A languid, melancholic dream of a novel which pierces the heart of the reader with its quiet intensity.Cautious in its narrative tread on the ground of contentious issues, delicate in its broaching of subjects like the indignity of death, sin and redemption, existentialist ennui, self recrimination and misanthropy,Kokorois a masterful recounting of a tragedy which unfolds against the backdrop of the dying years of the Meiji era As Emperor Meiji breathes his last taking along with him the anachronistic echoes of an obsolete way of life rigidly shackled by the conservatism of the isolationist years, a hesitant Japan steps into the welcoming embrace of modern day materialism while simultaneously waging an inner war with the self denying Confucian ideologies of its past A mysterious and scholarly middle aged man only referred to as Sensei meets our young protagonist in a chance encounter and the unique mentor protege bonding, that forms between them subsequently, brings an indescribable joy and solace to both While Sensei eventually summons the courage to confess to past wrongdoings in a letter to the young man he barely knows and attains a kind of salvation through a self imposed exile from society, his unnamed protege learns to look past the horror and agony of slow bodily death and accept the natural order of things A powerfully written spiritual inquiry into the corruption of the human soul, an elegant acknowledgement of the juxtaposition of mournful endings and optimistic beginnings and a testimony to the fragility of human lives. Beautiful classic Japanese story. This is a quiet introspective book that was first published in 1996 They say great books are timeless and it s certainly true with Kokoro which means Heart in Japanese.I paid 1.19 for the Kindle download.and I kid you notthis thin book 248 paperback pages , was very hard to pull away from Was it moving Powerful Thought Provoking emotional I m pulling at straws trying to see if it s possible if can covey one word that best describes this book.so far.I m failing here but I promise to come back if a word comes to me that feels right A few things I can tell you but please be aware I m mostly taking a sabbatical from writing reviews for awhile.yet this is a book I would have enjoyed reading with a few buddies with the intention of having a lengthy discussion I mention this because I honestly think this is a great choice book to do that with At the start of this story, an unnamed narrator wants to be friends with Sensei Sensei is older than the unnamed university student and Sensei doesn t encourage their friendship Sensei is suffering from a secret guilt but we don t learn about this until much later in the book We meet several characters which are important to this story too , but primarily the focus is the relationship between the above two men I felt so sad.achingly sad at the end It s a sad story.BUT BREATHTAKING BEAUTIFUL The other day somebody said to me, loneliness is the new cancer Honestly I hate everything about that phrase.I mean hate it.yet I couldn t stop thinking about it either WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN This story reaches deep inside the heart of loneliness..but not from pity.I must read this book again so much to think about easy reading but MUCH TO TAKE IN You see, loneliness is the price we have to pay for being born in this modern age, so full of freedom, independence, and our own egotistical selves The quote above sums up perfectly the main theme of this classic Japanese novel The other one is guiltThere is no such thing as a stereotype bad man in this world Under normal conditions, everybody isor less good, or, at least, ordinary But tempt them, and they may suddenly change That is what is so frightening about men One must always be on one s guard The young narrator meets Sensei while on vacation in Kamakura and from here begins a long odd friendship I can see why this novel became a classic but I have to admit I wasn t that moved by the characters I failed to see why Sensei was so admired by the narrator since we were not told about his merits We only learn that he is withdrawn, misanthropic and that he is consumed by guild over a detail from his past We are told that he is cultured and that the narrator and his mentor have elevated discussion but there is no proof of them in the novel I enjoyed the simplicity of the writing and its plot although I wished for a bitin terms of depth. A few years ago I had arranged to meet up with a girl I was loosely dating I liked her a lot, but as she is a DJ, who works late nights, seeing each other was not easy I had agreed to go to the club she was playing at that night and wait for her to finish, which would be something like 3am As I didn t want to spend the entire night stood at the side of the DJ booth waiting for her I asked my brother if he wanted to join me I explained why I wanted to go out, I assured him that I would be free most