I don’t quite remember how I first got across this book but as many of you know, I have a soft spot for Japanese literature and I haven’t read any from Natsume Sōseki so of course, I shouldn’t pass on this.
Kokoro is a Japanese classic about betrayal, self-isolation, guilt, bitterness and loneliness. It tells the story of the narrator, Soseki, a university student drawn to a far older man whom he calls Sensei and Japan’s transition from the Meiji society to the modern era. Sensei is a lonely man and visits someone’s grave every month. After graduation, Soseki had to go home and look after his ailing father who hopes that his son finds a good job with the help of Sensei. However, when his father’s condition worsened, he received a letter from Sensei which made him leave his father despite his condition. The letter reveals Sensei’s past and his decision to end his life.
Kokoro is not a book everyone will like but if you enjoy reading stories that dig deep into the characters’ lives and with very little action, not to mention slow-paced, but intense, I would gladly recommend this book.
“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.”
“The truth is, the only things I would have thought worth saying at the time are those things which I shall say here, and it was then too soon for me to write such a letter.”
“I believe that words uttered in passion contain a greater living truth than do those words which express thoughts rationally conceived. It is blood that moves the body. Words are not meant to stir the air only: they are capable of moving greater things.”
“I do not want your admiration now, because I do not want your insults in the future. I bear with my loneliness now, in order to avoid greater loneliness in the years ahead. 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.”
“It is not you in particular that I distrust, but the whole of humanity.”