First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
No collection of Japanese literature is complete without Natsume Soseki’s Kokoro, his most famous novel and the last he completed before his death in 1916. Published here in the first new translation in more than fifty years, Kokoro—meaning “heart”—is the story of a subtle and poignant friendship between two unnamed characters, a young man and an enigmatic elder whom he calls “Sensei”. Haunted by tragic secrets that have cast a long shadow over his life, Sensei slowly opens up to his young disciple, confessing indiscretions from his own student days that have left him reeling with guilt, and revealing, in the seemingly unbridgeable chasm between his moral anguish and his student’s struggle to understand it, the profound cultural shift from one generation to the next that characterized Japan in the early twentieth century.
Wow. Today is the last Friday of my birth month. A lot has happened and yet it felt like nothing much has happened these past few weeks. Staying home for more than a year does a lot to the mind. The monsoon rains that have been ravaging most of northern Philippines has finally alleviated as the sun finally took a peek after almost two weeks of bleak weather. However, the sunny news was offset by the news that Metro Manila is going to revert to the stricter lockdown measures. With the threat of the most virulent of all COVID19 variants, the Delta variant, looming, cases are on the rise again. I just hope that these measures will be a great preventive measure against this variant. I also hope that the Philippine government will step up its testing and speed up its vaccination drive.
Enough life update for now. I do hope that you are all doing well in this uncertain period. I pray that you are all staying healthy, both in mind, body and spirit, despite the threat of the Delta variant spreading all over the world. I am with the world in hoping that this nightmare would end soon so that we can resume our normal lives, even if reverting to the old normal means gradual transition.
Before we can formally start the weekend, let me close the week with my final First Impression Friday update for July. Over the past weeks, I managed to regain badly needed reading momentum. I do still have a lot of ground to cover but I have covered vast ground. I am currently reading my 56th book for the year and eighth for July. I started reading Natsume Sōseki’s Kokoro yesterday. After Botchan, Kokoro is my second novel by the renowned Japanese storyteller. Like most popular works, Kokoro was originally published in 1914 as a series run in the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun. Widely considered as a classic of Japanese literature, the novel was also listed as one of the1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.
At the heart of the narrative is a young man, a college student who encountered an old man at a beach resort. “It was at Kamakura, during the summer holidays, that I first met Sensei.” They got acquainted and the closer they got, the more that the young man’s admiration for the older man grew. Because of this, he ended up calling him Sensei, a word that many fans of Japanese anime would have heard by now. The closest English translation for Sensei is teacher although I have always considered mentor a more appropriate term, or maybe not. The two developed a wonderful friendship that defied the barrier of age.
Cut into three parts, the first part deals with the growing relationship between the anonymous (so far) primary narrator and Sensei. This part, which is where I am currently situated right now, depicts how slowly but surely the young man, has entered the life of the Sensei. With their friendship growing, the young man started becoming a fixture in the Sensei’s household. He also became acquainted with the Sensei’s wife; in the absence of the Sensei, they also exchange deep and insightful conversations about the Sensei.
Kokoro literally translates to “heart” (or “heart of things”) and this is something I am waiting to know more about – why the reference for heart. Compared to Botchan, I find Kokoro a little nostalgic, melancholic even, especially on the parts where the life of Sensei is related by his wife. Botchan, on the other hand, was entertaining, witty, and even sarcastic. Nevertheless, I find this contrast interesting and making me eve more curious about his other popular work, I Am A Cat. I am enjoying Kokoro so far, although I do wish that there are more details of Japanese culture or at least references to seminal historical events. I guess these will be portrayed in the latter parts of the novel.
With month end closing activities in full swing, I am hoping to find the time to complete the novel over the weekend although I did decided to extend my immersion into Japanese literature. How about you fellow reader, what book are you going to read this weekend? I hope it is a book that you’ve been looking forward to and I hope you enjoy it. Keep safe, and happy weekend!