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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dreams on a grass pillow, 12 Jun. 2009
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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. It is not until the book's conclusion when the artist abandons his artistic detachment from the world that he discovers he can paint again and finds in O-nami's farewell glance the human compassion he so much sought. There are many moments of epiphany in this work but one of the most touching is when the artist awakens to discover that the hokku in his sketchbook has been added to by O-nami. There are also comic elements which belie the philosophical depths of the novel. Some of them have inevitably been 'lost' in the translation which has nobly sacrificed 'nuance for elegance'. Anyone with a passion for writing, painting or composing should read this book. Be warned, you probably will fall in love with the elusive O-nami as I have done. Was she real or just a projection of artistic aspiration? Hmm...Kasu Makura deserves a wide readership and will keep you thinking for a long time after you put the book down.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Deep charm - with elegant intelligence, 16 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: The Three Cornered World (UNESCO Collection of Representative Works: Japanese) (Paperback)
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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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Philosophy and prose, 12 July 2014
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This review is from: The Three Cornered World (UNESCO Collection of Representative Works: Japanese) (Paperback)
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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The Three Cornered World (UNESCO Collection of Representative Works: Japanese)
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