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Kokoro (Penguin Classics) Paperback – February 23, 2010
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-Los Angeles Times
"Soseki is the representative modern Japanese novelist, a figure of truly national stature."
Top Customer Reviews
Kokoro is an interesting novel. It is broken down into 3 parts. It is interesting that the chapters are all nearly identical length, about 2 pages each chapter in this version. So there are 110 chapters. But it's not a terribly long read.
The first section deals with the protagonist and his relationship with 'sensei', a seemingly well to do older man. They become acquaintances and finally develop an almost father-son relationship. The second part deals with the protagonist's father who is dying and his relationship with the family. The final section is actually a memoir sent to the protagonist by 'sensei' detailing the events of his younger life and shedding light on some of the mystery behind 'sensei'.
This translation is pretty amazing. I don't read Japanese (at least Kanji though I can read some hiragana pretty well), but I do understand much of the Japanese language. It is difficult to translate not because of the actual words, but because Japanese is subject-object-verb instead of subject-verb-object as in English. So if you literally translate you will sound like Yoda.Read more ›
Additionally, because I am a casual reader I was delighted to discover that every chapter is approximately 2 pages long.
Overall, Kokoro is a Japanese classic that offers an emotional and compelling read.
It's easy to tell that Natsume Soseki was concerned with themes of isolation, especially loneliness resulting from the rapid social changes during the Meiji Period of Japan, when Japan was rapidly adapting technology and the cultural customs of western countries. It's hard for me to relate to, but I think there are some similarities to today with how the internet has changed the dynamics of how people relate to one another. While being more and more connected in every way we are still interfacing with a screen isolated from the outside, creating a new kind of loneliness.
There's also a lot to take away from this novel as historic piece of work. One being that no western novel of the same period could ever sustain the kind of avoidance and mystery of the past for so long. By applying to the very traditional Japanese custom of discretion Soseki manages to create an atmosphere of suspense in what amounts to a slow plodding character driven novel. The other is that Meiji Period must have been very hard for much of the older and more traditional Japanese to adjust to. Ever society has a period of immense change in its history, but I get a sense that this was especially traumatic for a society like Japan that had been closed to the outside for long. A very worthwhile look at the affects of the Meiji Period.
The novel itself was deeply thought-provoking, exploring as it does, conflict in the human heart.
It was very sad, but clearly showed no matter our cultural differences, human beings share common emotions.
Perhaps saddest of all for me was the nature of deception within relationships, even when it is well-meaning. Sometimes, intending to protect the other, we abandon the possibility of genuine connectedness.
This remarkable Japanese classic is instructive, entertaining--brilliant!
I am so glad I read it and will read it again and explore other Japanese writers.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is by far my favorite Japanese novel that I have read so far. From the moment I began reading the book I was captivated by it. Read morePublished 5 months ago by DaniK
Natsume Soseki truly made a great novel when he wrote Kokoro. It is the story of a young Japanese college student and his interactions with an old man, whom he calls Sensei. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Anthony Agbay
"Kokoro" was my first foray into the world of modern Japanese literature. I did not realize that it would also present the workings of Sensei's mind and values in such a... Read morePublished 17 months ago by John C. Priestley II
Great book when looking at the development of Japanese identity during the post Meji era along with personal reflections that help you find yourself in fluctuating worldPublished 18 months ago by Khwaja
This is such a thought provoking book. It deals with raw human emotion and dares us to face our own deepest selves.Published 21 months ago by barbara french
This novel, one of Natsume Soseki’s last and written on the cusp of Japan’s epochal rise to becoming a world power, reflects the author’s preoccupation with conflicting cultural... Read morePublished 22 months ago by A Certain Bibliophile
Natsume Soseki's "Kokoro" reads part bildungsroman, part era-in-transition novel and part confessional. Read morePublished on June 21, 2014 by Keith A. Comess