Friday, January 22, 2016


"Kokoro" - "The heart of things"
What an interesting read -Kokoro by Netsuke Soseki! Written in 1914.
You can read it or download it here!

The introduction on the page in the link above sums up the message of the story:

"As a short introduction, we can do no better than to quote from a review on the back cover of the paperback, by Anthony West in the New Yorker: 'The subject of 'Kokoro', which can be translated as 'heart of things' or as 'feeling', is the delicate matter of the contrast between the meanings the various parties to 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 move sustains throughout tis length something approaching poetry, and t is rich in understanding and insight. The translation, by Edwin McClellan, is extremely good."

Divided into three parts, the plot builds up slowly, but powerfully.
It's a story of love, friendship, character and death. Upcoming death hunts its protagonist from all the directions, family and friends, with different meanings and long-term messages.
You are given clues along the way about the future events as you follow the story of young college student and Sensei (the teacher). It seems slowly paced first as the story develops gently, almost in a Zen way; as if the author wanted to give you time to absorb all the clues along the way to the final chapter to make your own predictions.

I was strolling along, catching all the clues along the way, until I finally got catapulted with the Sensei's letter. His writing was elaborated and direct, fast paced and descriptive. His expressive language and well expressed story was a drastic change from slow-paced and mysterious first 2 chapters... I couldn't wait to read all of it to find out the end of the tragic love story!
I won't be a story spoiler and reveal the plot, but I highly recommend it for the value of tapping into the lives of Japanese life in era.

Also, on a human level... this is a therapeutic read for those who are dealing with approaching death of elderly parents, or a suicidal death of someone close to them. Author's thorough break down the process of slowly approaching death of an older generation and intermingles it with detailed accounts of the traditional Japanese family customs of respect and duty. The relationship issues within family: trust, money, independence and expectations are criss-crossed with feelings of love,  friendship, jealousy, inadequacy, and loneliness.

It's a "truism' novel, with lifelong sad learning messages passed to a young student, and also to a reader.
"There is a guilt in loving"
"Give a gentleman money, and he will soon turn into a rogue."
"When the fever passes, the enthusiasm will turn to disgust."
"Distrust the whole humanity."
"Men are pretty helpless creatures, whether they are healthy or not. Who can say how they will die, or when?"

Depressing and moody, dramatic yet withdrawn at the same time. The author is in full of control of holding the harness on these strong human emotions until the last chapter when the reader is finally allowed a full glimpse of Sensei's past story. I highly recommend this reading. Its pace it's easygoing, the writing is clean and simple, yet after awhile you might realize that you dove into a rather deep pool of strenuous emotional human condition. If you are in distress or mournful condition, this read might be very helpful in sorting out your own emotions. If you are wearing rosy pink glasses, this book might bring you right back into reality with a memento-mori imprint on your forehead. Either way, it's a revealing story that will add another dimension to your understanding of human suffering.

Here is the link to the movie the first adaptation of the book by Kon Ishikawa in 1955 (Japanese with English subtitles -2hrs 1m) - other version links available here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Start a conversation here!