"The subject of Kokoro, which can be translated as 'the heart of things' or as 'feeling,' is the delicate matter of the contrast between the meanings the various parties of a relationship attach to it. In the course of this exploration, Soseki brilliantly describes different levels of friendship, family relationships, and the devices by which men attempt to escape from their fundamental loneliness. The novel sustains throughout its length something approaching poetry, and it is rich in understanding and insight. The translation, by Edwin McClellan, is extremely good." (Anthony West, The New Yorker)
This is a complicated review. I found and read this book because of another book I just finished reading. That title was The End of Life Book Club--a story about a mother and son who used books and reading to cope with terminal illness, loss, connection and family. They raved about this Japanese title so I found it and listened.
The writing is spare and poetic. The book was written in 1914 and offers an interesting exploration of loneliness and connection in "modern" times. These concepts are strangely applicable to our modern times. But more than this it offers deeper insight into The End of Life Book Club. Soseki speaks about not closing your life off by walling yourself in behind mountains of books. The mother and son from End of Life often lost opportunities to truly talk and connect on deeper personal levels because they focused so much on the current book. Don't get me wrong, reading and discussion of books is expansive, enriching and powerful. But, at times books became a safe haven and functioned as insulation from difficult conversations.
Back to this current book review-- Kororo is a fascinating look at life and transcends the limitations of time, culture and perspective. A universal story which has much to offer to current day readers. The reading style is soft and gentle. The story tackles difficult issues and does so with beauty and grace. An unusual book which I really enjoyed. Interesting to see that issues of coping with family and finding ways to connect with others isn't just a current day--modern problem.
25 of 27 people found this review helpful
Japanese classics of teacher and student, love and tragedy. A must read when one is exploring Japanese literature
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Soseki's Kokoro is probably THE most famous work of modern literature in Japan (everyone reads the second half of it in their school text books), but you certainly don't need to know anything about Japan or Japanese culture to enjoy and get something profound from this work. Like so many great works of fiction, it appeals to the human in everyone, and asks those questions every human struggles with, about life and death, and the ups and downs of life.
A great novel! This is a story about a respectable mans account of his life before he makes a great decision. A somber story that explores the frailty of mans heart, as well as his cruelty and guilt. I had no trouble listening to the novel at any point and would recommend it to anyone who can enjoy a story sprinkled with an air of sadness throughout. This novel is a classic by no mystery!
the books pace is slow at first and you will question where the narrative leads you but once you get into the second part and truly understand the literature you will understand the importance of this book in terms of educating humanity and morality. a story about men i would say, and the struggles with pride and dignity
Who was your favorite character and why?
The concept of the book is what was important not any 1 character.
Any additional comments?
IMO a nice book It touches on a few concepts of the human heart and stays there. Not as involved or complex but it's an honest story about few not many and was told well with that in mind.
Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?
I think I'm glad I listened to it, but I don't think I would go back to it again. I found the narrator frustrating at times, mostly his pronunciation of 'okaasan' (oak'sun) which drove me mad. But I also found the narrative a little difficult to engage with - I found myself getting quite annoyed with these foolish young men and their poor decision-making. I think part of the point of the book is that loneliness can make one foolish, but they came across to me as rather self-important and not as sympathetic as perhaps the author wanted. I do wonder if I would have found it more engaging if I were male.
If you’ve listened to books by Natsume Soseki before, how does this one compare?
I've not experienced any of Natsume Soseki's writing before. The closest I've come (being the other early-mid 20th century Japanese writer I've experienced) would probably be reading Yukio Mishima's "The Temple of the Golden Pavilion", which I think has a similarly unsympathetic male character who doesn't deal with his problems in a particularly healthy way. Give me "The Tale of Genji" any day.
What do you think the narrator could have done better?
His Japanese pronunciation. He also didn't really distinguish vocally between different speakers. Most of the time this was OK (and far better than very forced different voices), but occasionally it meant I got a little confused about who was speaking during dialogue.
Could you see Kokoro being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?
It has been adapted at least three times, according to Wikipedia. I can see it working on the screen, although I find it difficult to imagine it being anything other than an art house movie.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful