Monday, March 20, 2017

"Sanshirō by Natsume Sōseki (Translated by Jay Rubin) Penguin Random House UK

ISBN: 978-0-241-28446-9 Penguin Random House UK
So far, "Sanshirō" is my favorite Natsume Sōseki novel. Written over 100 years ago during the presence of the Meiji era in Japan, it's a book that is very much of its time. Japan at the time was feeling the influence of the West - in particular with the arts from that period. English and European literature were being translated into Japanese, and Sōseki is a writer who was very much under the influence of Western writers as well as its various philosophies - yet, the beauty of this book deals with the tension or difference between the West and Japan. 

The main character, Sanshirō is a countryside fellow who comes to the big city, Tokyo, to study and live. Here he encounters fellow students and professors who are exposed to other things in life besides what Sanshirō knows from his rural life. Including sexual feelings, or the first entrance to romantic overtures from a female. The great thing about the book for me is Sōseki's journalistic talents in writing about Tokyo and wandering throughout the city. "Sanshirō" through the main character, is very much going on a pre-Situationist adventure in finding new delights that Tokyo has to offer its new citizen. 

Nothing dramatic happens, but there is a strong narrative, with characters interacting with others. The female figures seem to be much more aware of what's going on than Sanshirō who is somewhat a 'sheep' or perhaps even a coward. I think he's not in tuned to his surroundings or even to himself. So, the book is about a discovery and how one processes a change in one's life. In that sense, it's a young man's or person's novel. The ripe fruit is life as it happens, and this novel is about the moments as it happens.

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