As Iyer suggests, not much happens that can be considered engaging: a man grown old before his time reflects back on his early life, his marriage and love for his wife, and is able to avoid conflict for much of his time on Earth, finally escaping into a Buddhist temple to try and find meaning and peace for his uneventful yet highly problematic life.
The book contains some of the most fascinating passages on meditation I've ever read, as well as a sweet love story that if not passionate in its waning years is the kind of love story that most people yearn for. But there are also lovely passages about Tokyo ("he walked on, puffing out cigarette smoke the autumn sunlight, the urge in him to wander afar, to someplace where he could etch vividly on his mind the sensation that the very essence of Tokyo was to be found here in this spot, then take it home as a souvenir of this day, his Sunday, before he lay down to sleep."), about Kyoto, about nature, about Oyone, his wife, and, of course, about his burgeoning interest in Zen Buddhism as the novel ends.
And this book has whetted my appetite for more Soseki, an author who has influenced several generations of Japanese writers and continues to loom large on the Japanese psyche. Imagine a Canadian writer on our money (Margaret Atwood on the $20 bill? Hugh MacLennan on the $10?)...
|Natsume Soseki on the back of the 1000 yen note|