Read The Three-Cornered World by Sōseki Natsume Alan Turney Online


"An artist abandons city life to wander into the mountains to meditate, but when he decides to stay at a near-deserted inn he soon finds himself drawn to the daughter of the innkeeper. This strange and beautiful woman is rumoured to have abandoned her husband and fallen in love with a priest at a nearby temple. The artist becomes entranced by her tragic aura. She reminds h"An artist abandons city life to wander into the mountains to meditate, but when he decides to stay at a near-deserted inn he soon finds himself drawn to the daughter of the innkeeper. This strange and beautiful woman is rumoured to have abandoned her husband and fallen in love with a priest at a nearby temple. The artist becomes entranced by her tragic aura. She reminds him of Millais's portrait of Ophelia drowning and he wants to paint her. Yet, troubled by a certain quality in her expression, he struggles to complete the portrait until he is finally able to penetrate the enigma of her life."Interspersed with philosophies of both East and West, Soseki's writing skillfully blends two very different cultures in this unique representation of an artist struggling with his craft and his environment....

Title : The Three-Cornered World
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780720611564
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 190 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Three-Cornered World Reviews

  • Praj
    2019-05-29 18:37

    “And when its difficulties intensify, you find yourself longing to leave that world and dwell in some easier one- and then, when you understand at last the difficulties will dog you wherever you may live, this is when poetry and art are born...”For the very first time on a murky morning, I saw a set of colours come alive on the wall of my living room. The orderly row of comatose crayons suddenly sprang like a newborn foal twirling on the pasty canvass. Amid the angry voices of my parents I giggled as I indulged in my very first act of vandalism. The fiery red miraculously transformed into a royal shade of purple with the touch of blue, the yellow gave birth to orange when it embraced the stylish red. I was captivated by this odd-looking rainbow and then from that day onward, I scribbled and drew on every empty space found on paper, walls and even on my bare palms. The razor sharp pencil became a tyrant and I a lawless anarchist, each forming and defying the norms on their own terms. Over the years, common sense shackled my fearlessness and creativity became another tomb in my life. Soseki’s words made me realize that until now I had failed to distinguish the art that always shaped in front of me. It is not mandatory to entrust one’s thoughts to paper; art is right in front of you. In the assorted colours of your world, let your eyes be the naked canvass in which an artist’s creates a masterpiece, as you conjure the beauty of the world the mouth will sing a poet’s song and let your heart be the camera that garners and captures every purest sentiment from this sullied world. Art begins and ends with life. Life imparts art and nature embraces both of these elements. So, don’t be a pampered child who throws tantrums when things don’t go as planned, find a way where your sorrows simply melt in the abyss of happiness. Happiness had always been a ruthless stranger, thus do not drive it away for it rarely knocks on the door without any sorrowful repercussions. And, when no words seem to emerge or the brush trembles on the sight of the ghostly canvass, one is still the wealthiest of person, as he can view the human life through the eye of an artist in the realm of magnificent purity. After all "human world is not an easy place to live in."A young artistBeauty flirtsOn grass pillow………The novel opens up in the midst of a philosophical exploration establishing an artist’s vocation in the quest to attain serenity and beauty in the evolving art. A young artist pointlessly walks into an isolated hot-spring village of Nakoi, to perceive a world that is detached from human sentiments that adulterates the purity of art. Soseki, stays true to the words of the artist when experiences are recorded first-handed and the magnetism of the attractive Nami-(the divorced daughter of the hot-spring inn establishment), somehow entices the young artist to evaluate his observations of life, art and its vulgarities.“I’m a human and belong to the world of humans so for me the unhuman can last only so long no matter how much I enjoy it.”Salvation from the vulgar world; it is actually possible? Will the mind ever obey the words of the mouth? As the young artist seeks salvation from the human world debating on ways to achieve a “non-emotional” and “unhuman” state that will not contaminate the pristine splendor of his art, Soseki carries out a literary experiment inferring that it is rather impossible to break away from the muddled emotions of humankind. Life eventually touches you irrespective to the resistance. The “smell of human” at end reeks from every pore of one’s body. Loneliness maybe an artist’s blessing, for the mind is more imaginative and powerful when silent, yet the darkness that follows the recluse may bring crudity in terms of excessiveness resulting in the death of beauty. Soseki emphasis how plays (Noh), poetry, novels, painting become alive with human feelings. A book is loved when its characters come alive in one’s room when every new sensation is attached to the dried ink making it flow through plethora of budding thoughts. A Noh drama has its own sensitivities emitting through the immense layers of make-up, amalgamating in to a perfect blend of raw human emotions and tranquility. For a solitary traveler, detachment from the human world could be blissful, but would this kind of non-attachment create an exquisiteness of an art. The painter who roamed the streets of the picturesque Nakoi desired to stray away from worldly emotions yet somehow the shadows never left him. To the artist’s surprise the echoes of the ongoing Russo-Japanese war was heard among the icy solitary mountains of the village. The air brought the metallic smell of the blood that was being spilled hundred miles away and the voices of guns being fired became stronger with the whistles of the steam engine, roaring to go, carrying one of its important passengers –Kyuichi, as he volunteered during the war. That is life and this very debate of detachment v/s attachment to human presence, portrayed Soseki’s melancholic quandary about changing times. Life had even touched Nami’s portrait and the cloistered Japanese culture.“The artists is the one who lives in a “three cornered world” in which the corner that the average person would call “common sense” has been sheared off from the ordinary four-square world that the normally inhabit.”Soseki asserts that artists are madder and foolish as they romanticize nature with human affairs. Art mellows the severity of the human world. Soseki illustrates the paradigm of a heartbreak becoming the subject of an art. For an average man, Soseki asserts, heartbreak brings nothing but skepticism and agony, but for an artist who forgets the soreness and perceive the objectiveness of the heartbreak, encompasses the moments of empathy and wretchedness through literature and art. Thus, bringing a sort of emancipation to the heart that is suffering. Similarly, the process of penning a ‘haiku’ brings a sense of enlightenment. The 17-syllable marvel may look uncomplicated and dainty, yet it withholds the clandestine stories of several tears and pleasure. Fascinatingly, Soseki compares writing a poem or rather a haiku, to the tedious process of mixing the arrowroot gruel by chopsticks. Initially when the gruel is a mere liquid, the circular strokes of mixing seem rather effortless , but as the stirring continues and the two substances become viscous with each movement , the gruel transforms into a thick glue that ends up sticking the chopsticks together. That is how a poem is formed. Numerous loose emotions, thousands of blurry images stringing together, glues compactly the syllables into one solid picture. Isn't Soseki a magnificent artist? He certainly speaks the language as his prose talks about every form of art, be it poems, prose, painting or music. Soseki questions the true obligation of a poet; he refers to Greek sculptures, the works of Oscar Wilde, compares the faces of old women to the mountain crone of Nagasawa Rosetsu’s painting, the prose of Tristram Shandy and the poems of the Orient to conclude that the obligation of an poet (or artist in general) is “to dissect his own corpse and reveal the symptoms of its illness to the world.” In a world where an artist is classified by their subjective and objective approach towards art, imparting life and translating the external mood onto the canvass, which is then designated as a “true artist”? Is it a person who resembling the Abbot of Kankaji views life without hindrance and fetches beauty from the most trivial situations in life or is it someone akin to the protagonist who has to take refuge in an isolated land where his poetry can sing the song of a skylark without fearing the deep crimson strokes of the camellia oozing out from the painting like blood on an icy wintry slope. Is it possible to be artist in a true sense without being subjected to the menace of detectives who tend to count people’s “farts”?Why do we always read books from beginning to end? Why must the prologue always be read first? Why can’t the story begin from the middle and instead of comprehending the plot first, we appreciate the characters and then revolve the narrative around them? Art is formed in this haphazard way. It never begins with a preamble, it just needs one perfect emotion, one stroke, one note or one word and a whole world is build around it. Art is formed when the artist can ultimately say, “Ah, here it is! This is myself!” Art has always freely flown in the narrow lanes of the mind and heart that is the place where creativity flourishes in its embryonic stage. Nonetheless, as the world modernizes eradicating human slavery, the art in turn becomes a slave to prejudicial judgments, defending its freedom at every step in the society. If creativity has to be justified at every corner then is the artistic community committing a crime by exposing art to political scavengers? If every brush stroke, every poetic syllable, every written word is interrogated, then will art succumb to being a mere regulated display behind the glass door forever waiting for a stamp of approval? Soseki was troubled as his melancholy viewed the changing world through a glass door questioning whether Japanese traditions will be lost in the chaos of modernization, and true art will be lost among the malodorous farts.“The world where falling in love requires marrying is a world where novels require reading from beginning to end.”Life changes, old familiarity bring new lonesomeness as beauty is transient. If our shadows can bear the pain of its disappearance as the night falls only to find joy the next morning, why does man fear change and prefers to dwell in the shadows of an haunting past rather than embrace the joy of future? Although, Natsume Soseki spent several of his studying years abroad (London), his heart belonged to Japan and it’s embedded culture. Soseki came from a world where books were read from the middle and random passages. Akin to the novel’s protagonist, Soseki was apprehensive about the onset of the 20th century. The author’s derision to modernity can be unmistakably seen with his dismissal of nude art for lack of dreamy innocence that is perceived in the artistic depth of the Geishas and the annoyance for the train describing it to be “a serpent of civilization that comes slowly writhing along the glittering tracks, belching black smoke from its jaws.” Reading these thoughts of the author, I infer that more than the advent of modernization (since Soseki did bring in quite a Western influence in his prose), he was skeptical about the state of the preservation of Japanese traditional art. I wonder what Soseki would think in today’s world where artists are thrown in jail or labour camps (Ai WeiWei) or have to resort to clandestine Banksy performances. Were Soseki’s inferences accurate when he concluded that “modern civilization gives each person his little patch of earth and tells him he may wake and sleep as he pleases on it, only to build iron railings around it and threaten us with dire consequences if we should put a foot outside this barrier?”. Has the modern world shackled the essence of art? Is a pure emotion of ‘pitying love’ susceptible of being exposed to the vulgarity of its world? Has art become so vulnerable that it can only sustain pristinely in a secluded atmosphere without being tainted by the human world? In the chaos of modernization and the ambivalent relationship to aged traditions, where does Soseki’s literary naturalist grass pillow stand among the terrains of human entanglement and realism? At a time when Japan was tumbling into a new world whilst being haunted by it traditional past, Natsume Soseki expressively penned the quandary of a country and its people trying to find a concrete place in between the two worlds.“My aim on this journey is to leave behind the world of common emotions and achieve the transcendent state of an artist’s....”In Japanese, the word ‘Kusa’ = grass and ‘Makura’ = pillow; resting on the aesthetics of nature in this haiku-style philosophical zephyr, Soseki’s prose(which he wrote in a week’s time) embodies a journey that not only encapsulates beauty of a timeless past but also an memorable experience of appreciating modernity and traditional complexities of art that stood on the periphery two entirely different centuries along with its artist.Shadows of lifeThree-cornered worldSoseki dreams.....

