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The Three Cornered World (UNESCO Collection of Representative Works: Japanese) [Paperback]

Natsume Soseki
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
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Book Description

20 Sep 2010 UNESCO Collection of Representative Works: Japanese
Opening with the most famous introductory lines in Japanese literature, The Three Cornered World has been cherished by generations of readers as a glittering jewel in the crown of Soseki s artistic achievement. A painter escapes to a mountain spa to work in a world free of emotional entanglement, but finds himself fascinated by the alluring mistress at his inn and, inspired by thoughts of Millais Ophelia, he imagines painting her. The woman is rumoured to have abandoned her husband and fallen in love with a priest at a nearby temple, but somehow the right expression for the face on her painting eludes the artist . . . Beautifully written, humorous and filled with bitter-sweet reflections on the human condition, The Three Cornered World was intended as a unique haiku-novel with a mood utterly different to anything ever produced in the West. Demonstrating along the way a mastery of everything from Western painting to Chinese literature, Soseki succeeded in an artistic tour-de-force that produced what legendary recording artist Glenn Gould would simply refer to as his favourite book .

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The Three Cornered World (UNESCO Collection of Representative Works: Japanese) + The Gate + The Tower of London: And Other Stories
Price For All Three: 33.89

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  • The Tower of London: And Other Stories 14.95

Product details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Peter Owen Ltd; 3rd edition (20 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0720613574
  • ISBN-13: 978-0720613575
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 291,619 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


Vastly refreshing . . . Soseki doesn t shrink from seeking and finding exquisite pearls of beauty. --Guardian

A writer to be judged by the highest standards. His works create, after the fashion of all great writers, a new and completely individual reality. --Spectator

The greatest Japanese novelist of the modern period --Sunday Telegraph

A writer to be judged by the highest standards. His works create, after the fashion of all great writers, a new and completely individual reality. --Spectator

The greatest Japanese novelist of the modern period --Sunday Telegraph

About the Author

Natsume Soseki (1867-1916) is Japan s most revered writer, whose works continue to attract vast quantities of critical scrutiny and debate. His influence, both on contemporary Japanese authors and throughout East Asia and beyond, has been immense.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dreams on a grass pillow 12 Jun 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Three-Cornered World ( the title having been changed for a western audience) is not a novel in the conventional sense. It is a work of lyrical beauty and sensual delight that abandons, or rather transcends, the plot/character development of most novels. The plot is no more than an Ariadne's thread guiding the reader through a series of aesthetic and philosophical judgements on the nature of art and beauty. The judgements are presented, not as the pronouncements of a stern university lecturer, but through a poetic voice that transforms a book on the nature of art into a work of art itself. The lead protagonist is an artist seeking to paint perfection, not in terms of artistic merit, but in terms of conforming to the ideal of what art should aspire to achieve. In seeking to obtain his goal the artist is continually frustrated in his efforts and 'resigns' himself to putting into words, in the form of hokku, that which he feels unable to paint. It is in these ethereal descriptions of nature and their 'condensation' into hokku that fills the "Fill the Three-Cornered World' with enchantment and grace. The pursuit of art becomes a form of unrequited love whose praises are sung precisely because it can never be fully obtained. The narrator seeks the unobtainable by cultivating a sense of detachment from the material world and comes to believe he can find the ideal he seeks in painting his own Ophelia using the enigmatic Inn keeper's daughter, O-nami, as his model. In seeking his goal he foregoes the possibility of a physical relationship with her although he cannot discover in her facial expression the qualities he desires in order to complete his masterpiece. Read more ›
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4.0 out of 5 stars Philosophy and prose 12 July 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Read it as much for the philosophy as for the prose. Who writes like this? "As the thread of the old man's words spun out, it became thinner and weaker, until at last, no thicker than gossamer, it parted to spill the crystal beads of sorrow."
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4.0 out of 5 stars Deep charm - with elegant intelligence 16 Oct 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The introduction stresses that the great pianist Glenn Gould became obsessed with Sosecki's novel. No surprise there.
If you regard Gould as the piano genius of the 20th century, you will empathise instantly; if not, you might shrug and move on quickly. Sosecki's world picture shows the struggles of an artist aiming to develop his work in new ways, and there are moments of serene intensity (if that near-oxymoron makes sense), old-fashioned lyricism, and whimsy throughout. If the reader suspends the world-weary cynicism, there are moments of real surprise throughout. This is not a work for a skim read, but a contemplative slow musing approach would allow the benign magic to be experienced. Of all the novels I read prior to a recent couple of weeks in Japan, this distinctive novel was the one which remained closest to what I felt and could not quite express about the Japan encountered.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful meditation on art and the artist 18 May 2000
By "lucrezia_79" - Published on Amazon.com
This book is not just a wonderful introduction to the differences between Western and Eastern views of art. It is a lovely exploration of art in general -- the need for art, the demands made on an artist, and especially the place of artists and their work in the world.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will the Artist Ever escape the Wheel of Existence? Sould He? 13 Jun 2007
By C. Leach - Published on Amazon.com
There are many themes examined in The Three Cornered world, the most predominant being the interior thoughts of the painter-poet on his vision quest. Much mush has been written of the Japanese poets' concern with nature, but here, for all its landscapes and mountains and moons and spring airs, we see what that nature poetry is truly all about. Nature in Soseki (For, among other things, Soseki is creating, not only a novel, but expressing a theory of aesthetics) is not an object apart from the artist (Who is different from most people) it is a sense object, and nature is not the thing, but the source of sensual awareness. Japan is a sensual country, and the Japanese are a sensual people. The Japanese, for all their supposed rigidity and formality, are deeply emotional and intense, and are the most avowedly aesthetic (Not rational, not formal, but artistic) culture that our species has produced. The Three Cornered World examines this theme of the artist in the world and connects this theme to a more general concept of the artist as a person aware of the world's artists--at least the asthetics of China and England--in a manner that suggests the importance and value and uncertainty of the life of the artist. While Soseki longs for a Buddhist escape from the "Real" world, at the same time, his artist is at his most absurd, even silly, when he acheives that escape from the real world. No matter what, the man is never more alive, more real, than when he is with the incredible O-Nami, and he is never more in the world than when thinking of her. As with many real Japanese women, no man worthy of living would fail to fall in love with her, as Soseki's protagonist certainly does. I did.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Translation... My god. 13 Jun 2011
By P. Orton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having read a good dozen of Natsume Soseki's books, I can assure you that not liking this one based purely off Soseki's merit isn't possible. Every book I've read by the author so far has left me in awe, and so when I ordered the Three-Cornered World I expected yet another amazing Soseki read. How disappointing. I thoroughly believe my hatred for this book stems from the translator and not Natsume Soseki. I really wasn't impressed by Alan Turney. He was redundant and made overall interesting topics into long-winded, arbitrary ones. He's just not a good writer. And so I have to sadly give this book a 1. Giving up on page 97, I really just couldn't take it anymore. I wouldn't recommend getting this copy of the book. If there are any other translations out there, I urge you to try and obtain one of those instead.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Class assigned 14 Oct 2012
By Dreamofme - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was assigned to read this book for a class. I'm giving it 3 stars because I didn't really like the style but overall it was a pretty good read.
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