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The Gate

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3.94  ·  Rating details ·  1,206 ratings  ·  139 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 ...more
Paperback, 213 pages
Published December 1st 2005 by Peter Owen Publishers (first published 1910)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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 ·  1,206 ratings  ·  139 reviews


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Edward
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

Notes
Elie F
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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 ...more
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
...more
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: japanese, asian, 5-stars
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 ...more
Agnieszka
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, nyrb, japan, 2018, reviewed

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.
...more
Tony
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.
...more
Mariel
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
...more
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
Mary
Jun 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mary by: Josh
Shelves: japan, 2015, fiction, 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.
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
...more
David
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".
Dejan
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
...more
Yuki
Nostalgia, mostly. A more thorough review will have to wait until I get my hands on a Japanese copy.
Jim
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
...more
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
...more
Rise
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
...more
R K
Feb 20, 2017 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
DNF by page 107

I just got bored
Smiley
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. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natsume...) 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 word mon means gate. So I decided to read it again, from another translator, to see if I ...more
Trevor
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 ...more
Shannon
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
...more
Louise
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.
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
...more
Darren
Jan 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world
Extraordinary exploration of the meaning of life (at least I think that's what it was about!) Family, career, "adventurer" or religion - you choose! or rather those are the options considered by the protagonist Sosuke along with his wife Oyone in their deeply loving but relatively uneventful days. A flawless 5 stars as a philosophical work, but more admirable than loveable, so 4.5 rounding down to 4.
JacquiWine
Nov 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 Stars

There is something very compelling about Natsume Söseki’s The Gate, the sort of quiet, contemplative novel I find myself increasingly drawn to these days. At first sight, it may seem a relatively uneventful tale of an ordinary Japanese couple trying to get by from one day to the next. Nevertheless, in reality, everything is happening here; we just have to tune in to the author’s style in order to see it.

First published in Japan in 1910, The Gate revolves around the lives of Sösuke, a
...more
Smiley
Dec 07, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, japan
I found reading "The Gate" by Natsume Soseki interesting and consoling by means of his subtle addition of a few words of Japanese Buddhist wisdom and meditation since, I think, its readers would find his narratives and dialogues captivatingly enjoyable. From its inner page, we’re told this is the third novel in his First Trilogy; the first one being “Sanshiro,” and the second one “And Then,” which I haven’t yet read, therefore, in the meantime I can’t assess its theme relatedness from Titles 1, ...more
Colleen
Oct 24, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Lost in translation. I have read some challenging books in my time but I think this one takes the cake. I found it lacking in just about every area. The book started out very slow and I had high hopes that it would get better quickly because of the size of the book. Unfortunately it never got there for me. I want to attribute it to the fact that it is set in another country very far from here (America) and because the culture gap is so vast, I just couldn’t understand where the author wanted ...more
Karen Kao
Jul 16, 2017 rated it liked it
To read The Gate by Natsume Soseki is to enter a state of meditation. Or, at the very least, to harbor the desire to do so. Sadly, I feel like I should have enjoyed this novel more than I actually did.

To be fair, Pico Iyer's introduction to my New York Review of Books edition contains a warning to the wise:

"Japanese literature is often about nothing happening, because Japanese life is, too."

This novel will not pass muster by today's standards of storyboarding. Published in 1910, this novel
...more
Margaret
The Gate is the type of book that kept my interest engaged. The emotional and spiritual vacuum present in the story endeared me to Sosuke, the main character. The undulating angst present maintained a certain amount of tension throughout the book. There are nuances present in the storyline that would easily slip right past you if you weren't paying attention. I definitely would want to own my own copy and read it again and again. I was pleasantly surprised by the spiritual depth in the latter ...more
Hannah
Mar 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-fiction
Early twentieth-century Japan comes to life in The Gate, a quiet yet powerful novel by Natsume Soseki. A middle-aged clerk, Sosuke, and his wife, Oyone, lead a modest, even humdrum sort of existence. Yet underneath this facade, bitterness and resignation reign. Disappointed by lack of financial success and progeny, the two cling to each other and manage to lead a life of dignity despite poverty and isolation. However, strong emotions lay underneath the calm surface, which create tension that ...more
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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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“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.” 16 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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