  • Rowena
    2019-06-12 14:55

    “Yes, a poem, a painting, can draw the story of troubles from a troubled world and lay in its place a blessed realm before our grateful eyes.”- Natsume Soseki, KusamakuraNatsume Soseki might soon be a new favourite of mine. This is a book I read after reading Praj's wonderful review.Kusamakura tells the story of an unnamed artist looking for artistic inspiration while walking through the Japanese mountains, and his encounters at the on-sen (Japanese hotspring) where he encounters the beautiful Nami. Kusamakura is one of the most beautiful books I’ve read all year, one that hooked me from the first sentence. This book was a philosophical look at poetry, nature, beauty and art from a Japanese perspective, often contrasting that perspective a lot more favourably than with other perspectives. Though not an artist myself, as an art-lover I could appreciate the opportunity of looking into the mind of an artist, and viewing his thought process. As trite as this may sound I realize that Japanese literature speaks to my soul on a deeper level. I really think it has a lot to do with my introvertism. Authors like Soseki, Tanizaki and Mishima have a very introspective way of looking at things, beauty in particular, and it’s something I can really relate to.Several adjectives came to mind while I read this. Delicate was one,calming and elegant were others. I didn’t agree with Soseki’s negative critique of Chinese art and European literature though:“All such Chinese household furnishings, indeed, have the same rather dull and unimaginative quality. One is forced to the conclusion that they’re the inventions of a race of patient and slightly slow-witted people.”And this is just conjecture here, but as this book was written in the same year as Okakura’s "The Book of Tea", it does seem to me that both authors were worried about foreign influence on Japanese culture and were looking at ways to show the superiority of Japanese art. I can’t side with one form over the other as I believe all art forms are valid and carry different energies and emotions. It's a pity Soseki didn't look at it in this way.Apart from that little gripe this book was wonderful. I’m really looking forward to reading more Soseki.

  • Stephen P
    2019-06-06 21:00

    A thirst for the purity of an openness that eschews all restrictions of internal will or external codes. The rare locale of an artist. A place of imagination and dreaming existing apart from the vulgarity of movement-the world. Seeking it removes any chance of finding it. The locale is something which arrives. A splendor of reverie for those patient enough to wait. A book that replenishes the inspiration of awaiting.We travel with the narrator, a 30 year old Japanese artist. His steps takes him into a valley, an Inn where he is the only visitor. What is to be sought in this quiet splendor is, what is an artist? How is this manifested within a person, how is this manifested within a person's response to the world.Residing within his mind , his thoughts which exist between the breaths of prose, verse carrying pearls of metaphor, we live through his travails, temptations, experiences, and experiences of experience. A dedicated pilgrim of the mind he has that unique gift to express the ephemeral in, beautific language while carrying out a plot not inserted but grown from seed and carefully tended.My only complaint, a small one, there was a couple of time the descriptive language slid over the borderline into overuse and slowed the narrative. A loss of a 0/5 stars. However, due to the reading of this slender novel-memoir-autobiographical interlude-travelogue, I understand rather than know, one may be an accomplished artist without painting, composing, writing, playing a musical instrument. Living within each moment invites us to live within the world of art as opposed to the contrast of living within the taint of the disquieted world.Please do not take my review as alluding to that this quiet writing is instructive. The author is filled with grace and gracefulness in the practice of his craft. The book was difficult to put down. During the day it proved a burdensome task to close its covers within my mind. It is difficult now to be in ANY situation as I had been before. Anything new is uncomfortable for me at first. There are riches here though. Many more than meets the eye.4.5/5

