Natsume Sōseki (夏目 漱石, February 9, 1867 – December 9, 1916), born Natsume Kin'nosuke (夏目 金之助), was a Japanese novelist. He is best known around the world for his novels Kokoro, Botchan, I Am a Cat and his unfinished work Light and Darkness. He was also a scholar of British literature and composer of haiku, kanshi, and fairy tales. From 1984 until 2004, his portrait appeared on the front of the Japanese 1000 yen note. In Japan, he is often considered the greatest writer in modern Japanese history. He has had a profound effect on almost all important Japanese writers since.
Sōseki in 1912
9 February 1867
Edo, Tokugawa Shogunate
|Died||9 December 1916 (aged 49)|
Tokyo, Empire of Japan
|Genre||novels, short stories, poetry|
|Notable works||Kokoro, Botchan, I Am a Cat|
Born in 1867 as Natsume Kinnosuke in the town of Babashita in the Edo region of Ushigome (present Kikui, Shinjuku), Sōseki began his life as an unwanted child, born to his mother late in her life, forty years old and his father then fifty-three. When he was born, he already had five siblings. Having five children and a toddler had created family insecurity and was in some ways a disgrace to the Natsume family. A childless couple, Shiobara Masanosuke and his wife, adopted him in 1868 and raised him until the age of nine, when the couple divorced. He returned to his family and was welcomed by his mother although regarded as a nuisance by his father. His mother died when he was fourteen, and his two eldest brothers died in 1887, intensifying his sense of insecurity.
Sōseki attended the First Tokyo Middle School (now Hibiya High School), where he became enamored with Chinese literature, and fancied that he might someday become a writer. His desire to become an author arose when he was about fifteen when he told his older brother about his interest in literature. However, his family disapproved strongly of this course of action, and when Sōseki entered the Tokyo Imperial University in September 1884, it was with the intention of becoming an architect. Although he preferred Chinese classics, he start studying English at that time, feeling that it might prove useful to him in his future career, as English was a necessity in Japanese college.
In 1887, Sōseki met Masaoka Shiki, a friend who would give him encouragement on the path to becoming a writer, which would ultimately be his career. Shiki tutored him in the art of composing haiku. From this point on, he began signing his poems with the name Sōseki, which is a Chinese idiom meaning "stubborn". In 1890, he entered the English Literature department, and quickly mastered the English language. In 1891 he produced a translation into English of the classical work Hōjōki. Sōseki graduated in 1893, and enrolled for some time as a graduate student and part-time teacher at the Tokyo Normal School.
In 1895, Sōseki began teaching at Matsuyama Middle School in Shikoku, which became the setting of his novel Botchan. Along with fulfilling his teaching duties, Sōseki published haiku and Chinese poetry in a number of newspapers and periodicals. He resigned his post in 1896, and began teaching at the Fifth High School in Kumamoto. On June 10 of that year, he married Nakane Kyoko.
In the United Kingdom, 1901–1903Edit
In 1900, the Japanese government sent Sōseki to study in Great Britain as "Japan's first Japanese English literary scholar". He visited Cambridge and stayed a night there, but gave up the idea of studying at the university because he could not afford it on his government scholarship. He studied instead at University College London (UCL). He had a miserable time in London, spending most of his days indoors buried in books, and his friends feared that he might be losing his mind. He also visited Pitlochry in Scotland, where he lodged with John Henry Dixon at the Dundarach Hotel.
He lived in four different lodgings: 76 Gower Street, near the British Museum; 85 Priory Road, West Hampstead; 6 Flodden Road, Camberwell; and 81 The Chase, Clapham (see the photograph). Only the last of these addresses, where he lodged with Priscilla Leale and her sister Elizabeth, proved satisfactory. Five years later, in his preface to Bungakuron (The Criticism of Literature), he wrote about the period:
The two years I spent in London were the most unpleasant years in my life. Among English gentlemen I lived in misery, like a poor dog that had strayed among a pack of wolves.
He got along well with Priscilla, who shared his love of literature, notably Shakespeare and Milton (his tutor at UCL was the Shakespeare scholar W. J. Craig), and who also spoke fluent French, much to his admiration. The Leales were a Channel Island family, and Priscilla had been born in France. The sisters worried about Sōseki's incipient paranoia and successfully urged him to get out more and take up cycling.
Despite his poverty, loneliness, and mental problems, he solidified his knowledge of English literature during this period and returned to the Empire of Japan in January 1903. In April he was appointed to the First National College in Tokyo. Also, he was given the lectureship in English literature, subsequently replacing Koizumi Yakumo (Lafcadio Hearn) and ultimately becoming a professor of English literature at the Tokyo Imperial University, where he taught literary theory and literary criticism.
Sōseki's literary career began in 1903, when he began to contribute haiku, renku (haiku-style linked verse), haitaishi (linked verse on a set theme) and literary sketches to literary magazines, such as the prominent Hototogisu, edited by his former mentor Masaoka Shiki, and later by Takahama Kyoshi. However, it was the public success of his satirical novel I Am a Cat in 1905 that won him wide public admiration as well as critical acclaim.
