I am always on the lookout for books written about the Asian culture. I think it started with The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, then Lisa See books like Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and then Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. I find the Asian culture fascinating with its deep history, traditions, and art and find myself drawn to learning about the culture. I think Kokoro by Natsume Soseki is the first book I have read that was written originally in Japanese.
Kokoro is a story told in first person of a college student, we never learn his name. The book is a trilogy of stories beginning with “Sensei and I” where the narrator tells of his relationship with a man he calls “Sensi”. The narrator comes to look forward to his visits with Sensi but learns that something has happened in Sensei’s life that has caused him to distance himself somewhat from the narrator. In the “My Parents and I” the narrator returns home following the illness of his father. “Sensei and His Testament” is a letter Sensei has written to the narrator finally explaining why he has come to live a life of loneliness.
Kokoro was a calm, slow, thoughtful kind of read. Soseki tells of the perils and joys of friendship, of the love that comes from them and also of the jealousy and then the regret and guilt that can happen. The Forward mentions that “Soseki was concerned with man’s loneliness in the modern world” and I thought He spoke beautifully of loneliness. “I bear 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 egotistical selves.”
I really enjoyed Kokoro. While there is not very much action in the novel it is a reflective book that took me into a culture I love and also helped me to reflect on the nature of friendships.
Do you have a culture that you love reading about?