  • Mariel
    2019-06-22 16:42

    "Clearly I am thinking about nothing. I am most certainly looking at nothing. Since nothing is present to my consciousness to beguile me with its color and movement, I have not become one with anything. Yet I am in motion: motion neither within the world nor outside it- simply motion. Neither motion as flower, nor as bird, nor motion in relation to another human, just ecstatic emotion." To me, that is the "nonemotion" from Kusamakura of life as nature as art as life as poetry. In my own hazed definitions I tell myself that it's my human naturism, as well as outside naturism (like normal people would call it). Walking outside after a storm and the senses pick up the clean smells of the earth and sky. No one else is around so things don't "matter" in the way of consequences. I feel cheesey trying to name it. Haikus! Kusamakura is Soseki's "haiku novel". Nature! It is what Robert Bresson said about not chasing poetry and letting it slip in your walking joints as ellipises (he said it better than that, I'm paraphrasing). That's it. Ellipsis motion... Kusamakura is my ellipsis motion novel. "I simply gaze at it with pleasure. The word "gaze" is perhaps a little strong. Rather say that the phantom slips easily in under my closed eyelids. It comes gliding into the room, traveling soundlessly over the matting like a spirit lady walking on water." This! The unnamed protagonist sets off into the other corners of his world to forget the self-interest found in identifying in emotions of life as stage. I don't think I could go anywhere and not make more of that. Stories are my life, and I read it into everything. But I think I need the painting kind of naturism/haiku... Life as thousands of years ago or a thousand years away. It can't touch you and you cannot touch it. Is that kind of love capable of burning as fire? Probably not. But it can be an image made whole. It might not do a damned thing about loneliness but a painting is unbroken hearted. I think I get why it was good for him to go in search of his nonemotion artistic life. "When a thing finishes abruptly, you register the abruptness of its ending, and the loss is not deeply moving to you. A voice that breaks off decisively will produce a decisive feeling of completion in the listener. But when a phenomenon fades naturally away toward nothing with no real pause or break, the listening heart shrinks with each dwindling minute and each waning second to a thinner forlornness. Like the beloved dying who yet does not die, the guttering flame that still flickers on, this song racks my heart with ancticipation of its end and holds within its melody all the bitter sorrows of the world's transient springs." I read this edition of Soseki's work, translated by Meredith McKinney under the title "Kusamakura" rather than "The Three-Cornered World" (translated by [I have to look this up! Translators have never had this level of attention from me before goodreads, unless the work is a particular favorite] Alan Turney). It was a new translation (by Jay Rubin. Him I don't have to rescue from the tip of my tongue) of Sanshiro too. I'm not sure why there were new translations done. McKinney's introduction talks about how impossible it is to capture the simplicity of Soseki's Japanese into English. She chose an old fashioned style of English writing to reflect the losing to times style of the Japanese. I was at the least in McKinney's touch, if not her hands, because I cannot read the Japanese. The old-fashioned style is like a "Do" telling kind of thought. "One must..." instructions. If I were on this walk I think I'd want to close the eyelids a bit more and not chase with the "Musts". McKinney is all I've got. Maybe it is the scholarly bent of the philosophy, not to mention her "How I did it" introduction, that made me feel it was bent that way. I know I'm convoluted at best trying to define any of this stuff... (Well, isn't everyone alone in their naturist moments?) Maybe McKinney's instructional method works better than my inner describing it to myself stuff. "The Three-Cornered World" is a great way of explaining the disregard of "reality" in a make believe world of art. I have no way of knowing what the literal translation is. I'm going to refer to "Kusamakura" in this review all the same, because that's what my copy was called. [Useless Mariel trivia: I refer to foriegn films to the title it was packaged as when I saw it. Some French titles, some in English.] "If you see something frightening simply as what it is, there's poetry in it; if you step back from your reactions and view something uncanny on its own terms, simply as an uncanny thing, there's a painting there. It's precisely the same if you choose to take heartbreak as the subject for art. You must forget the pain of your own broken heart and simply visualize in objective terms the tender moments, the moments of empathy or unhappiness, even the moments most redolent with the pain of heartbreak. These will then become the stuff of literature or art. Some will manufacture an impossible heartbreak, put themselves through its agonies, and crave its pleasures. The average man considers this to be sheer folly and madness. But someone who willfully creates the lineaments of unhappiness and chooses to dwell in this construction has, it must be said, gained precisely the vantage point as the artist who can create from his own being some supernatural landscape and then proceed to delight in his self-created magical realm." [I'm going to betray my every day idiotic ramblings now. It is good to sit quietly in nature to escape myself, you know? The cover is a portrait of a woman in a kimono. Okay, that is left open to reveal breasts. I've been getting a lot of used Japanese classics that have covers like this. Why are covers for classics so unoriginal? I suspect I'll start seeing the same covers used for Japanese classics just like those chinless girls or cottages on English classics from the eighteenth century. "I've already read this! No, wait, I haven't. Her dress had puffed sleeves! This kimono reveals a bit more cleavage than that other one! I mean, the peach cleft hairline thingy... Um....."] Soseki is said to have written Kusamakura in a week! Fuuuuck. This is only my third Soseki and I'm already convinced he was something of a genius. I feel like he could be one of those long ago puzzle peices that makes my whole painting. I know, the Kusamakura protagonist didn't believe in "detective" work. It isn't a complete fit. I don't want it to be. What I love about detective work is figuring out the differences and the sameness. I DO care about the hows and the whys. "What we call pleasure in fact contains all suffering, since it arises from attachment. Only thanks to the existence of the poet and the painter are we able to imbibe the essence of this dualistic world, to taste the purity of its very bones and marrow. The artist feasts on mists, he sips the dew, appraising this hue and assessing that, and he does not lament the moment of death. The delight of artists lies not in attachment to objects but in taking the object into the self, become one with it. Once he has become the object, no space can be found on this vast earth of ours where he might stand firmly as himself. He has cast off the dust of the sullied self and become a traveler clad in tattered robes, drinking down the infinities of pure mountain winds." Yukio Mishima said about Kawabata that he was the "eternal traveler". That might be a more appropriate description of Soseki. The traveling as ellipsis! Yeah! "The fact of the matter is that the realms of poetry and art are already amply present in each one of us. Our years may pass unheeded until we find ourselves in groaning decrepitude, but when we turn to recollect our life and enumerate the vicissitudes of our history and experience, then surely we will be able to call up with delight some moment when we have forgotten our sullied selves, a moment that lingers still, just as even a rotting corpse will yet emit a faint glow. Anyone who cannot do so cannot call his life worth living." This! I know I said it borders on a self-help style too much to underly the true meaning of beneath the gaze... But moments like this? This is the true definition of natures. Does anyone else like to watch making ofs about their favorite films? Kusamakura feels a bit like that. I remember my mouth hanging open in astonishment over one behind the scenes story about Klaus Kinski from Werner Herzog. I don't need the behind the scenes to feel anything about Klaus Kinski (I really do. Feel something), but knowing how Kinski would keep his feet planted and rotate the rest of his body for the camera to pick up how he entered the frame larger than life? I was impressed. First wall, second wall, third wall... I love it when they don't have to break and exist at the same time. Kusamakura is that kinda behind the scenes rather than just the story. No matter what the "pure" artistic aim was in its construction to exist outside of emotion... The construction of the painting was not without spirit. Emotion is spirit, as far as I'm concerned. I loved Kusamakura for being about this because I'm going to need more stuff like this to explain how one goes about building this life. P.s. This review is crazy, isn't it?

  • Hadrian
    2019-05-31 16:35

    A wandering look at the creation of poetry. Slow and meditative. This short little book treats life with a sort of nostalgia for something that was, or might not ever have been. It relays the process of creating a poem, of finding inspiration, of rebirth and renewal and of wandering the countryside to escape the neuroticism and 'fart-smellers' of the big city.As you might have guessed from the last remark, this does not mean that Sōseki's tale is wholly humorless and austere. On the contrary. Our narrator-poet talks about how easy it is to write haiku, saying that it can be done on the toilet. The scene with the garrulous barber is a real treat as well, with the loud man hacking apart the narrator's face as he chatters away in the serene atmosphere of the countryside.The plot barely exists, and instead the reflection is in thoughts and details. The existence of this world is in something that is not human. In the artist painting his subject and his longing for detachment, he only finds engagement with something more human and emotive, and not so separate from the world after all.