of the night until 3am, and offered to pay for all his drinks He agreed, and so we got ready and left our apartment around 9pm, to have a few drinks before we made our way to the club However, in the first pub I noticed that my brother was spending a lot of time on his phone When we had finished our drinks, I asked if he wanted another, and at this point he declined and started to groan theatrically, holding his stomach He told me that he needed to go outside for some air It was clear to me that he was playacting, so I offered to accompany him He was not best pleased.Outside, he kept taking exaggerated breaths as though he was going to be sick, and, as I wasn t taking the hint, eventually he told me he was so ill he needed to go home I said that was fine, but pointed out that I didn t believe him and that if he was faking an illness to go off and meet some friend s I wouldn t easily forgive him He maintained that he was very unwell and therefore I let him leave I stayed in the bar for a while, had another drink, and then, after texting my girl to say I might be late or not make it at all, decided to go home and see if my brother was ok Of course, the apartment was empty By this stage, I was so disgusted and tired of the whole situation I decided not to go out again Then, in the early hours of the morning my brother rolled in, extremely inebriated He had, as I suspected, left me to go and meet up with some friends Our relationship hasn t been the same since Call it an overreaction if you like, but I can t tolerate deceitfulness.It is possibly unfair, and an exaggeration, but I see my brother as a kind of poster boy for the modern age the above anecdote is only one example out of thousands My generation has been raised to believe that you are important, that what you want is what really matters we are encouraged to indulge ourselves, to choose ourselves if ever faced with a two courses of action, one of which will benefit someone else and one that will benefit the great me Qualities like honour, sacrifice, duty etc are becoming increasingly rare Of course, I am not perfect in this regard, I am not completely selfless, but I am not absolutely self interested either I believe that it is important to have integrity, and to be able to see outside of oneself Unfortunately, I see less and less of this with each new generation No matter how full one s head might be with the image of greatness, one was useless, I found out, unless one was a worthy man first These concerns of mine are, I believe, one reason why Japanese literature resonates with me so much, as a sizable number of their most acclaimed authors, including the one under review here, wrote extensively about the tension between modern and traditional values, attitudes and behaviour Indeed, the protagonists in Natsume Soseki s best novels are usually indolent and self obsessed young men who find themselves at odds with their parents and the disappearing or declining old ways of life This is certainly true of his most famous work, Kokoro, whose title can be roughly translated as heart That title has a two fold significance heart as in love, which plays an important role in the text, and the heart of the matter The matter being what we have been discussing, i.e the changing face of Japan.The novel is split into three sections, the first of which centres on the relationship between an older man, Sensei, and a young student who narrates the action The student, whose name is never revealed, is away from his family, first at college and then at university in Tokyo Like Daisuke in Soseki s And Then, he is the archetypal modern Japanese He is introverted, bored and unmotivated he does study for his diploma, but leaves it until the last minute and doesn t appear to value it, when he has been awarded it, in the way that his parents do I call these protagonists of Soseki s superfluous men because they have no direction, no goal towards which they are striving The student, like many of us, goes to university, not with a career in mind, or even to learn, but because it is something to do In fact, he values Sensei whose acquaintance he makes almost by stalking himthan his lectures or books.Sensei is a kind of misanthrope, who has withdrawn from a world so full of freedom, independence, and our own egoistical selves The closest word to Sensei, in meaning, in English is teacher it is someone who is respected and knowledgeable It is the young man who gives him this title, and so it is clear that the student is looking for guidance although Sensei himself says that the boy is lonely and looking for love In this way, perhaps Soseki is saying that young people, living in times where morality and values are less certain, where freedom is almost absolute, need help or direction It is, I think, the case that thefreedom one has thelost or confused one can feel, that freedom is actually something that we find very difficult to cope with this is, in fact, the