The World's Literature: Colombia discussion

Botchan
This topic is about Botchan
77 views

Comments Showing 1-44 of 44 (44 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 2: by Motheaten (last edited Mar 12, 2012 09:30AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Motheaten | 79 comments I read the book last year. The summary below is based on Yu's (1969) book "Natsume Soseki":

The story “Botchan” revolves around the period when the Edo-born narrator does a brief stint as a teacher in a local high school, which is filled with colourful, but petty characters. The narrator clashes with students, colleagues, and superiors alike, coming out a winning loser at the climax.

“Botchan” is told in a first person narrative and this should not be confused with Soseki’s real life experience as a high school teacher in Matsuyama. The story is not, in any way, autobiographical besides the similar sentiment, expressed through the narrator, by Soseki “who, on the way home from London, resolved to fight against the world rather than retreat from it.”

In Soseki’s world, there is often a clear division between good and bad. “Characters remain as distinct social types, suggested by their nicknames: Old Badger, the school principal who is experienced in the way of the world; Red Shirt, head teacher who has an effeminate, oily personality and who delights in maneuvering the situation to his advantage; Nodaiko, a sycophant who always knows which way the wind blows. As these align themselves on one side, on the other stands only Porcupine, who combines forces with the hero. The “good” and “bad” clash over Gourd, a good-natured but feeble colleague who loses his fiancée to Red Shirt and falls prey to his intrigue.” The narrator, Botchan (roughly “Master Darling”), is a typical good guy who sides with justice but does not have a natural talent for manipulation and political games. His language is simplistic and direct, allowing the plot to move quickly with little pauses and diversions. “Botchan” may appeal to readers who seek a lighter read.

Readers are eventually exposed to the hypocritical nature of those characters “whose types can be found everywhere in our society, which must establish conventions in order to survive. To this extent “Botchan” is a satire. The hero is only vaguely aware of his own position. It is not his consciousness but his personality that dictates his line of action. This quality adds more spice to the comic tenor of the story.” This comic touch evokes a sense of the unjaded, underlying innocence everyone possess(ed); perhaps a reason for the book’s popularity.

Soseki has stressed in his lectures, his view of “emotion being the foundation of literature; moral sentiment, being one kind of emotion, has its vital place in literature,” not least “Botchan”.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3622 comments Motheaten wrote: "I read the book last year. The summary below is based on Yu's (1969) book "Natsume Soseki":

The story “Botchan” revolves around the period when the Edo-born narrator does a brief stint as a teache..."


I see that Twayne published in 1969 "Natsume Soseki" by Beongcheon Yu, probably volume 99.

The 1972 Kodansha edition of "Botchan", I'm planning to start tomorrow, is illustrated and is translated by Alan Turney. From internet research, I've concluded that the pages might be sewn into the binding as a "pouchbook", to form pouches between odd and even pages, such as 35 and 36. In a style of Japanese printing/bookbinding, two consecutive pages are printed on a single sheet of paper that is then folded in half to divide the two pages and to have them on the outsides. The open ends opposite the fold line are sewn into the binding. The printed pages when pinched can form a pouch/empty sleeve of the unprinted sides to prevent ink from penetrating. These pouches are meant to be kept intact and not to be cut apart because there's no writing inside them.


Motheaten | 79 comments Yep, it's the Twayne publishers ed. vol. 99. I came across it in my uni library while searching forTen Nights Of Dream, Hearing Things, The Heredity Of Taste.

The book contains a mini biography of Soseki and summaries and interpretations of his works. It's good; easy to understand and written concisely.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3622 comments Motheaten wrote: "Yep, it's the Twayne publishers ed. vol. 99. I came across it in my uni library while searching forTen Nights Of Dream, Hearing Things, The Heredity Of Taste.

The book contains a min..."


It's available, and, from your description, Motheaten, I'm intrigued to read it. Looking forward to beginning Botchan tomorrow and Ten... next week. My edition of Ten... is from Tuttle 1974, trans Itō and Wilson. Not structured as a pouchbook; however, the sidebar retains on the recto pages the Japanese chapter/title and on the verso pages the English chapter/title.


Motheaten | 79 comments Asmah wrote: "Motheaten wrote: "Yep, it's the Twayne publishers ed. vol. 99. I came across it in my uni library while searching forTen Nights Of Dream, Hearing Things, The Heredity Of Taste.

The b..."


Here's the link Natsume Soseki. Had a librarian add it and correct the author's name.

My edition of Ten... is the same as yours, there's an introduction too. I'm going to start reading it next week as well.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3622 comments Motheaten wrote: "Here's the link Natsume Soseki. Had a librarian add it and correct the author's name.