  • Michael Finocchiaro
    2019-06-23 13:54

    This is a beautiful book which takes place a metaphorical and physical mountain climb. I would consider it Soseki's more interior-facing work and one of incredible zen-like wisdom and imagery. Again, do not expect laughing geisha and dancing no actors but rather the mature musings of a Japanese master writer grappling with middle age at 39. Here is an example of his irony-laden highly reflective pose chosen at random:I eased my law-abiding buttocks down on the cushioning grass. One could remain in such a place as this for five or six days without the fear of anybody making a complaint. That is the beauty of Nature. It is true that if forced Nature can act ruthlessness and without remorse, but on the otherhand she is free from all perfidy, since her attitude is the same towards everyone who harasses her.The story does include some other characters and a little bit of shadow theatre and is delightful in that melancholic Soseki kind of way.The narrator is able to articulate his ideas near the end of the book in a highly evocative poem, here are the closing lines:Although yet thirty, my thoughts are those of age,But Spring retains her former glory.Wandering here and there I am as one who with everything in turn,And 'midst the perfumed blossoms, peace is mine.I certainly hope Soseki died with that peace and that I myself one day may attain it.

  • Ben Winch
    2019-06-25 16:38

    Beautiful. Joyous. Sharp, clear, precise. Soseki’s best, I think, for its freedom, for its glow. True, from here on near everything he wrote had the magic, but like Kafka’s his characters were hemmed in, in darkness. Here, from when the unnamed “I” appears on a mountain path until he disappears at a train station as the world calls from down the tracks, all is glittering. I couldn’t read this when I was down; it demanded I engage with it, bring heart to it, enjoy it. I know not everyone (few people, even) will feel this. The 150-page mountain idyll of a painter who never paints. A “haiku novel” preoccupied with stillness. A cod-philosophic essay on alienation, the artist’s role in society, Japan versus the west, the “nonemotional”. Not that it’s plotless (the plot, though simple, is taut, engaging) or experimental (it is, but subtly; not for Soseki vulgar flash and histrionics), but it’s quiet, thirst-quenchingly so. For Soseki, anything less (anything louder, brasher, less disciplined) would be a failure. But where in The Gate or Light and Darkness this reserve might constrain him, here it sets him free. Where The Gate takes place (until its pained Zen-temple denouement) in a virtual burrow – wintry Tokyo unseen outside – Kusamakura is spring, mountains and sea, a wide chessboard on which his proud sharp-carved characters (which, as Eddie Watkins says, are always chess-pieces) move with full-extended ease. Where Light and Darkness follows its ailing protagonist through successive contortions in the name of duty, Kusamakura’s “I” moves unhindered, able to see all from its lucent mountain height. Without it, Soseki’s fame would be assured. With it, we have a picture of his first steps into maturity, newly aware of his mastery but unenslaved by it, not yet the professional writer (Japan’s first) hemmed by deadlines and reputation.Re the new translation, at first I was suspicious:As I climb the mountain path I ponder – If you work by reason, you grow rough-edged; if you choose to dip your oar into sentiment’s stream, it will sweep you away. Demanding your own way only serves to constrain you. However you look at it, the human world is not an easy place to live.In the old translation (The Three-Cornered World by Alan Turney):Going up a mountain track, I fell to thinking. Approach everything rationally, and you become harsh. Pole along in the stream of emotions, and you will be swept away by the current. Give free reign to your desires, and you become uncomfortably confined. It is not a very agreable place to live, this world of ours.Nor did I buy the line that “English, unlike Japanese, cannot sustain occasional shifts to past-tense narration”. (See Sverre Lyngstad’s Hamsun translations for a deliberate muddling of the tenses, or – the first name that occurs to me – Michael Ondaatje for a native-speaking equivalent.) But by the end, and having kept Turney’s translation beside me throughout, I came to trust and at times delight in Meredith McKinney’s work.And so from him I learn the fate of this young man, who is destined to leave for the Manchurian front in a matter of days. I’ve been mistaken to assume that in this little village in the spring, so like a dream or a poem, life is a matter only of the singing birds, the falling blossoms, and the bubbling springs. The real world has crossed the mountains and seas and is bearing down even on this isolated village, whose inhabitants have doubtless lived here in peace down the long stretch of years ever since they fled as defeated warriors from the great clan wars of the twelfth century. Perhaps a millionth part of the blood that will dye the wide Manchurian plains will gush from this young man’s arteries, or seethe forth at the point of the long sword that hangs at his waist. Yet here this young man sits, beside an artist for whom the sole value of human life lies in dreaming. If I listen carefully, I can even hear the beating of his heart, so close are we. And perhaps even now, within that beat reverberates the beating of the great tide that is sweeping across the hundreds of miles of that far battlefield. Fate has for a brief and unexpected moment brought us together in this room, but beyond that it speaks no more.In another register:Nor do I exert myself in climbing the temple steps; indeed, if I found that the climb caused me any real effort, I would immediately give up. Pasing after I take the first step, I register a certain pleasure and so take a second. With the second step, the urge to compose a poem comes upon me. I stare in silent contemplation at my shadow, noting how strange it looks, blocked and cut short by the angle of the next stone riser, and this strangeness leads me to climb a further step. Here I look up at the sky. Tiny stars twinkle in its drowsy depths. There’s a poem here, I think, and so to the next step – and in this manner I eventually reach the top.That Soseki wrote (or published) this in the same year as the youthful Botchan seems incredible. If, as he claimed, he wrote it in a week I’m stunned. With the refinement of the calligraphist or woodblock-printmaker, in a single bound, he joins the masters. That he’d never write like this again makes it all the more precious. As I said, this time around, there were days on which I didn’t quite feel up to this. Ask me after my third reading and I might tell you it’s an all-time favourite.

  • Eddie Watkins
    2019-06-18 20:36

    Pure simple enchantment, with a healthy helping of farts. Soseki set out to write a “haiku-novel” and Kusamakura does bear many resemblances to Basho’s haiku travel book, The Narrow Road to the Deep North; but it is less a novel than a treatise on “aesthetic living”, which in the context of this book is akin to a path to enlightenment. So it is filled with asides, with brief discourses on how to live “non-emotionally”, free from petty social entanglements, so to clear the way for reaching the “heart of things”.The nameless narrator, who is a painter on a journey through the mountains, realizes the heart of things on occasion throughout the book, and these moments are described exquisitely. Many of these moments occur in the natural world amid flowers and trees and streams, but the true heart of things is embodied by a woman he encounters at a hot spring. This woman, Nami (whose name means “beauty”), is considered mad or loopy by some, but to the narrator she embodies spontaneity and enlightened aesthetic living (without the need to even practice an art). She has lived her life with a crazy innocence upon returning to her small village after a disastrous marriage. Throughout the book she haunts and teases the narrator, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally, goading him to refine his quest for non-emotional living. There is no real hint of sexual attraction, though at times I suspected that just by being herself she would dismantle his carefully cultivated and refined way of life. Instead he ponders how to paint her, but there’s always something missing in her expressions, some vital component. He doesn’t figure out this missing piece until the very end when her cousin is heading to Manchuria for the Russo-Japanese war, and she looks at him with a look of “pitying love”. The war itself has acted as a distant but ominous shadow throughout the book.The narrator never completes a painting in the book, though he writes quite a few poems, but in his philosophy being an artist is not an end in itself, it is a practice that can help one perceive the heart of things, so to paint or not to paint is of no consequence. In the end he feels a sense of deep completion when he completes Nami’s portrait inside his own mind with this expression of pitying love.I mentioned farts because one of the chapters is positively fixated on them. The narrator is griping about city living where people “count your farts”. I don’t know if this is a Japanese idiom or whether it was coined by Soseki, but it reminded me of another highly refined Japanese artist, Yasujiro Ozu, who was also fixated on farts in one of his last movies, Good Morning.

