Japanese literature and Natsume Sōseki (1867-1916): The afterthought
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Time
Japanese writer Natsume Sōseki (1867-1916), had a rather difficult upbringing. His own parents, who were already struggling to raise five siblings, were shocked to learn that another child would enter this world because his mother was already 40 years old. He was therefore adopted at an early age.
Shiobara Masanosuke and his partner adopted him because they had no children. However, after divorcing when Sōseki was only nine years old, he moved back to his biological parents.
Once again tragedy would unfold for Sōseki when he was just 14 years old. This time, his mother, who welcomed him warmly into the family – unlike his more lukewarm father – will sadly die when he was a teenager. After that, his two older siblings died in 1887, so one can imagine Sōseki’s feeling of anxiety and gloom.
It is important to note that the adoption was more gradual before the modernization of Japan. Also, death was more common at an early age in this period of history, all over the world. However, the legacy of being abandoned at such a young age, followed by the loss of his mother, must have impacted his future romances and worldview.
His most famous novels include I am a cat, Botchan, Kokoro, and Kusamakura. His unfinished novel, Light and darknessalso acclaimed.
Sōseki was encouraged to write by his esteemed friend, Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902). Shiki was an esteemed poet. However, he also sadly passed away at a relatively young age.
Shiki wrote, “Until now, I had been wrong about the “Enlightenment” of Zen: I was wrong to think that it was a question of being able to die serenely in any conditions. It is being able to live serenely in any any conditions.
If individuals want to purchase a book that puts them in touch with classic writers in Japan, then the book I am a cat is a good start if you want to enter the world of Sōseki.
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