Book Review: The Gate by Natsume Sôseki

„There is a saying that though the Way is close at hand, many go far off in search of it. That saying is true. It is right there before your nose, if you would only open your eyes to it.“ Natsume Sôseki

The Gate by the famous Japanese author Natsume Sôseki (1867-1916) was as many of his books accepted by the UNESCO Collection of Representative Works.

The Story
Sosuke and Oyone are a couple, now living together for 30 years. Oyone was the former lover of Sosukes friend at the university. They have once married in a hurry without asking permission of their families.

In times when marriages were arranged under strict rules of family business at meetings which are called miai 見合い “see each other” the spontaneous love marriage was a strike to both families. The young couple was therefore abandoned. Sosuke had to leave university and give up his career. Both live a life restricted to themselves without any help from their relatives.

Their everyday life seems to be a constant flow of confidence and happiness, but under the surface they are some psychic burdens: Unfortunately Oyone had to suffer three miscarriages of childbirth and is depressed since then. Their money problems stem from unfriendly family members who took advantage of their inheritance. And, Sosuke is hunted by his bad memories. As time goes by, they are capable to handle their problems properly and live a moderate life.

One day a new threat to their peace turns up as the old lover of Oyone appears on the scene in the neighbourhood. Sosuke cannot speak to his wife about this, but escapes and searches for peace at a Zen Buddhist monastery.

At this point the reader gets to know about Zen practices as koan a paradoxical question for meditation and satori 悟り enlightenment. Is this a way for Sosuke?

This book for sure is a reflective one. The reader gets to know the story of Oyone and Sosuke bit by bit along the storyline. It begins with daily life stories and deepens as the story goes on. It gets more interesting on every page.

As always Sôseki is a good observer of human mankind. He tells the story with refinement. The protagonists inner feelings are driving the story. This book is a good start with Natsume Sôseki. Do not let yourself blend by the difficult or depressing theme, it is a story of how to deal with life’s challenges.

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Natsume Sôseki: The Gate. 夏目 漱石: 門, 1910.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: The Gate by Natsume Sôseki

  1. I wish I could have this book, and I wished this was a true story.. At least, forbidden love can still be fight for … I’m in deep forbidden love as well right now, as usual, arranged marriage.. The thing is, the parent aren’t wicked but is understandable why everything happened.. So I don’t know what to do anymore .. xD

    Like

  2. Pingback: A Short History of Japanese Literature, Part 5 | Japan Kaleidoskop

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