Gazing through the glass shoji at the sparkling sunlight, Oyone's face brightened. "What a sight for sore eyes. Spring at last!"
Sosuke had stepped out on the veranda and was trimming his fingernails, which had grown quite long.
"True, but then it will be winter again before you know it," he said, head lowered, as he snipped away with the scissors.
Going into my second reading of this novel I knew my ...more
The Gate reminds me in a way other Japanese novels I had read before. I’m not an expert of literature from that region but I value highly that kind of emotion and feelings it elicites in the reader. Almost two- thirds of the narrative here is only an evocation of small every day deeds of two main protagonists, Sosuke and Oyone. Seemingly nothing happens. Sosuke wakes up, goes to his office, walks through six days of a week in kind of dreamy daze thinking of Sunday and how he would spend it. Slow ...more
Turn the page, and the protagonist is off on a Zen vacation. He is given a koan to think on: What was his original face before his parents were born?
Taking this gate literally assures a meditative failure. Not that I'm any kind of Zen expert. ...more
Realizing that both this Sunday and the fine weather that had accompanied it had drawn to a close, a certain mood came over him: a sense that such things did not last for long, and that this was a great pity.
Do you ever feel like you're a better person alone?
When Sosuke bows out of meetings not avoided this time it is said about him that he looks much older than his years. The sad sack flat line of a life line read by cold palm bows. On your knees, look up and grateful. It must get you down to ...more
It is however, more about the spaces between what isn't happening than what you're actually seeing on the page and that is part of his genius. Pico Iyer's introduction (read this afterwards! Spoilers, goddamn you introduction ...more
“Every day the couple rose at an hour when the dew still glistened and witnessed a beautiful sun shining above the eaves. After nightfall they would sit together, a lamp with a base ...more
I enjoyed this. Yet I wasn't convinced that the backstories couldn't have been handled with a little more sophistication. Perhaps less would have been more? It felt a bit "Oh ... this odd couple are wistfully listening to the sounds of neighbourhood children ... poor things, they don't have any of their own, I wonder if ... But here's Natsume with ten pages about the deaths of every child they've ever conceived". ...more
Not until the end of the book does one learn the meaning of the title, The Gate, as the main character, Sosuke goes to a Zen Buddhist temple for ten days to calm his jangled nerves:
It was a...more
The main character and his wife first seem like an old married couple of many decades' standing. Further into the text, however, we learn that the ...more
At the center of the narrative in which nothing happens, there is this married couple giving each other subtle comfort while surrounded by the strains and pressures of society and life. It's not exactly a happy existence but a silent and resigned one (but still the best ca ...more
Mon is, for me, better than Kokoro. I have a feeling that every boo ...more
Sosuke, the hero of this novel, is a hard-working office clerk in Tokyo who has increasingly become melancholy over his lot in life. He is married to Oyone, and they have no children. Living in their house is also a maid, Kiyo, and later on Sosuke’s younger brother Koroku comes to live with them. Soseki’s nov ...more
The narration shifts from a bleak picture of depressed and depressing characters who appear to be living as sleepwalkers — a couple that resists any and all change, deign open communication and emotional forthrightness, lack all ambition to improve the things they are unhappy about — to a slow dawning realization that their current apathetic ‘life’-state is due to a past which the couple desperately wish to keep buried, even from the reader, a past of love and action and passion that had the dir...more
Natsume's The Gate is arguably one of the most important Japanese texts written in the twentieth century, a psy ...more
All in all, I appreciate it for what it is, but I won’t be reading it again.
Here are my favorite quotes:
“The cool, silvery river of the Milky Way hung suspended high ...more
This is my first book by Natsume, and while I can see he is a talented writer, the novel is a somewhat unpleasant read - the first part of the book has a very claustrophobic feel, and the difference in culture/character from my present day "Scandinavian individualist, say and do what I! want" is incredibly strong. ...more