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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars subtle, disturbing examination of the heart
A young student befriends an older man in Tokyo. The older one's intellectual abilities, and his sophistication gains him the title of 'Sensei' - roughly approximating 'teacher' or 'master' - from the younger one.

Though he likes him well enough, Sensei does nothing to encourage the young man's growing attachment to him. This only increases the student's...
Published on 23 Oct 2006 by peter d pipinis

versus
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great book, shame about the edition
Kokoro is a great book, dealing with the friendship between a student and an older man. Other reviewers have written about this book in sufficient detail, such that there is very little for me to add as a critique.

However, I write to warn other readers to not buy the "Quiet Vision Publishing" edition as this contains many typos and the binding of the copy I...
Published on 12 Oct 2007 by Ishmael Du The


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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars subtle, disturbing examination of the heart, 23 Oct 2006
This review is from: Kokoro (Paperback)
A young student befriends an older man in Tokyo. The older one's intellectual abilities, and his sophistication gains him the title of 'Sensei' - roughly approximating 'teacher' or 'master' - from the younger one.

Though he likes him well enough, Sensei does nothing to encourage the young man's growing attachment to him. This only increases the student's interest in Sensei's life, who responds finally to his overtures of friendship and respect thus: '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'.

The novel is structured in three parts. The first two are narrated by the student, and the third is a 'testament' in letter form by Sensei, outlining the story of his life, and explaining why he has for so long withdrawn from the outside world.

Sensei's testament is a profound self-examination and self-criticism, mostly revolving around his selfish and manipulative actions, in his own student days, when he and his friend (a fellow student) were both in love with the same girl (now Sensei's wife). This behaviour leads, in the end, to catastrophic results for his friend. From that period on, though Sensei has appeared outwardly normal and happy, his life has been completely blighted.

What makes the novel such a significant work for Western readers (other than its literary excellence) is the distinctly Japanese point of view it brings to an old story. This new perspective brings up a large number of worrying (because unanswerable) questions. How much, for instance, does Sensei's failure to forgive himself for his earlier mistakes arise from his culture's sense of 'honour', and how much from human nature?

Kokoro translates as 'the heart of things', a perfect title for a book that delicately, subtly and finally disturbingly, probes the mystery that is the core of human life.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars unique, 18 May 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Kokoro (Paperback)
With _Kokoro_ Natsume Soseki did what English-speaking authors apparently can't do: tell a story of (non-sexual) passion, betrayal, sadness, and above all a pervading, unbearable loneliness, all without being the least bit melodramatic. It's understated and almost dispassionate on the one hand, but profound and moving on the other. The author's understanding of the ordinariness (but vast importance) of the tragedy that is life is brilliant. One of the most underrated and underread of twentieth-century novels, and this is a great translation, to top it off.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gentle, 9 Aug 2006
By 
N. Green "tenshi06" (Oxford) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Kokoro (Paperback)
Kokoro is a book that can only be described as gentle, soft and heartbreaking. Written in a typical Japanese style the plot is more about the feelings of the main characters and how that affects their relationships and their actions. The ending is also typically Japanese, heartbreaking. The readers often find themselves comparing their own relationships with the ones so gracefully described in this book. Reading it will give anyone a new way of looking at love, hate, relationships but most importantly it is a beautiful poetic piece of literature that will be treasured for life.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book- an analysis of the human condition, 14 Dec 2002
By 
William Fross (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Kokoro (Paperback)
This is a great book. Written in a clear, simple style, it tells of the relationship between a lonely and disaffected scholar and a young and mostly directionless student, set in early Twentieth century Japan. The story focuses on the nature of their relationship, and the student's growing interest in just why the scholar ('Sensei') is so disaffected by society and disappointed with humanity in general.
The characters feel real; their relationship is, though difficult to understand, fascinating; and the book just feels coherent, the final third being particularly fascinating as the culmination of the story. It offers a particularly Japanese view of things, and it is all the more interesting as an examination of the modern world. I find it difficult to explain exactly why I like this book, but it deserves its place in the canon of great Japanese literature.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beautifully executed, wonderfully perceptive, 24 July 2006
By 
J. Raine "jonny raine" (united kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Kokoro (Paperback)
this book is so delicate and comprehensive. in true japanese style the plot is by no means fast paced, which could put some off, but what you loose in pace i felt you gained so much in depth. as a result the characters really came to life and i felt myself empathising with so many of them.

the basic plot is that a young student meets one who he calls 'sensei' although not being an official teacher to him, this student wants to learn from this mysterious and closed person.

written in the first person, the reader is brought face to face with many themes although there seems to be a hint of nihilistic undertone--particularly when one regards the history at the time of it's writing. i particularly loved the abrupt ending which in some sense doesn't finish the story and therefore allows you to conclude it yourself, but i won't ruin it for you!