clich d modern dilemma In light of all this, it is not difficult to see the older man as having a symbolic function in the novel he is, in this scenario, representative of the old or traditional world Yet, while that might be true to a certain extent, his character iscomplex than it appears to be initially.As one progresses through the opening section, it becomes clear that Sensei is harbouring a secret, that something happened to him long ago to make him the way that he is One would expect that this revelation which comes in the final section would involve him being mistreated, would involve some confrontation with the modern, selfish, dishonourable approach to life And that is, at least partly, the case As a young man Sensei was cheated out of his inheritance by his uncle after the death of his parents As with Balzac, money, orspecifically a lack of it, plays a major part in Soseki s novels the idea of being relieved of an inheritance comes up again in The Gate Is Soseki saying that an obsession with money is a disease particular to the new Japan Perhaps, although I think he was making a point about how there are no truly good or bad people, that our values are reliant upon circumstances, that, for example, if you have the opportunity to steal then you will We return again to the idea of freedom I don t know enough about Japanese history, but maybe it is the case that prior to the Meiji era when the novel is set there was a strict moral prescriptivism that prevented these kinds of acts You seem to be under the impression that there is a special breed of bad humans There is no such thing as a stereotype bad man in this world Under normal conditions, everybody isor less good, or, at least, ordinary But tempt them, and they may suddenly change That is what is so frightening about men In any case, if this was all that had happened to Sensei then his character would not be particularly engaging What makes him fascinating is that he, in a sense, embodies the conflict that Soseki was writing about, because he himself does something that is considered dishonourable I won t go into details about what exactly that is, but it is certainly something that these days would likely barely raise an eyebrow Sensei, however, is severely damaged by it, to the extent that it dominates, and ruins, his life This is the sense of honour that we have previously touched upon, which is for us, and for Soseki s modern Japan, disappearing Yes, Sensei does wrong, but he feels overwhelmingly guilty about it, and, ultimately, he takes his own life not much of a spoiler as we know Sensei is dead within a few pages of the book , as a way of atoning for his behaviour There is something about the Japanese idea of honour suicide that I find extraordinarily attractive I wouldn t be party to it myself, but to give up your life as a way of trying to make amends is very powerful One could see Sensei, then, as someone who is both modern and traditional he errs in a way that is consistent with the outlook of Soseki s contemporary Japan i.e he is prepared to tread on someone else to get what he wants, is prepared to exercise his freedom but responds to this dishonourable act in a way that is consistent with the Samurai code it is, in effect, an act of nobility that is out of step with the times General Akashi Gidayu preparing to commit seppuku Outside of all this modern vs traditional stuff, Soseki touches upon other albeit related themes One is that of the city and the provinces The student s parents live in a village, and one is, somewhat ungenerously, given the impression that village life is old fashioned, even backward As for the parents, they note immediately that Tokyo has had an effect upon their returning son Yet, even here, the provincial is, essentially, a symbol of the traditional, from which the student is trying to escape Likewise, death, which plays a major role in Kokoro, and the tension between generations, could both be seen to suggest change or the ending of an era Finally, what of love I wrote earlier that it is central to the novel, but have as yet said very little about it Partly that is to do with spoilers, but it is also because I am not sure how it relates to Soseki s most obvious preoccupations In his three greatest novels Kokoro, The Gate and And Then love could be said to be both a blessing and a curse Indeed, in my favourite line, Sensei asks the student do you know what it feels like to be tied down by long, black hair Is he saying that love in the modern age is also problematic, confusing, and difficult If so, I guess he got that right too. Kokoro is about a respectable man s account of his life before he makes a great decision An unusual book which I really enjoyed, and I would recommend it to readers who do not mind their stories sprinkled with an air of sadness throughout You certainly don t need to know anything about Japan or Japanese culture to appreciate, and get something profound from this