My edition of Ten... is the same as yours, there's an introduction too. I'm going to start reading it next week as well. ..."


That's great, Motheaten. Now "Natsume Soseki" by Yu is with works by that author. Details have importance in this instance. I'm glad it's redone.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3622 comments Motheaten wrote: "I read the book last year. The summary below is based on Yu's (1969) book "Natsume Soseki":

The story “Botchan” revolves around the period when the Edo-born narrator does a brief stint as a teache..."


I see you gave five stars to Natsume Soseki, and from the summary about "Botchan" Yu's book seems really good.

I've read the first half of "Botchan". Though written in 1906, its message is still relevant today. That reason must be why it's a Japanese all-time favorite. I like the nicknames Botchan mentally makes for his colleagues. There is also a mystery at least so far: who/what is Madonna? who is trustworthy? is the headmaster and those in agreement with leniency for the boarders correct in the longrun? The fishing scene was great. But there's sure to be more delightful episodes in the second half.


Marieke | 155 comments Happy coincidence, Asmah! i have the same edition of Botchan that you have. i was intrigued by the binding. it makes the book look longer than it is. i've only read two chapters so far, but i like the conversational tone.


Niledaughter | 35 comments I need to come back and read all the posts , I have just started last night , I downloaded my copy from here , the data about the translator and the edition's publication year is not clear


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3622 comments Marieke wrote: "Happy coincidence, Asmah! i have the same edition of Botchan that you have. i was intrigued by the binding. it makes the book look longer than it is. i've only read two chapters so far, but i like ..."

The Kodansha 'pouchbook' first edition, 1972, has an historic feeling about it--Natsume Sōseki's literature of a century ago, artfully illustrated by "cartoonist" and "manga artist" Hosokibari Seiki, makes a story that still speaks to readers while set in a different time and place than today.

The conversational writing and the comic characters tell a light-hearted story while describing incidences and traits that might be universal. The original Japanese version distinguishes more readily the dialects of Tokyo and of the country. Even in the English version can be found allusions to those inhabitants' distinguishing characteristics.

This is a really great book. I'm enjoying it a lot. So glad I'm reading it.


message 12: by Betty (last edited Mar 17, 2012 07:53AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3622 comments Nile daughter wrote: "I need to come back and read all the posts , I have just started last night , I downloaded my copy from here , the data about the translator and the edition's publication year is not clear"

ND, The second page of the GReads ebook and The Project Gutenberg online book from which the GReads ebook comes have the information you're looking for:
By The Late Mr. Kin -nosuke Natsume [Natsume Sōseki is a pen name]

TRANSLATED By Yasotaro Morri

Revised by J. R. KENNEDY

1919
I was remembering that you particularly want to read "Botchan".


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3622 comments Maxims in the second half of Botchen depict life values (trust, health) and truisms about living among others:
"There's never been a decent woman with a nickname yet."
"Everyone feels superior in his own way."
"A man's nothing without his health..."
"It never pays to take anyone at face value."
"No matter how you look at it, there's nothing so unreliable as people."
"You can't trust a man unless he's as straight as a die."
"The world's a strange place."
"There's nothing more important to a man than trust."
"People work on likes and dislikes, not on reasoning."
"It doesn't matter how eloquently you defind yourself, you can't cheat justice."

Also interesting is how sashes and sleeves of Japanese clothing are places to carry unnoticed food and objects.



message 14: by Niledaughter (last edited Mar 18, 2012 12:39AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Niledaughter | 35 comments Thanks Asmah :)
I see I am reading a different translation , I don’t know if this is odd ? … the 'pouchbook' description seems interesting , did I get this right (it has illustrations ?)

I only read two chapters and I like it so far .
Yes , Asmah , I wanted to read this one , not because I knew that much about Natsume Sōseki's before -(I am glad I know now) . I wanted to read a classic Japanese novel from “the Meiji Era” that I am very interested in the major cultural changes that Japan went through in that era , I am not sure if “Botchan” will represent that or not , but I believe I will be glad to read it any way .

I will come back when I read more .


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3622 comments Nile daughter wrote: "...I am reading a different translation, I don’t know if this is odd ? … the 'pouchbook' description seems interesting , did I get this right (it has illustrations ?)

I onl..."


Here's a woodblock print, identified as "Illustration by Hosokibara Seiki " that is in Botchan.