  • Emilio Berra
    2019-05-28 20:50

    "... nel paese delle candide nuvole"La trama del romanzo non è di per sé molto rilevante : si tratta del percorso di un viandante, durante il quale incontra luoghi e persone, storie suggestive, ma soprattutto l'ambiente naturale nelle sue varie forme e meraviglie. La voce narrante è quella di un artista, poeta e pittore, capace di posare lo sguardo sulla bellezza ovunque sia.Nel libro, oltre a questo tema e profondamente legato a esso, emerge la piena e serena accettazione della caducità delle cose e della vita stessa. Aspetti strettamente connessi alla cultura giapponese, ma estendibili all'intera umanità.C'è la consapevolezza che "in tutti i piaceri è insita la sofferenza, perché traggono la loro origine dall'attaccamento alle cose" ; gli artisti invece "si nutrono di nebbia, bevono la rugiada (...) , nel loro copricapo squarciato penetra l'infinita, azzurra tempesta".Questo approccio 'innocente' alla natura può ricordare la poetica del Fanciullino di Pascoli, di cui Soseki era contemporaneo (il libro è del 1906), anche se spazialmente e culturalmente c'è tutta la distanza che separava l'Italia dal Giappone ad inizio '900. Ma la coincidenza , fra i due scrittori, sulla funzione del poeta e dell'arte stessa è evidente : "dove il volgo guarderebbe cieco, l'artista scopre innumerevoli gemme, infiniti tesori".Ciò che pure colpisce leggendo il testo è ciò che I. Calvino, in "Lezioni americane", chiama "leggerezza" ; qui infatti prevale un uso straordinario e bellissimo di un linguaggio spesso metaforico fatto di immagini lievi, 'senza nulla che pesi o che posi' , nella convinzione che, "se si tenta affannosamente di rendere la bellezza ancor più attraente, si ottiene al contrario il risultato di sminuirla. Come dice il proverbio : 'Completare è diminuire' ".C'è quindi qualcosa di antico e, nel contempo, di straordinariamente moderno in questo elogio della semplicità e dell'essenzialità.Ecco dunque la contemplazione della 'bellezza delle cose fragili' che quasi paiono esistere momentaneamente per destare il nostro stupore. Si coglie "nell'aria un presagio di pioggia". "La pioggia è tanto tenue che sembra aspergere segretamente la primavera". " In quale luogo sostare ? Lontano nel paese delle candide nuvole ".

  • umberto
    2019-06-12 17:31

    DEAR FRIENDS,PLEASE DO NOT VOTE 'LIKE' FOR THIS REVIEW BECAUSE IT IS IN FACT FOR 'KUSAMAKURA' (PENGUIN, 2008): IF YOU LIKE IT, VISIT THIS PAGE AND VOTE THERE: FOR THE FOLLOWING 6 WELL-WISHERS: Sonja, Ben, Aubrey, *Bar*, Garima, and Aziz, please move your 'Like' by reclicking your 'Like' on this review (for 'Unlike') then click 'Like' on this one for the right book review: thanks for your kind help. However, I have to resend my request to notify your 'Like' needed, so that I would delete this page.I'm sorry for the inconvenience caused due to such a persisting technical problem.Translated in a previous edition entitled "The Three-Cornered World" by Alan Turney, this is another edition by another translator. Reading this compact novel by Natsume Soseki was similar to reading a haiku-like one that requires literary interpretations according to, I think, one's interests, backgrounds and appreciation. The more we read it farther from Chapter 1 onward, we'd gradually realize why Soseki has rightly been acclaimed as " the father of modern Japanese literature" and in his own words, Kusamakura is " a haiku-style novel that lives through beauty." (back cover)First, his readers will never know the name of "I" as the events proceed, in other words, we'll know him as a male narrator in his 30s who has traveled alone from Tokyo in search of somewhere to paint or to write his haiku poems in a remote rural town in the mountains near the sea. Eventualy, this mysterious protagonist literally intensifies his readers' curiosity and perplexity. However, it's our relief to know the name of the lovely daughter who has her own mysterious ways in taking care of him as her guest arriving at night and during his stay with the family there. Her name 'Nami' meaning beauty is appropriate in the fairly-romatic plot since, I think, it induces us to keep reading to know more.Second, some readers may find this novel boring at first due to the author's lengthy descriptions with few dialogs, for instance, in Chapters 1, 3, 6, etc. However, I understand he's tried to describe the contexts, the characters, the natural settings, etc, as related to the novel's theme. I found reading Chapter 3 (pp. 35-39) so entrancing that I scribbled 'one of the great chapters' at the end. Moreover, another unthinkable chapter keeps haunting and challenging me for my vision, that is, its subtlety is nearly beyond my imagination and this is one of the reasons why Soseki's superbly-written works have since been admired. The chapter in question is Chapter 7, I think we may find it a bit hard to visualize such illusive description.Finally, I liked its fine translation by Dr Meredith McKinney and I noticed the adjective 'shimmering' has been used in two sentences (p. 60) and in another (p. 115). Therefore, I think this word suggests partly or nearly all of its key theme, that is, it focuses on its shimmering romantic (or semiromantic if we don't take the affairs between Nami and 'I' seriously) story between two strangers who happen to meet each other somewhere in the mountains in rural, seaside Japan.In conclusion, the novel has its own way in ending the story and allows its reader to ponder happily, neutrally or unhappily I'm not sure. That remains mysterious and challenging to its readers to try reading it as one of the most shimmering Japanese novels I've ever read. Find a copy and enjoy!

  • umberto
    2019-05-25 20:57

    Formerly translated in an edition entitled "The Three-Cornered World" by Alan Turney, this is a new translation by Meredith McKinney. Reading this compact novel by Natsume Soseki was similar to reading a haiku-like one that requires literary interpretations according to, I think, one's interests, backgrounds and appreciation. The more we read it farther from Chapter 1 onwards, we'd gradually realize why Soseki has rightly been acclaimed as " the father of modern Japanese literature" and in his own words, Kusamakura is "a haiku-style novel that lives through beauty." (back cover)First, his readers will never know the name of "I" as the events proceed, in other words, we'll know him as a male narrator in his 30s who has traveled alone from Tokyo in search of somewhere to paint or to write his haiku poems in a remote rural town in the mountains near the sea. Eventually, this mysterious protagonist literally intensifies his readers' curiosity and perplexity. However, it's our relief to know the name of the lovely daughter who has her own mysterious ways in taking care of him as her guest arriving at night and during his stay with the family there. Her name 'Nami' meaning beauty is appropriate in the fairly-romantic plot since, I think, it induces us to keep reading to know more.Second, some readers may find this novel boring at first due to the author's lengthy descriptions with few dialogs, for instance, in Chapters 1, 3, 6, etc. However, I understand he's tried to describe the contexts, the characters, the natural settings, etc. as related to the novel's theme. I found reading Chapter 3 (pp. 35-39) so entrancing that I scribbled 'one of the this word suggests partly or nearly all of its key theme, that is, it focuses on its shimmering great chapters' at the end. Moreover, another unthinkable chapter keeps haunting and challenging me for my vision, that is, its subtlety is nearly beyond my imagination and this is one of the reasons why Soseki's superbly-written works have since been admired. The chapter in question is Chapter 7, I think we may find it a bit hard to visualize such illusive description.Finally, I liked its fine translation by Dr Meredith McKinney and I noticed the adjective 'shimmering' has been used in two sentences (p. 60) and in another (p. 115). Therefore, I think romantic (or semi-romantic if we don't take the affairs between Nami and 'I' seriously) story between two strangers who happen to meet each other somewhere in the mountains in rural, seaside Japan.In conclusion, the novel has its own way in ending the story and allows its reader to ponder happily, neutrally or unhappily I'm not sure. That remains mysterious and challenging to its readers to try reading it as one of the most shimmering Japanese novels I've ever read. Find a copy and enjoy!

