Kokoro

Author Natsume Sōseki
Published 1914
Rating 8/10
ISBN 0143106031
Status Finished on 2020-08-18

I thought this was great, and much more serious than the first part (and the prior reading of Botchan) prepared me, even knowing that the book ended with Sensei’s death.

I don’t have a lot of specific thoughts, which is odd, because I am thinking broadly about the book. I think about how this book is largely in response to the Meiji Restoration, yet all of its claims to societal change (we no longer respect our elders! gender relations are changing! we care too much about wealth!) still sound resonant (and thus hollow) today. I think about the particular love the protagonist has for Sensei, and how this border between love and idolatry is largely unexplored in Western literature I’ve read. I think about, of course, Hark! A Vagrant.

But mostly I think about the final page, and the bravery of ending the book not with the story’s final scene — Sensei’s wife, discovering offscreen of her husband’s death — but with the letter ending.

Highlights

But I believe that a commonplace idea stated with passionate conviction carries more living truth than some novel observation expressed with cool indifference. It is the force of blood that drives the body, after all. Words are not just vibrations in the air, they work more powerfully than that, and on more powerful objects.

In the old days children fed their parents, but these days they devour them.

No, I spend my days so passively because of my very sensitivity to such things—I lack the energy to withstand the toll they take on my nerves. And so once I make a promise, it distresses me deeply if I do not fulfill it.