Niledaughter | 35 comments Thanks Asmah :)


Mikki | 89 comments Hi Nile Daughter, I've just finished Kokoro (which I liked) and will be starting to read Botchan tonight. We'll be reading the same translation.


message 18: by Niledaughter (last edited Mar 21, 2012 12:53AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Niledaughter | 35 comments Hi Miki , that is great :) I am 80% now.


Mikki | 89 comments I enjoyed the tone of this story -- very conversational humorous without trying too hard. I am beginning to see themes in Soseki's writing of a) mistrust in mankind, b) conflict between traditional and Western ways and also internal conflict within the protagonists concerning moral issues.


message 20: by Betty (last edited Mar 24, 2012 09:46PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3622 comments Sōseki's first publication and very renown story is I am a Cat is also described as "humorous". When I mention Sōseki to older readers, they think of "I Am a Cat" before "Botchan" and "Kokoro"! I guess I should put it in my TBR.

Sōseki's definitely is a Japanese writer, not because of his nationality but because he represented in literature the life of Japanese people through his themes, all of which you list, Mikki :)


Motheaten | 79 comments Asmah wrote: "Sōseki's first publication and very renown story is I am a Cat is also described as "humorous". When I mention Sōseki to older readers, they think of "I Am a Cat" before "Botchan" and ..."

Mikki wrote: "I enjoyed the tone of this story -- very conversational humorous without trying too hard. I am beginning to see themes in Soseki's writing of a) mistrust in mankind, b) conflict between traditiona..."

I agree, those are good points you have there Mikki. I have I am a Cat on my TBR and intended to read it last year but put it back too long because from the reviews on GR the book could be draggy. It was probably more fun reading it serialised in a newspaper (as was originally published) where you can read the cat's anecdotes from month to month rather than lumped together in a book.


message 22: by Niledaughter (last edited Mar 26, 2012 11:44PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Niledaughter | 35 comments I finished the novel two days ago , it was a light read . I am not able to formalize notes or solid opinions about the book. I think Mikki’s notes in message (19) about Soseki's writing to be very interesting.

I think what concerns me the most was “ The westernization” process and its impact on Japanese life . From Asmah’s link in “message 15 “ :

”Botchan faces westernization head-on by sticking to his strong morals …

part of this attraction lies in the cavalier attitude with which Botchan breezes from one catastrophe to another. He is no respecter of person or convention, and this endears him as much to modern Japanese as it did to readers sixty-odd years ago, because even today, a Japanese can feel himself hedged in by social niceties”


and from a previous discussion and we already have Motheaten with us :


Motheaten wrote: "the major themes is westernisation; contrasting Tokyo's way of life and the one in Matsuyama..."

And …

Hesper wrote: "the characters in Botchan are cultural archetypes, and this gave me a sense of why this book is a classic in Japan..."

I can see the that for the “Yedo or Tokyo boy “ ;in spite of his city's way of life ;he is so much attached to his morals and tide it strongly - and with a big deal of ego- to his ancestors , in the same time the town he headed was a closed and conservative ; where Japanese features and traditions are highly represented , yet the moral values - the city boys keeps- are lost there . this was confusing for me . I expected the conflict to be on a different level, more between modernity and tradition; not to take this path. I mean “can Modernity be absorbed without damaging our culture, or it would destroy it ? “ VS “what can keeping traditions be good for if we loose our morals “ . I need to think more about that.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3622 comments That's a good point, you make, Motheaten, about "I Am a Cat" first being read when serialized in a newspaper. A lot of author's works, now canonical, began that way: Dickens, Austen,...Nowadays there are excerpts in magazines such as The New Yorker to sample a part of a forthcoming novel or collection of stories.


Mikki | 89 comments Motheaten, funny you bring that up because I plan on reading "I Am A Cat", but closer to the way it was intended. I was thinking to read a chapter each week. Are you planning on reading the three volumes of just the 1st?


Mikki | 89 comments Nile daughter wrote: "I mean “can Modernity be absorbed without damaging our culture, or would destroy it ? “ VS “what can keeping traditions be good for if we loose our morals “.."

Great food for thought. I'm going to say yes, modernity can be absorbed while maintaining culture. For one, I think that it's necessary in order to better understand/appreciate history and the genesis of traditions. I feel that one must understand where they've come from in order to go forward.

It takes a strong constitution of self, family and respect for older generations in order to instill that appreciation and knowledge in younger people, however. I don't mean to simplify the answer, but to only give a basic root to my thoughts.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3622 comments Nile daughter wrote: "can Modernity be absorbed without damaging our culture, or would destroy it ? “ VS “what can keeping traditions be good for if we loose our morals...."