  • umberto
    2019-05-28 20:47

    Translated from Natsume Soseki's “Kusamakura” by Alan Turney, “The Three-Cornered World” itself first published in 1965 has once confused me since some years ago when I first came across and read another copy published in 2008 because Meredith McKinney has transliterated its Japanese title into English; therefore, we read this novel from two translators whose expertise we may compare from its 43-year gap.I have found reading this book more enjoyable and understandable than the one by Dr McKinney since, it seemed to me, its narrations and dialogues are given in more detail (I think I should find “Kusamakura” to reread, compare and see if what I found is true). Furthermore, those Soseki fans should find a copy to read and see how brilliant his prose and poems are. Some paragraphs might be a bit lengthy but it’s his style, just keep reading and you’d be amazed at his descriptions/dialogues on ‘I’ (an artist) and O-Nami, an enigmatic, strange and beautiful lady in a nearly deserted inn where the artist decides to stay to meditate in the mountains.

  • Zak
    2019-06-25 20:55

    If there were such a thing as 'reading meditation', this book would be it. Its languid pace takes the reader on an introspective journey filled with acute observations and insight. With vivid imagery, every sentence was a delight to read. In truth, nothing much happens but it is a welcome departure from the usual hustle and bustle of most contemporary literature.Final rating: 4.5*

  • Edward
    2019-06-21 21:01

    IntroductionA Note on the TranslationAcknowledgmentsSuggestions for Further Reading--KusamakuraNotes

  • Hà NguyệtLinh
    2019-06-01 14:57

    Hồi bạn tặng cuốn này đã bảo: mi thích vẽ với tính mi rứa chắc sẽ thích cuốn này. Mình nhìn bản với vẻ mặt: ta ứ tin đâu nhá, định lừa ta với mấy cuốn văn học Nhật sầu thảm rồi nhìn ta tự sát chứ gì. Mà lật ra trang đầu tiên đã phủ phục quy hàng với nó ngay:"Theo lí trí thì gặp trở ngại. Theo tình cảm thì bị cuốn theo. Theo chí hướng riêng thì bế tắc. Nhìn theo kiểu nào thì thế giới con người cũng là một nơi khó sống.Khi cảm thấy khó sống quá thì người ta thích tìm đến nơi nào dễ chịu. Và khi nhận ra rằng chẳng có nơi nào dễ sống thì người ta làm thơ, vẽ tranh..."Soseki nói như thể móc từ não mình ra vậy. Đây là cuốn đầu tiên mở màn cho series Soseki và những ngày ảm đạm. Một cách chủ quan mình thích nhất cuốn này trong số những cuốn đã đọc của ổng, ít u uất nhất, đỡ yếm thế nhất, đanh đá hơn cả (ổng móc mỉa đủ thứ của hiện sinh) và cái đẹp thoát tục của ổng cũng là thứ mình tìm kiếm.Gối đầu lên cỏ thành sách gối đầu giường của mình luôn kể từ đó.

  • Gearóid
    2019-06-17 19:46

    This book was really lovely and refreshing to read.From the start I was captivated by the nice sense of peaceand beauty.The narrator is so interesting as he describes what it means tobe a true artist but he is also very funny at times.Made me think a lot about when I look at a piece of art andreally like it but can't explain why that this is ok as the artistjust wants you to feel the emotion he is trying to portrait.Also makes you realise that just by appreciating nature and beautyyou are an artist yourself.One of my favourite books and I will read it numerous times.

  • Van Nguyen
    2019-06-03 20:55

    Mình đã bị thu hút từ cái bìa cho đến lời tựa của Nhật Chiêu, người mà mình ngưỡng mộ. Sau đó, giở ngẫu nhiên trang nào cũng đọc được phần mình thấy ổn nên mua. Mình đã hi vọng là mình sẽ thích nó. Lần đầu mình đọc nó là tháng 7 năm ngoái.Lần 1: đọc cực kỳ mệt và thấy khó chịu trước sự soi mói của tay họa sĩ bằng tuổi. Anh ta so sánh, chê bai, nghĩ ngợi, không vẽ gì ra hồn. Bất cứ cái gì cũng đem ra để đối chiếu giữa phương Đông và phương Tây. Thực sự mình đã nghĩ họa sĩ này biết đâu có vấn đề gì đó về cuộc sống nên mới phải chạy đến vùng núi non để suy nghĩ có phần hơi...tự kỷ thế này.Lần 2: mình dọn tủ, vừa hay cũng có người bạn nhờ mình viết lại tổng kết. Lần này mình đọc chậm hơn, cả tháng mới xong chứ không còn đọc một lèo trong một tuần như trước. Kết quả mình cũng hiểu ra ít nhiều: Natsume Soseki luyến tiếc giá trị truyền thống sẽ mất đi theo nền văn minh và chán cuộc sống thành thị. Ông tạo ra một họa sĩ đi tìm nét đẹp tinh thần còn trong trẻo tại một miền quê Nhật Bản mà chính họa sĩ cũng không nhận ra mục đích chuyến đi ban đầu. Họa sĩ vì muốn vẽ một bức tranh toàn bích trong tinh thần hội họa phương Đông được thể hiện theo phong cách phương Tây nên đã phải cân nhắc lựa chọn kỹ càng. Trò đời là càng phê bình lắm, càng nghĩ nhiều thì càng không làm được gì cả. Anh họa sĩ này cũng không ngoại lệ. Vì vậy, khi đã xác định mình sẽ vẽ gì và tìm kiếm gì trong thần thái con người, cuối cùng anh ta đã có thể hoàn thành bức vẽ trong chuyến đi của mình.Dù sao thì với cách diễn đạt cổ điển, dàn trải và hơi có phần lãng đãng như sương khói thế này, mình cũng không thích lắm. Tuy nhiên, ẩn ý cực kỳ sâu xa, tài tình và sự hiểu biết của tác giả về lịch sử nghệ thuật khiến mình không thể đánh giá thấp cuốn sách được.

  • V
    2019-05-31 17:33

    If Kokoro is a study of loneliness, this is a study of beauty - that's what I thought after the first pages and it's still appropriate after I read the end.The style is extremely poetical. Sōseki even goes as far as to focus on description of landscape, clothing and objects instead of plot. Nevertheless, there is a plot. I sometimes found it hard to wait for it to continue as the protagonist wanders through untouched nature far from civilization and watches everything from the viewpoint of a painter searching for a motive.When he finds a woman whose unusual beauty fascinates him, there is something missing from her face that keeps him from painting her yet. Basically he stays in one place and waits for that little 'something' to surface - the character doesn't act, only reacts.Despite the weakness in plot, it is strangely intriguing to read this book. It is hard to find beauty of such a pure and strong kind in literature, let alone reality. Therefore I greatly enjoyed reading Kusamakura. Sōseki himself said he wanted to leave the impression of something beautiful; I think he'd be pleased to hear that he achieved that goal, probably went beyond it. Even though parts are tedious to read, all in all every single sentence in this book conveys the Japanese image of gentle, elegant and detached beauty.

  • Mike
    2019-06-19 14:35

    I am an artistSo listen to me.I am an artistSo don't you dareCount my farts.

  • رحمان
    2019-05-25 15:49

    I dread getting in the bus in the morning. It's exhausting at that hour when I'm still half occupying the world of dreams and I sit down there and reality materializes in front of me and slaps me rudely on the face to wake me up and force me to join it. And it is there in the bus that I see people forcing themselves to go do their dehumanizing jobs. It is there that I can feel the alienation emanating from them. I can see it in their faces that are resembling more and more the cogs they were recast as, I can feel it in their movements that are becoming automated by the day. The bus arrives and I get in anyway. I have no other choice, it's the bus that takes me everyday on my way to slave away my life so I can live like a free man. No, to have the illusion of living like a free man. This life is no freedom.I rest my head on the window and close my eyes. I take myself far away from that suffocating congestion, to an idyllic village where I can roam the fields and breath the air. I pick up a camellia and caress its soft petals with my finger. I submerge it in the pleasantly cold river and feel the gentle pressure of the flow pushing on my hand and the delicate flower. I let it drift away not sure if I'm burying it or setting it free. I walk for a while in the greenness and then I lie down in the shade of an oak tree and join my soul to the song of a colony of musical warblers flirting and calling to one another. But again reality wakes me up and this time with a screech in my ear. Ah, I can't even escape to my dreams.If I can't dream maybe I can hope. Sometimes I try to. Sometimes I hope things will get better when I know they won't. Other times I hope I have the courage to face the world and end this misery but I know I don't. So I give up even hoping and I keep on slaving. I keep on living.

