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Kokoro (UNESCO Collection of Representative Works) Paperback – 2 May 2007

4.2 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Peter Owen; 2nd Revised edition edition (2 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0720612977
  • ISBN-13: 978-0720612974
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 432,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"A brilliant piece of narrative ... Kokoro is exactly what you would ask a novel to be ... its effect is so fresh, so particular to itself ... There is no more exhilarating experience than this sort of discovery ... Soseki manipulates every detail with the same thrilling mastery." --Spectator

"Sparsely populated, simple but perfect ... it is a melancholy but stoical study in lonliness, guilt and self hatred ... recalls Turgenev both in its economy and perfect symmetry of architecture." --Sunday Telegraph

"Great sensitivity and insight" --Sunday Times

About the Author

NATSUME SOSEKI (1867 1916) is one of the great writers of the modern world. Educated at Tokyo Imperial University, he was sent to England in 1900 as a government scholar. As one of the first Japanese writers to be influenced by Western culture, his various works are read by virtually all Japanese, and contemporary authors in Japan continue to be influenced by his oeuvre. Soseki's significance to Japan can be compared to that of Dickens to Britain or Henry James to North America. Like these writers his work now holds a hugely popular and important place in the literary imagination of his country. Unlike them Soseki's work is only recently coming to the attention of readers outside of Japan.


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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.
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By A Customer on 18 May 1999
Format: 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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Format: 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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book must rate as one of the great works in world literature. It is a story so simple in the telling and yet so complex in meaning. A simple hook will draw you into the world of the narrator and compel you to read on until you reach the stunning conclusion. The confessional tone of the novel will make you feel like a witness to the events as they unfold.The unordained writing style serves to add authenticity to the tale and acts as a counterpoint to the 'haiku style' poetic descriptions littered throughout the book. There can be no summary of the plot for this would spoil the impact on the reader. It is a work that poses so many questions but whose answers you can only 'swim around' and come tantalizingly close to resolving but ultimately realize that they will remain elusive. However, in seeking to answer the unanswerable you will discover many things and be drawn back to read the book again. I consider myself well read and I felt considerable embarrassment at my ignorance of Soseki's work before I purchased this book on a friend's advise. Incomparable.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read the book in Japanese before and I wanted to try its English version. This book keeps the original beauty without giving too many notes. Introduction pages appear rather subjective and I cannot agree with many parts. I would recommend readers to read it only after finishing the book. Highly recommended.
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Format: 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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