i only bought this book because dancingphilip recommended it, so it was a bit of a gamble, but it paid off. probably one of my top 5 books.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtfully written and engaging, 24 May 2007
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This review is from: Kokoro (Paperback)
A very slow but well written book. You find yourself immersed in another pace of life altogether. I really liked how characters were observed. And the complexity of deep emotions. I would reccomend this book.
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a great fish with sharp teeth, 30 April 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Kokoro (Paperback)
A stunningly wonderful work of art. Once I started it I had to put everything aside until it was finished. It is very slow, but in a beautiful way, slow, and open, and thinly populated, like a dream world. It moves like a slow clear river, but all of a sudden there is an abrupt and dangerous waterfall, or a great fish with sharp teeth leaps out of a quiet pool. At one point I was reading it in the Tokyo Grill on Yonge Street and the young waitress was very surprised. She said she had tried to read it but found it too slow; her mother, however, claimed that it was her favourite book of all time. She also reiterated what I had heard, that even today it is very popular in Japan. There are only two problems in the book - the unnamed narrator who leave his father's deathbed and travels to Tokyo to try to save his sensei's life, we do not hear any more from him after Sensei's story is told, and we do not know what has happened. Also we do not find out anything about the mysterious Westerner who appears with Sensei at the beginning of the book, attracting the narrator, and then disappearing. I am very glad I read this book, I feel more of a human being for having read it, and I feel sorry for people who have died without having read it. I've read many wonderful and famous novels this year, but this is the best.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Insightful Novel, 5 Dec 2007
This review is from: Kokoro (Paperback)
By using his experiences living in the late Meiji period of Japan, Natsume Soseki wrote an insightful novel entitled "Kokoro," which was translated in English language by Edwin McClellan. The book is broken into three sections, "Sensei and I," "My Parents and I," and "Sensei and His Testament." The first section reveals the first interaction between the Student and Sensei at the beach, their conversations, and the college graduation of the Student. The second section deals with the life of the Student's home in the countryside of Japan, his father's illness, and the receiving of Sensei's last letter. And the last part of the novel is a letter from Sensei to the Student in which he discusses his dark past and why he decided to meet his end. From reading "Kokoro," one can get an understanding of how modern social transformation influenced Japanese life.

To show as an example: when a person lives through two different eras, it can alter his feelings and his sense of living in the Japanese society. In a sense, the transformation can alter one's sense of identification with his country. In Kokoro, the character Sensei has a lack of identification with Japan in terms of where he fits in the society, which partly leads to his deep loneliness. Since the fall of Tokugawa Japan and the Samurai class, there may have been number of people who refused to change their ways or move on toward the new Japanese society, which was the Meiji era.

But, toward the end of the Meiji period, the new change called the "modern era" was approaching, which created an effect on people who were already born in the Meiji era. As a man filled with guilt, fear, and loneliness, Sensei felt that he should leave the world physically due to the fact that he had no place in the new modern Japan. One example in the novel which best explains loneliness as a result of the modern transformation is when Sensei expressed his insight to the Student: "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," which was a comment that made the Student stood speechless and kept silence (p. 30).

The novelist Natsume Soseki wrote an insightful work, with a clear read as translated by Mr. McClellan. With a humble opinion, this book is given as five stars and to be recommended.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitve novel of 20th century Japan., 4 Feb 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Kokoro (Paperback)
Natsume poignantly portrays the lonliness of the modern Japanese individual, inticed by Western freedom while bound by tradition, in this beautifully crafted novel. If you want to understand the alienation of Haruki's characters, this is where is all begins.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When one can see through others eyes there is understanding., 13 Mar 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Kokoro (Paperback)
The journey begins through curiosity. A young man tries to find meaning in his life. What better way than to follow a stranger on a beach? Isn't life ridiculous at times? Soseki's ability to look through the eyes of his characters makes his fiction breathe and live. Through his portrayal of human emotion his words create a poetry of life. He doesn't try to hide anything. Instead his stories bloom as one walks along, side by side, with the characters. In our search for meaning in life we look for a guide. Through 'Kokoro' Soseki guides us along the road that assures us that we ourselves are our own guides. He becomes our Sensei as we see through his eyes. Although meloncholy at times, Soseki's work is uplifting and genuine. It speaks of the power and grace of individual life. A recommended read for someone who wants to break away from the tension and speed of conteporary writing. Walk along with the characters and discover the coplex web of thought that can often capture the persona. Visit the grave of the monk student and find out the secret to Sensei's past. Take a quick train ride into the psyche of one mans mind while seeing through the eyes of another. Life is often complicated.
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Kokoro (The Library of Japan)
Kokoro (The Library of Japan) by Natsume Soseki (Hardcover - Dec 1991)
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