  • Markus
    2019-06-23 19:42

    The Three-Cornered WorldBy Natsume Soseki (1867-1916)This short novel, written in the first person, is the story of an artist (maybe the author himself) who is tired of the stress of city life in Tokyo.He decides to travel to a mountain region to resource himself in nature and a quiet. He only takes his color box for painting and a notepad for writing poems. He stays at an ancient and more or less deserted hot spring thermal establishment and sets out on day trips in the surrounding country for meditation and painting.His mind, however, had become distracted by discovering, at the lodging, of a beautiful and mysterious young lady. He cannot produce a single painting. Instead, he is repeatedly inspired to write short poems while sleepless in his room:The shadows of spring night blend and blur,A woman stands.Fox or woman, woman of foxThat figure in the moonlight standing?Not blossoms but the midnight stars she plucks,And weaves them into garlands for her hair.She stands, damp hair just washed cascading down her back,Streaking the clouds in this spring night with beauty.Spring! And from a shadow comes a voiceBestowing on the night a gift of song.The spirit of aronias that must beWhich on this moonlit night has ventured forth.The song now flows, now gently ebbs away,Wandering through the springtime ‘neath the moon.There she stands so utterly alone,And beaten spring draws slowly to its close.In the morning he finds comments written between the lines of his poems.It so happens, the young artist gets more and more entangled with young lady’s present and former life. He wishes to paint her portrait, but cannot concentrate, until he knows the final word about her history.The book reads like a poem, the style is beautiful but unusual. “The Tale of Genji” by Murasaki Shikibu comes to my mind. I am discovering Soseki as undoubtedly a great author, and I will read more of his works shortly.

  • Nek0 Neha (BiblioNyan)
    2019-05-29 20:53

    Every so often, I find myself holding a book that I absolutely love yet despise with such intense vehemence. After a long period of years, I have once again found such a novel—Kusamakura written by Natsume Soseki. This novel is everything that I love about intellectual writing. The imagery and poise of the story truly touch base with the artist within me. However, the pretentious arrogance of the unnamed protagonist as well as his habitual inclination to spew about every minute detail drives me insane. Now, I love nature’s beauty—flowers, skies, birds—all the rainbows of the humdrum universe that provides me with all of the inspiration that I need for my own work. But I do not sit on a small stone in the middle of a grassy field and write for three whole pages about how elegant or hideous a simple camellia appears upon a mirror-like pond. No. I cannot do it. Yes, I will see said bright red camellia and implement its beauty in poems of love and hate. But that is about as far as I can go with it. Being an artist of words, I can come to tolerate his ridiculous blabbering of nature. If you’re an author you will at some point in your life find a scene in the world that is so utterly captivating that you must paint a portrait of its effect upon yourself via penned brush. However, must you in turn insult and offend all of those who do not have the keen eye or sense for art? Or poetry even?Like I said earlier, I love this book, but it drives me batty. Things I love—imagery. Yes they can get rather tedious, but in the end, they really are described quite remarkably. I can almost feel the serene and graceful beauty of the world around him. Falling petals of cherry blossoms as they blanket the ebon hair of the woman of his infatuation; breathtaking, golden hues of a field of mustard blossoms; a sea of green as bright blades of grass envelope the hills… I mean I can seriously go on about how these rants touch the emotional chords of the restless poet within me (thus making me as much of a rambler as he, how ironic!). I do love the diction. My brain swoons at the beauty and eloquence of Soseki’s ability to weave such long and sometimes dreary words together to create a masterpiece. Also, as much as his [protagonist] self-induced ego-inflation makes me want to bang my head against a wall, I find it amusing at times. To have such intellect and yet be such a bum of an idiot—boggles the mind. I guess his words of—artists are so far above everyone else who is not as such lose common sense because it’s rendered unnecessary and meek—really does apply to him in a very literal form.

  • Susan Budd
    2019-05-25 18:37

    Exquisite prose. Natsume Soseki described this book as “a haiku-like novel, that lives through beauty.” That’s exactly what it is. Every sentence is a delight. This translation is by Meredith McKinney. I’ve compared it with the translation by Alan Turney titled The Three-Cornered World and McKinney’s translation is much more poetic and representative of the Japanese aesthetic.

  • Nhu Khue
    2019-06-02 17:32

    Mình cũng chả biết nên thích hay nên ghét cuốn sách này. Bởi vì trước khi đem nó về nhà, mình đã đọc thử vài đoạn bất kì trong sách mấy lần và cảm thấy vẫn muốn mua. Cơ mà có vẻ mình đã bị mấy cái mỹ từ trông có vẻ nghệ thuật “lừa tình”, vì từ trước đến giờ mình đều thích các tác phẩm Nhật Bản, vì cách viết rất chậm rãi và có vẻ cảm thông. Nhưng Gối đầu lên cỏ thì khác, ngoại trừ một vài đoạn miêu tả và chương một tác giả nói về nghệ thuật trong đời sống ra, các phần còn lại mình có cảm giác tác giả đang “tự sướng” thì đúng hơn. Dù thể nào thì đây cũng là một cuốn sách khá phiến diện và phán xét lộ liễu (có thể là do mình ghét phán xét lộ liễu). Có cảm giác, nhân vật anh họa sĩ, người đang trên đường tìm cái đẹp để hoàn thành tác phẩm của mình, anh đang coi mình là thánh sống. Họa sĩ đánh giá nghệ thuật, cái đẹp trong các tác phẩm anh nhìn thấy bằng cách: Khen thì dùng những tính từ mĩ miều để phân tích, nhưng phân tích cũng không sâu sắc và mang tính chủ quan nhiều hơn, và ghét thì anh chỉ cần dùng những từ như: ghét, không thích, kinh khủng, lộ liễu,... rất đối lập với những ngôn từ thanh cao dùng để khen ở trên. Tác giả hầu hết đều khen Đông chê Tây theo kiểu hời hợt như thế làm mình hơi khó tiếp nhận. Tất nhiên, cuốn sách cũng không hẳn là chỉ có thế, nhưng nói chung thì, nếu ai đó muốn tìm thứ gì nhẹ nhàng nhưng sâu sắc để đọc thì không nên bị cái tên và phần dạo đầu của Gối đầu lên cỏ đánh lừa. Không biết là do mình không đủ thấu hiểu hay là do mình không thích cách viết như thế cho nên mới nghĩ nhà họa sĩ trong Gối đầu lên cỏ cứ y như trưởng giả học làm sang. Hoàn toàn không thanh cao như anh ta nói về mình, không tinh tế, mình cứ nghĩ anh ta chỉ là một kẻ no bĩnh đi kiếm chuyện thần thánh, có chút ít chữ nghĩa để viết thành mấy câu văn, rồi coi mình là lãnh ngộ được mọi điều để phán xét thế gian. Rốt cuộc thì người đọc cũng không biết anh đã tạo nên được bức tranh nào chưa vì tất cả chỉ ở trong tưởng tượng mà thôi.Điểm hay của Gối đầu lên có là giới thiệu cho người đọc biết về một số cái tên trong hội họa và thi ca, rất đáng để tìm kiếm trên Google, ngoài ra thì cũng biết thêm một số thứ nho nhỏ của Nhật Bản. Mà những cái đó thì trong cuốn sách tác giả gì kể tên chứ chả nói gì nhiều. Sách mỏng quá thì nói gì được!