N.D., by Modernity do you mean technological innovations, such as the Internet, which can widen social networks, can provide entertainment, and can spread knowledge but which can also keep obtrusive files about people?


message 27: by Betty (last edited Mar 27, 2012 12:37AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3622 comments Mikki wrote: "...I am beginning to see themes in Soseki's writing of a) mistrust in mankind, b) conflict between traditional and Western ways and also internal conflict within the protagonists concerning moral issues. ..."

In Botchan the new teacher trusts his first acquaintances, which is a mistake with regard to roguish Redshirt, whose persuasive rhetoric and superior education overwhelm Botchan, until he puts two and two together. By contrast with Redshirt the first math master seems cold toward Botchan, who is then totally surprised by that teacher's being his ally.


message 28: by Niledaughter (last edited Mar 27, 2012 12:16AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Niledaughter | 35 comments Mikki wrote: "Great food for thought. I'm going to say yes, modernity can be absorbed while maintaining culture. For one, I think that it's necessary in order to better understand/appreciate history and the genesis of traditions. I feel that one must understand where they've come from in order to go forward..."

I agree with you , though it is not an easy task , and sometimes it takes long time , and even Clashes to reach there .

Asmah wrote: "N.D., by Modernity do you mean technological innovations, such as the Internet, which can widen social networks, can provide entertainment, and can spread knowledge but which can also keep obtrusive files about people? ..."

Sure technological innovations is the main core of Modernity , but to be more specific , I had "Modern era " in my mind , even more specific the major changenes that were generated by the industrial life mainly in the 19th century . the gap that a traditional closed society (for 200 or 300 years?) like Japan has to face , Technical and economical/ political and so social / cultural changes , and maintain the japanese identity in the same time.


Motheaten | 79 comments Mikki wrote: "Motheaten, funny you bring that up because I plan on reading "I Am A Cat", but closer to the way it was intended. I was thinking to read a chapter each week. Are you planning on reading the three..."

Ya, will probably read like that, but within the library's due date. I won't force myself to read all 3 volumes if I get tired of them halfway. The good thing is my uni library has an old publication of the book that is in 3 separate volumes so I won't have to lug a thick book around.


message 30: by Betty (last edited Mar 27, 2012 08:28PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3622 comments I'm still reading "Ten Nights'..." and "1Q84". And April and May are right around the corner with short stories collections and "Snow..." Perhaps I can put "I Am a Cat" in the next poll. If "I Am a Cat" resembles "Botchan", its story will be entertaining.


Motheaten | 79 comments Perhaps put it as an optional side read? so everyone's reading load doesn't get too heavy. We can comment on it whenever we read the book. I think it'll be better to cover more Japanese authors and their books than to go back to Natsume.


message 32: by Betty (last edited Mar 27, 2012 08:37PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3622 comments Motheaten wrote: "Perhaps put it as an optional side read? so everyone's reading load doesn't get too heavy. We can comment on it whenever we read the book. I think it'll be better to cover more Japanese authors and..."

Sounds like a good suggestion to me, Motheaten. The best place for "I Am a Cat" is its own topic in the discussion folder for Natsume Sōseki where Botchan and Kokoro also have their own topics.


Marieke | 155 comments i have one chapter left in Botchan. I've really enjoyed all your comments since they helped me read a little more deeply.

As for I am a Cat, i have had a copy of that book forever, but it looked so daunting that i have never started it. i think i'd like to try to read it "serially" like Mikki.

i've wanted to read that book ever since i heard this song in college: I am a Kitten, which is based on Soseki's I am a Cat. I can't find Momus singing it, but here's a cute Japanese girl singing it. It's catchy.


message 34: by Mikki (last edited Mar 28, 2012 09:10AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mikki | 89 comments Asmah wrote: "Sounds like a good suggestion to me, Motheaten. The best place for "I Am a Cat" is its own topic in the discussion folder for Natsume Sōseki where Botchan and Kokoro also have their own topics.
..."


Excellent! So we can all read at our own pace and then comment per chapter. So far it looks like there are four of us!

Marieke, my copy has all three books and I agree that it looks daunting!


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3622 comments The poem and song, inspired by "I Am A Cat", is so cute, an ideal introduction for Sōseki's big book; I'm getting the impression that it's a literary monster.


Mikki | 89 comments And though I'd love to be loved
The gods ordained it that
You were made a human being
And I turned out a cat.


Too cute! Thanks, Marieke


Mikki | 89 comments Asmah wrote: "In Botchan the new teacher trusts his first acquaintances, which is a mistake with regard to roguish Redshirt, whose persuasive rhetoric and superior education overwhelm Botchan, until he puts two and two together. By contrast with Redshirt the first math master seems cold toward Botchan, who is then totally surprised by that teacher's being his ally..."

