Kinnosuke in Edo (present day Tokyo).
More about Sōseki Natsume...
“Approach everything rationally, and you become harsh. Pole along in the stream of emotions, and you will be swept away by the current. Give free rein to your desires, and you become uncomfortably confined. It is not a very agreeable place to live, this world of ours.” 26 likes
“Tea is, in fact, a marvelous drink. To those who spurn it on the grounds of insomnia, I say that it’s better to be deprived of sleep than of tea.” 10 likes
More quotes…