work Like so many great works of fiction, it appeals to the human in everyone, and asks those questions every human struggles with, about life and death, and the ups and downs of life.The novel uses concrete character symbolism to depict the tension between tradition and modernity during the Meiji era Throughout the book, Natsume Soseki illustrates Sensei s connection to the spirit of the era, the narrator s relationship to modernity, and his father s resemblance to traditional Japanese culture Many Japanese people at the time were conflicted between accepting modernity and preserving traditional Japanese values Soseki beautifully depicts a young man s transitional period after college to the Meiji era itself a time that separated pre modern Japan and modern Japan The story tackles difficult issues and does so with beauty and grace Interesting to see that issues of coping with family and finding ways to connect with others isn t just a modern day problem The book s pace is slow at first, and you will question where the narrative leads to, but once you get into the second part and truly understand the literature you will understand the importance of this book in terms of educating humanity and morality A story about man, I would say, and the struggles with pride and dignity This novel is a classic by no mystery. I have mentioned elsewhere that the later Soseki books tend to be darker andmelancholic not to say extremely pessimistic and Kokoro definitely fits this mold I am NOT taking anything away from the gorgeous language and descriptions here nor the intimate conversations primarily by writing between the protagonist and his Sensei, but it is not something to read if you are down in the dumps The narrative devices are original even for Soseki and his mastery of character and betrayal of emotion is unsurpassed here A must read especially if you have already appreciated the lighter, younger,optimistic yet always cynical Soseki of Bothan and I am a Cat. IntroductionAbout the TitleAcknowledgmentsSuggestions for Further Reading Kokoro Notes I believe you don t really become a finer person just by reading lots of books I know a lot of Westerners are obsessed with the East and our civilization, finding its mysterious inconclusiveness attractive in opposition to the somewhat dogmatic West Nonetheless, it is one thing to be an outside admirer and another thing to have that blood in your vein Kokoro is a novel of frustration, fragility, distrust, terror, and hopelessness of the blood the East has in it vein, a reflection on the superficial nature of our race hiding behind the appearance of moral grandness Like in the story passed on through generations, those ascetic heroes who lashed themselves apparently for the sake of spiritual attainment, it is actually the cruelty, foolishness, vanity, and all kinds of superficial forces that drive the hustle and bustle of the shallow yet restless Eastern soul I can sense the chill and frustration in Soseki s gentle description of how the Eastern souls are led astray to extremity, epitomized by those individuals who consciously or unconsciously, willingly or unwilling followed Emperor Meji to death Indeed we don t become a finer person by reading books, by devoting ourselves to a certain occupation, by following any trajectory to its end, as long as the sin in our nature is still sweeping upon our heart and soul This is the frustrating message that Soseki sends to me. Hailed By The New Yorker Asrich In Understanding And Insight,Kokorothe Heart Of Thingsis The Work Of One Of Japan S Most Popular Authors This Thought Provoking Trilogy Of Stories Explores The Very Essence Of Loneliness And Stands As A Stirring Introduction To Modern Japanese Literature El camino a la verdad es solitario, remoto, escondido.Pero con un coraz n limpio, por l recorro pasados y presentes Hay un yo en las aguas azuladas, en las azuladas colinas Todo es cielo, todo es tierra artificio no hay en ellos.En la luz mortecina del crep sculo, la luna se aparta de la hierba y la voz sorda del viento de oto o se queda entre los rboles.Olvidar mis ojos y mis o dos perder el cuerpo.Solo en el vac o entonar de la nube el blanco c ntico. Natsume S seki, 20 de noviembre de 1916 Una persona capaz de amar o una persona incapaz de evitar amar, aunque no pudiera acoger con los brazos abiertos a quien deseaba llegarse a su pecho, tal persona era sensei Narrativa interior, pausada y sigilosa, del desmoronamiento del alma, de la culpabilidad, de la compasi n Cr nica de la elocuencia del detalle, p ndulo de silencio y palabra Relato de la lentitud, de la demora en el advenimiento de una trama m nima pero estudiada al detalle, que se abre con la naturalidad con que se manifiestan las estaciones o los fen menos atmosf ricos Kokoro o la gestualidad verbal de la sutileza, novela de sentimientos sin residuos de sentimentalismo, traducci n de c digos estrictos por los que se rigen los corazones enjaulados.