Where I see a general theme of mistrust and wrongdoing in both Kokoro and Botchan is that both narrators were cheated out of their due inheritance by family members and in both books there are characters who win the hand/affection of women in an underhanded way (Sensei and Red Shirt).


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3622 comments Nile daughter wrote: "...I am very interested in the major cultural changes that Japan went through in that era , I am not sure if “Botchan” will represent that or not , but I believe I will be glad to read it any way ...."

It sounds like you want a broadly historical book about the Meiji period, which is not specifically about literature. What about The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture?

In the Wiki article in "Botchan" did you note that Sōseki identifies with Redshirt?


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3622 comments Mikki wrote: "Where I see a general theme of mistrust and wrongdoing in both Kokoro and Botchan is that both narrators were cheated out of their due inheritance by family members and in both books there are characters who win the hand/affection of women in an underhanded way"...

That Wiki ("Botchan") article mentions that morality is at the core. Knowing something more about Japanese culture before and during the Meiji period might be insightful, as N.D. points out. I returned the library book, but remembered that Botchan's disappointment was the teaching assignment out on the island of Shikoku. Wiki's fact that Redshirt and Clown at the end return to Tokyo rushed by me after they got their just deserts.

In "Kokoro", Sensei's problem is moral weakness rather than unlawfulness, the fault a source of guilt or regret from lack of courage. K thinks and acts more efficiently. They do what friends are for--find a place to live, be a springboard, without knowing the other's mind; in particular K provides the incentive for Sensei's engagement proposal. What follows the proposal and its acceptance is both (mis)fortune. Sensei sees the effect of his actions as an aggravating factor in K's unexpected death.


Mikki | 89 comments Found out that Netflix has a series called "Animated Classics of Japanese Literature" and tonight I plan on watching Botchan and Student Days by Kume Masao.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3622 comments Mikki wrote: "Found out that Netflix has a series called "Animated Classics of Japanese Literature" and tonight I plan on watching Botchan and Student Days by Kume Masao."

I hope you enjoy it, Mikki. I'll watch it soon. Some of these also adapt Japanese literature to film. The ones I'm familiar with are "The Makioka Sisters" and "Akira Kurosawa's Dreams":
"Ugetsu"

"Spirited Away"

"Ten Nights of Dreams"

your series "Animated Classics of Japanese Literature"

"Floating Weeds"

"Tony Takitani"

"The Makioka Sisters"

"Akira Kurosawa's Dreams"



Motheaten | 79 comments Mikki wrote: "Found out that Netflix has a series called "Animated Classics of Japanese Literature" and tonight I plan on watching Botchan and Student Days by Kume Masao."

Ooh.. I'd like to watch it too. I saw that there were only 12 of the 34 episodes with eng sub.

I love Spirited Away, have watched it a number of times. My profile picture shows part of the setting. Spirited Away is a Studio ghibli film, their other animations are good as well.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3622 comments "Botchan", "Spirited Away", and "Ten Nights of Dreams" sound interesting as does The Studio Ghibli. Motheatern, your profile picture looks like a real setting. I've found only the first third of the Botchan novel filmed.


Niledaughter | 35 comments You all made me so interested in reading “ I am a cat” , I guess I’ll try to do so at some point .

Asmah wrote: "It sounds like you want a broadly historical book about the Meiji period, which is not specifically about literature. What about The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture?

In the Wiki article in "Botchan" did you note that Sōseki identifies with Redshirt?..."


Thanks Asmah , I will check the book , I read about the Meiji period before from here and there (History , Architecture and somehow Art ) , Reading Japanese literature was a new experience for me , only started last year and by Haruki Murakami.

In general; I was always curious about the Japanese and how they handled westernization in the nineteenth century then the Americanization after WWII. For me Japanese people are amazing.

Thanks for the note about Akashatsu / red shirt and Soseki from wiki , I found that paragraph to be very good and me think more about the book .

” - The battle for the heart and mind of Botchan between Yamaarashi and Akashatsu represents the social and political tensions existing in Japan at the turn of the 20th century. Soseki clearly rejects Akashatsu.

- “The development of modern Japan must be seen as an on-the-surface phenomenon" Soseki worried that Japan was absorbing European culture at a shallow and elitist level as represented by the character of Akashatsu .

- Most agree that Uranari, or some combination of Uranari and Botchan, is Soseki's ideal of contemporary Japan “



back to top