  • Meredith
    2019-06-08 21:53

    What I find most striking about this story is its gradual shift from remoteness to civilization. Much of this novel celebrates nature and simplicity--larks, inkstones, shamisen music, mountains, hot springs, etc. However, Soseki foreshadows the eventual return to civilization with momentary auditory interruptions: the unnerving ticking of a pocket watch under a pillow, the piercing sound of gunshots in the distance. Thus, he hints at the existence of advanced technology in this world without confronting the reader directly with it. Throughout much of the story, technology is behind a a veil--or, perhaps more apt, a fusuma (a paper-covered sliding door). Without these jarring auditory interruptions, we might imagine ourselves in a time long past, before firearm warfare and the carving up of the countryside in the name of innovation. At the end of the story, however, the fusuma opens and we are "dragged back more and more into the world of reality" (181) with the arrival of a steam train: "There was a rumbling sound, and belching black smoke from its mouth, a serpent born of civilization came slithering its way over the silver rails" (183). There are "acrid fumes of burnt powder" and the "unnatural thunder" of the steam engine (183). Soseki inundates the narrative with sensory imagery, accosting readers with the industrial reality of this world after dodging a direct confrontation with it for so long.Perhaps most interesting is the "I" narrator's inconsistency, reflective of a struggle between Eastern tradition and Western influence. He claims to favor the honesty and lack of dramatic excess in Eastern art; however, so much of what he sees reminds him of a Western poem, play, or painting. He shuns human emotion as vulgar and anathema to art, yet cannot finish his painting until he sees a flash of feeling on O-Nami's face. "I" celebrates this moment: "'That's it! That's it! Now that you can express that feeling, you are worth painting,' I whispered, patting her on the shoulder. It was at that very moment that the picture in my mind received its final touch" (184).

  • Margaret
    2019-05-26 15:46

    Another fine book by one of my favorite authors. This is a hard one to rate because it can't be judged as a normal event sequence book but rather taken from an artistic point. I would like to re-read this just because there was so much to digest. Being an artist, I could step into what the author was conveying and I found myself lost in the prose or the offered haiku. Don't expect to understand this book on the first reading, I certainly didn't.

  • Alexander Páez
    2019-06-18 15:51

    La traducción es excelente. Fluida y a la vez refleja a la perfección la sensibilidad de Sôseki. Un libro complicado de recomendar pero que me ha llegado en el momento correcto. Sôseki sigue afianzado en la posición de mis escritores preferidos. Además Chidori Books pasa a ser una editorial MUY a tener en cuenta.

  • Sluggo
    2019-06-08 15:58

    The title comes from a passage that explains what I find simultaneously attractive about making art and repulsively air-headed. Its beautiful but removed, in a way it denies any reality outside of aesthetics- and that necessarily makes one a cripple:"Even something frightening may appear poetic if you stand back and regard it simply as a shape, and the eerie may make an excellent picture if you think of it as something which is completely independent of yourself. Exactly the same is true with disappointed love. Providing that you can divorce yourself from the pain of a broken heart and, conjuring up before you the tenderness, the sympathy, the despair and yes, even the very excess of pain itself, can view them objectively, then you have aesthetic, artistic material. There are those who purposely imagine their hearts to be broken, and crave for the pleasure they get from this form of emotional self-flagellation. The average person dismisses them as foolish, or even a little mad, but there is absolutely no difference, inasmuch as they both have an artistic standpoint, between the man who draws an outline of misery for himself and then leads his life within it, and him whose delight it is, to paint a landscape which never existed, and then to live in a potted universe of his own creation. This being the case then, there are many artists who, outside their everyday lives, in the role of artist are more foolish, more insane than the ordinary man. We tramp around the countryside in search of suitable material, continually complaining from morning till night of the hardships we have to undergo. When, however, we are describing our journey to someone else, we show not even the slightest hint of discontent. Not only do we tell of the interesting and pleasant things that happened to us, which is only natural, but we even babble on proudly about those hardships long ago of which at the time we complained so bitterly. This is not done with any conscious intent of deceieving or cheating the listener. The inconsistency arises because while actually on the journey our feeling are just the same as those of anyone else. It is only afterwards when we tell our experiences to others that we revert to being artists. Putting it as a formula, I suppose you could say that an artist is a person who lives in the triangle which remains after the angle which we may call common sense has been removed from this four-cornered world. Because of this lack of common sense, the artist is not afraid to approach those areas, both in the natural and in the man-made world, from which the average person shrinks back, and in consequence is able to find the most exquisite pearls of beauty."Another part I loved was this:"Which do you like best, here or Tokyo?''There's no difference.''But surely life must be more comfortable in a quiet place like this?''Whether you are comfortable or not depends entirely upon your frame of mind. Life is whatever you think it is. What is the use of running away to the land of mosquitoes, because you are uncomfortable in the land of fleas?''But why not go to a land where there are neither mosquitoes nor fleas?''Is there such a country?' she said edging closer. 'If there is, show it to me. Go on, show it to me.''All right, I will if you like.' So saying, I took out my sketchbook, and drew a woman on horseback, looking at a mountainside covered with wild cherry trees. I finished it in a moment, so it could hardly be called a picture, just a rough impression.'There you are, get into this picture. There are no mosquitoes or fleas here,' I said, and pushed the book right under her nose. I was sure that the situation would cause her neither surprise, embarrassment nor discomfort. I watched her for moment. At lengh she passed it off by saying:'What a cramped and uncomfortable world. It is all width and no depth. do you like a place like this where the only way to move is sideways? You must be a regular crab." This made me burst out laughing.

  • Rage
    2019-05-25 16:57

    I can't tell if this is written as nothing more than a meandering reflection on nature, art, and human emotion, or a satire about people who take these things too seriously and completely miss the point. the narrator never paints anything - which he excuses because of the fundamentally artistic quality of his character, but, are we really supposed to take his inner narrative at face value? even though he keeps saying that everyone reminds him of figures in a painting, he's hardly cool, objective, and detached when o-nami finds him spying on her in a bush - but that's only relayed to us indirectly, with the little bit about losing his hat. plus, there are all kinds of scenes that describe minutely some seemingly unnecessary details, like examining cakes to make sure that the chickens walking around in a rural roadside tea house haven't left droppings on the cakes, the conversation with the drunken barber (who in the translation I have speaks with a cockney accent, truly bizarre), or the later obsession with detectives following him around and counting his farts. (or is all of this supposed to recall basho finding poetry in everything??) the narrator spends a lot of time pondering the clouds and grass and camellia flowers, so there are many lovely descriptions (I especially liked the withered, unloved grass that had "given up the ghost"), but there's also an undercurrent of irreverence and unexpected humor (often cheeky). I loved the idea of people who become absorbed in their own fictions or fancies living in a "potted universe," and o-nami is absolutely delightful. I'm not sure everyone would enjoy the rambling, loose structure of the book, but some passages are quite charming.

  • the gift
    2019-05-29 19:39

    this is not a novel. this is not an essay. this is somewhere in between, and possibly requires certain knowledge of history and society and aesthetics, all from Japan 1906. depending on what your ideas are, about art, about literature, about how these are changing through contacts with Europeans, this can be frustrating, or boring, when the author follows tangents, describes moments but not plot, moments of other encounters with nature or emblematic others, priest, barber, innkeeper, young woman...this is noted as significant in development of the 'I' novel, and though well-read in European or Western art and literature, this is definitely Japanese. do not expect to like or admire the narrator, whose sense of art suffuses everything, judging, dismissing, or even rarely taken out of his critical appraisal, every moment. which he does not paint, but perhaps obsessively ventures haiku at inspired moments. do not expect to agree with his voice. read at your peril. read with a receptive mind...