He followed on this success with short stories, such as "Rondon tō" ("Tower of London") in 1905 and the novels Botchan ("Little Master"), and Kusamakura ("Grass Pillow") in 1906, which established his reputation, and which enabled him to leave his post at the university for a position with Asahi Shimbun in 1907, and to begin writing full-time. Much of his work deals with the relation between Japanese culture and Western culture. His early works in particular are influenced by his studies in London; his novel Kairo-kō was the earliest and only major prose treatment of the Arthurian legend in Japanese. He began writing one novel a year before his death from a stomach ulcer in 1916.
Major themes in Sōseki's works include ordinary people fighting against economic hardship, the conflict between duty and desire (a traditional Japanese theme; see giri), loyalty and group mentality versus freedom and individuality, personal isolation and estrangement, the rapid industrialization of Japan and its social consequences, contempt of Japan's aping of Western culture, and a pessimistic view of human nature. Sōseki took a strong interest in the writers of the Shirakaba (White Birch) literary group. In his final years, authors such as Akutagawa Ryūnosuke and Kume Masao became close followers of his literary style as his disciples.
In the 21st century, there has been a global emergence of interest in Sōseki. Sōseki's Kokoro has been newly published in 10 languages, such as Arabic, Slovenian and Dutch, since 2001. In South Korea, the complete collection of Sōseki's long works began to be published in 2013. In English-speaking countries there has been a succession of English translations since 2008. About 60 of his works have been translated into more than 30 languages. Reasons for this emergence of global interest have been attributed in part to Haruki Murakami who said Sōseki was his favorite writer. Political scientist Kang Sang-jung, who is the principal of Seigakuin University, said, "Soseki predicted the problems we are facing today. He had a long-term view of civilization." He also said, "His popularity will become more global in the future".
In 2016, the centennial of Sōseki's death, Nishogakusha University in Tokyo collaborated with Hiroshi Ishiguro, robotics researcher at Osaka University, to create a robotic android version of Sōseki. Sōseki's grandson, Fusanosuke Natsume, voiced the 130cm figure which depicted Sōseki at age 45. The robot gave lectures and recitations of Sōseki's works at the university, as a way to engage students' interest in literature.
As part of the 150 year commemoration of Sōseki's birth in 2017, the Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum of Art displayed the letter Sōseki had written suggesting names for the villa itself. Although he died before its completion in 1917, Sōseki remained on good terms with the owner, Shotaro Kaga. Sōseki's diary was also on display during the exhibition. In 2019, retired professor Ikuo Tsunematsu reopened the Sōseki Museum in London dedicated to the writer's life in the United Kingdom. The museum originally opened in 1982, but closed in 2016 due to high maintenance costs and a decreased rate of attendance. The collection includes over 10,000 items including works in translation, collected books and magazines from Sōseki's stay in London, and census records.
Sōseki appears as a character in Dai Gyakuten Saiban: Naruhodō Ryūnosuke no Bōken, where he is charged with stabbing a woman in the back during his stay in London, and defended by the protagonist. In the game, he has a pet cat called Wagahai, a reference to I Am a Cat. He also appears in the sequel, Dai Gyakuten Saiban 2: Naruhodō Ryūnosuke no Kakugo, where he is further charged with a man's poisoning in London, as well as appearing as a witness to a murder that occurs in Japan. In the manga and anime Bungou Stray Dogs, a character is named and based around Sōseki. In homage to his novel of the same name, Sōseki's character uses the ability 'I Am a Cat' which allows him to transform into a calico cat.
Sōseki's major works include:
|Year||Japanese title||English title||Comments|
|1905||吾輩は猫である||Wagahai wa Neko dearu||I Am a Cat|
|倫敦塔||Rondon Tō||The Tower of London|
|草枕||Kusamakura||The Three-Cornered World
(lit. The Grass Pillow)
|latest translation uses Japanese title|
|趣味の遺伝||Shumi no Iden||The Heredity of Taste|
|二百十日||Nihyaku-tōka||The 210th Day|
|1907||野分||Nowaki||Nowaki||Translated in 2011|
|夢十夜||Yume Jū-ya||Ten Nights of Dreams|
|思い出す事など||Omoidasu Koto nado||literally Random Memories||Translated in 1997 as Recollections by Maria Flutsch|
|永日小品||Eijitsu shōhin||literally Long (Spring) Days, Small Pieces||Translated in 2005 as Spring Miscellany|
|1912||彼岸過迄||Higan Sugi Made||To the Spring Equinox and Beyond|
|私の個人主義||Watakushi no Kojin Shugi||My Individualism||Speech|
|1915||道草||Michikusa||Grass on the Wayside|
|硝子戸の中||Garasu Do no Uchi||Inside My Glass Doors||English translation, 2002|
|1916||明暗||Meian||Light and Darkness (novel)
Light and Dark
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- McClellan, Edwin (2004). Two Japanese Novelists: Sōseki & Tōson. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8048-3340-0.
