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The Gate

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  1,609 ratings  ·  194 reviews
One of the central masterpieces of 20th-century Japanese literature, The Gate describes the everyday world of the humble clerk Sosuke and his wife Oyone, living in quiet obscurity in a house at the bottom of a cliff. Seemingly cursed with the inability to have children, the couple find themselves having to take responsibility for Sosuke's younger brother Koroku. Oyone's he ...more
Paperback, 213 pages
Published December 1st 2005 by Peter Owen Publishers (first published 1910)
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Raymond Crane No, this is not a work of magic realism. It is a very real and naturalistic story. Thanks
Raymond Crane Sorry, I cannot answer this. I got the impression that Yasui and Oyone were not married, merely co-habiting, and this may have been taboo at that time…moreSorry, I cannot answer this. I got the impression that Yasui and Oyone were not married, merely co-habiting, and this may have been taboo at that time in Japanese culture, where gender roles were more strict than in other places at that time and compared to this time, 2021.(less)

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Average rating 3.95  · 
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Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, japanese
"The only absolute need to be fulfilled for each of them was the need for each other; this was not only a necessary but also a sufficient condition for life." Ever since I started living in Manhattan, I often think to myself how great it would be if I could carve out a small place on earth and live quietly, humbly, and independently with the one I love. The couple in this novel is in some way emblematic of such an ideal which makes this story very relatable and soul-gripping for me. Soseki revea ...more
E. G.
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Introduction: Sōseki and the Art of Nothing Happening, by Pico Iyer

--The Gate

Eddie Watkins
Feb 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japanese-fiction
I know of no other novel that ends with its main character so meaningfully trimming his fingernails.

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
Eddie Watkins
Jul 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japanese-fiction
No one makes dullness stimulating like the Japanese. As if the ultimate in refinement is to find transcendent significance in the utterly blank. Soseki is the melancholy master of this strain of Japanese aesthetic (with Murakami proving more and more to be (perhaps?) unintentionally right on his heels (with progressively less emphasis on "stimulating", i.e. simply dull)). But back to Soseki. This book in particular is so loose and understated as to be either metaphysically profound or thoroughly ...more
Ben Winch
Apr 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-stars, japanese, asian
Soseki. I hardly know where to start. I've been saving this review for weeks now, for a quiet moment, for inspiration to strike, to gather the strength necessary to try and grasp just what's so good about this book, about all his books (or the later ones at least – after and including Kusumakura), and I feel no closer to a summation. Is this in fact the mark of the truly great author – s/he who haunts you but without explanation? There's so many things I love about Soseki, above all the sense th ...more
Apr 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The vicissitudes. I want to re-read before commenting. A dazzling novel though.
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, 2018, japan, ebook, nyrb

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
Inderjit Sanghera
Aug 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
The ambience which Soseki creates in 'The Gate' reflects the psychological state which the two lead characters, Sosuke and Oyone find themselves in. The gentle undulations of their interactions and and the leisurely, quotidian way in which Soseki describes their uneventful lives masks a secret for which they have not only been ostracised by their families, but for which both appear to be doing penance throughout the novel; whether it be the loss of Sosuke's sense of exuberance as he settles for ...more
For 176 pages this book moved along at its minimalist pace, the protagonist and his wife making do in a quotidian existence. Add a talking cat, some explicit sex and a few Western pop culture references, you get Murakami; add a laugh-track, you get Seinfeld.

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.
May 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: you couldn't keep the great unknown from making you mad
Recommended to Mariel by: baby's sixth Soseki
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
Jun 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mary by: Josh
Shelves: fiction, japan, 2015, nyrb
He was someone destined neither to pass through the gate nor to be satisfied with never having passed through it. He was one of those unfortunate souls fated to stand in the gate's shadow, frozen in his tracks, until the day was done. ...more
Jan 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, japan
In December 2012, I found reading Natsume Soseki's The Gate (NYRB 2013) translated by William F. Sibley fairly enjoyable because I knew there was still another translation from his biography. ( Till around the middle of last December I bought this Mon (Tuttle 1985) translated by Francis Mathy. In fact, they come from the same Japanese text, somewhere informs me the Japanese word mon means gate. So I decided to read it again, from another translator, to se ...more
J.M. Hushour
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Soseki is the master of the slow-burn literary pay-off, more so than his immediate descendant Kawabata. People apparently like to call this novel a novel about absolutely nothing or doing nothing or various shades of nothingness, which makes no sense when you think about it.
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
Dec 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Out of all Soseki’s works I’ve read so far, Sosuke and Oyone seem like his happiest main characters. As an elderly couple, they lead a calm yet uneventful life, stoically enduring all their hardship. Besides fulfilling their basic existential needs, they require nothing else but each other in order to continue living.