- Takahashi, Akio (2006). 新書で入門 漱石と鴎外 (A pocket paperback == introduction: Natsume and Ōgai). Shinchosha. ISBN 978-4-10-610179-3.
- Keene 1998 : 308.
- "Soseki's Life | Tohoku University Library". www.library.tohoku.ac.jp. Retrieved 2017-11-03.
- Brodey and Tsunematsu p.7
- Brodey and Tsunematsu p.8
- Introduction, p.V Natsume Soseki (2002). I Am A Cat. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8048-3265-6.
- Theory of Literature, May 1907, introduction
- Natsume, Sōseki; Tsunematsu, Ikuo (2002). Spring miscellany and London essays. Rutland, VT: Tuttle. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-8048-3326-4.
- McClellan (1959) p.164
- Mostow, Joshua S. The Columbia Companion to modern East Asian literature, Columbia University Press, 2003. ISBN 978-0-231-11314-4 p88
- Takamiya, Toshiyuki (1991). "Natsume Sōseki". In Norris J. Lacy, The New Arthurian Encyclopedia, p. 424. (New York: Garland, 1991). ISBN 0-8240-4377-4.
- Laflamme, Martin (19 August 2017). "Ryunosuke Akutagawa: Writing in the Shadow of Japan's Literary Giants". The Japan Times. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
- "Kume Masao". Britannica Online Encyclopedia. 2018. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
- Yusuke Takatsu; Mariko Nakamura (April 20, 2014). "Meiji-Taisho Era novelist Natsume becoming trendy across the world 100 years later". The Asahi Shimbun. Archived from the original on April 28, 2014. Retrieved April 28, 2014.
- Otake, Tomoko (9 December 2016). "Let's Discuss the Soseki Robot". Japan Times. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
- "Soseki, Kyoto and the Oyamazaki Villa". Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum of Art. March 2017. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
- Tanaka, Yukari (14 March 2017). "Commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Novelist's Birth". Japan Times. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
- "Museum Chronicling Novelist Natsume Soseki's Life in U.K. Begins New Chapter". Japan Times. July 8, 2019.
- "Soseki Museum". Culture 24. 2017. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
- "Dai Gyakuten Saiban/Great Ace Attorney scans from Weekly Famitsu 07/02". japanese3ds.com. japanese3ds.com. Archived from the original on 2015-06-19.
- Kafka, Asagiri (2017). "Chp. 50". 文豪ストレイドッグス (Bungou Stray Dogs) Volume 12. Kadokawa Shoten. ISBN 978-4-04-104287-8.
- Bargen, Doris D. Suicidal Honor: General Nogi and the Writings of Mori Ogai and Natsume Sōseki. University of Hawaii Press (2006). ISBN 0-8248-2998-0
- Brodey, I. S. and S. I. Tsunematsu, Rediscovering Natsume Sōseki, (Kent: Global Oriental, 2000)
- Doi, Takeo, trans. by W. J. Tyler, The Psychological World of Natsume Sōseki. Harvard University Asia Center (1976). ISBN 0-674-72116-0
- Gessel, Van C. Three Modern Novelists: Soseki, Tanizaki, Kawabata. Kodansha International, 1993
- Keene, Donald (1998) . A History of Japanese Literature, Vol. 3: Dawn to the West – Japanese Literature of the Modern Era (Fiction) (paperback ed.). New York, NY: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-11435-6.
- McClellan, Edwin: An Introduction to Sōseki. In: Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol. 22 (Dec., 1959), pp. 150–208.
- Milward, Peter. The Heart of Natsume Sōseki: First Impressions of His Novels. Azuma Shobo (1981). ASIN: B000IK2690
- Olson, Lawrence. Ambivalent Moderns: Portraits of Japanese Cultural Identity. Savage, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield (1992). ISBN 0-8476-7739-7
- Ridgeway, William N. A Critical Study of The Novels of Natsume Sōseki, 1867–1916. Edwin Mellen Press (January 28, 2005). ISBN 0-7734-6230-9
- Yu, Beongchoeon. Natsume Sōseki. Macmillan Publishing Company (1984). ISBN 0-8057-2850-3
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Natsume Sōseki|
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Works by Natsume Sōseki at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Natsume Sōseki at Internet Archive
- Works by Natsume Sōseki at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
- Sōseki page including links to the entire text of Kokoro
- Natsume Sōseki on aozora.gr.jp (complete texts with furigana)
- Soseki Project (resources for reading Sōseki's works in their original Japanese form)
- Natsume Sōseki's grave
- Hiroshi Yamashita: Bibliographical and Textual Studies of Edmund Spenser and Natsume Soseki
- Glenn Gould reads Natsume Soseki