“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
May 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: big-red-circle
“We have the right to look forward to better times.”

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".
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asian-lit, fiction
This is a book which, at first, did nothing for me. It seemed to be an accretion of details of the life of a childless lower middle class couple circa 1909. Then, just as I was wondering whether I should abandon he book, Natsume Sōseki opened abysses where before there had been merely picturesque mud puddles.

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
Nostalgia, mostly. A more thorough review will have to wait until I get my hands on a Japanese copy.
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
My taste for Japanese literature grows and grows. While the first two of Soseki's novels (Botchan and I am a Cat)that I found left me unimpressed, this may be because I read them in a Spanish translation...and I know the poor quality of many Spanish translations of English novels, so I gave this one a try when I found it in English. I am so glad I did.

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
Miriam Cihodariu
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japan
If 'And Then' is hailed by Soseki experts (and more general Japanese literature experts) to be the perfect portrayal of tragic love in the author's view, The Gate is the author's portrayal of happy, fulfilled and domestic love.

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
Zen-like beauty. At the start, exquisite sadness and pain. Characters struggle for peace of mind, trying to escape the jaded feelings they have been harboring for so long. The last part of the book is more ruminative, more contemplative, and (I'd like to believe) redemptive. In the end a sense of life affirmation, of renewal, regeneration. If you're into Buddhism, meditation, asceticism, finding the path, and other New Age blahs.

Mon is, for me, better than Kokoro. I have a feeling that every boo
Feb 20, 2017 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
DNF by page 107

I just got bored
Dec 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nyrb-classics, 1910
It took me years and several viewings before I finally started to love the films of Yasujiro Ozu, one of the greatest directors ever. Coming from the perspective of someone raised on fast-paced action sequences, these films seemed unbearably slow. Nothing happened; indeed, the characters were actively avoiding activity. It seemed Ozu simply put the camera on a tripod and left while his actors had tea. Of course, there was something there, because I kept trying, and not just because people kept s ...more
The Gate is the last novel of Soseki’s trilogy which started with Sanshiro: A Novel and continued with And Then. The Gate is practically a sequel to And Then, but with different characters.

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
Tamar Nagel
Dec 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japanese

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

Jul 17, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Previously, I wrote about the first half of The Gate (1910), where I was introduced to Sōsuke and his wife Oyone. These two protagonists live a mundane, secluded life, where making ends meet is often the subject of conversation. Sōsuke’s brother Koroku introduces a mild conflict as he attempts to find ways to continue his education. Still, there is little that happens in this novel, even in the second half. Instead, the author challenges the reader to look more deeply into the characters, their ...more
Ciahnan Darrell
Jan 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japanese-fiction
Reading Japanese literature unfailingly makes me wish I had enough Japanese to recognize the valences that get lost in translation. A sentence in Japanese is like a busy intersection in a city, raising motion, emotions, possibilities, sounds, and various modalities of travel that intermingle and intersect, creating a semantic density that is extremely difficult to reproduce in English.

Natsume's The Gate is arguably one of the most important Japanese texts written in the twentieth century, a psy
Mar 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-star
Sosuke and Oyone are a middle-aged couple who live a quiet and isolated life. They have no children and barely manage on Sosuke's meager salary. Their days seem uneventful and their relationship routine, but you learn over the course of the book that when they were young they fell in love and sacrificed everything to be together. In fact, Sosuke took Oyone from his best friend and they have suffered as social outcasts ever since. They feel that their circumstances, especially their childlessness ...more
Elizabeth Suggs
Jul 06, 2021 rated it liked it
The Gate was moderately enjoyable, and the writing is good. This book is all about subtlety. While very slow, with many seemingly unnecessary things happening, it’s important to see what isn’t happening or what hadn’t transpired. From this angle, we can see a whole new light and how and why certain characters are the way they are.

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
Oct 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nyrb-classic
Very good introduction, that really adds to understanding the story, and doesn't ruin it :-)

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.
Diane S ☔
Nov 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 Was very grateful for the introduction as it explained some of the Japanese culture and how this writer has as much meaning in what is not said as in what is said. Very different read for me, but I did like it. The writing is beautiful and the meaning of this story is universal. After being married for over 19 yrs. both partners are set in a routine and find it hard to deviate from it. Part of this is cultural and part is just the characters. They wonder if this is what the rest of their lif ...more
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Natsume Sōseki (夏目 漱石), 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 note. In Japan, he is often considered t ...more

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“Under the sun the couple presented smiles to the world. Under the moon, they were lost in thought: and so they had quietly passed the years.” 18 likes
“He could only marvel, then, at how those first, colorless murmurings had led to a future for the both of them dyed with the brightest of reds.” 4 likes
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