Without a doubt, Natsume Sōseki, born Natsume Kin’nosuke, is one of the most renowned and beloved writers born in Japan. His works have transcended time and their influences reverberate in the present. His career flourished during the early 20th century but his works have recently been regaining interest after one of the contemporary’s most popular Japanese writers, Haruki Murakami, named him as his favorite writer. Of his oeuvre, one title that is an inherent part of the discussion about his legacy is Kokoro. The story of an unnamed narrator and his interesting admiration for an older man he randomly met while on summer vacation, Kokoro is a book that left me in awe. Its philosophical intersections make it one of the most quotable books I have read. I have rounded up some of these quotes for this quotable quotes update.
Do check out my complete review of this literary work by clicking here.
“You seem to be under the impression that there is a special breed of bad humans. There is no such things as a stereotype bad man in this world. Under normal conditions, everybody is more or less good, or, at least, ordinary. But tempt them, and they may suddenly change. That is what is so frightening about men.”~ Natsume Sōseki, Kokoro
“But the main reason for my immobility lay quite elsewhere. True enough, my uncle’s betrayal had made me fiercely determined never to be beholden to anyone again – but back then my distrust of others had only reinforced my sense of self. The world might be rotten, I felt, but I, at least, am a man of integrity. But this faith in myself had been shattered on account of K. I suddenly understood that I was no different from my uncle, and the knowledge made me reel. What could I do? Others were already repulsive to me, and now I was repulsive even to myself.”~ Natsume Sōseki, Kokoro
“No matter how fierce was the passion that gripped him, the fact is he was paralyzed, transfixed by the contemplation of his own past. Only something so momentous as to drive from his consciousness all thoughts of before and after could have propelled him forward. And with his eyes fixed on the past, he had no choice but to continue along its trajectory.”~ Natsume Sōseki, Kokoro
“I may be simply repeating what has always been known, but I do believe that for love to grow there must first be the impact of novelty. Beween two people who have always known each other, that necessary stimulus can never be felt. Like the first whiff of burning incense, or like the taste of one’s first cup of sake, there is in love that moment when all its power is felt. There may be fondness, but no love, between two people who have come to know each other well without ever having grasped that moment.”~ Natsume Sōseki, Kokoro
“I do not want your admiration now, because I do not want your insults in the future. I bear with my loneliness now, in order to avoid greater loneliness in the years ahead. You see, loneliness is the price we have to pay for being born in this modern age, so full of freedom, independence, and our own egotistical selves.”~ Natsume Sōseki, Kokoro
“You revealed a shameless determination to seize something really alive from within my very being. You were prepared to rip open my heart and drink at its warm fountain of blood. I was still alive then. I did not want to die. And so I evaded your urges and promised to do as you asked another day. Now I will wrench open my heart and pour its blood over you. I will be satisfied if, when my own heart has ceased to beat, your breast houses new life.”~ Natsume Sōseki, Kokoro
“Whenever I saw her face I felt that I myself had become beautiful. At the mere thought of her, I felt elevated by contact with her nobility. If this strange phenomenon we call love can be said to have two poles, the higher of which is a sense of holiness and the baser the impulse of sexual desire, this love of mine was undoubtedly in the grip of love’s higher realm. Being human, of course, I could not leave my fleshly self behind. Yet the eyes that beheld her, the heart that treasured thoughts of her, knew nothing of the reek of the physical.”~ Natsume Sōseki, Kokoro
“As a child will, I loved my home; and when parted from it, there was a yearning for it in my heart. I was like a traveler who, no matter where he goes, never doubts that he will some day return to his place of birth. I come to Tokyo of my own free will, but I had little doubt that I should return when the holidays came. And so I studied and played in the great city, dreaming often of my home.”~ Natsume Sōseki, Kokoro
“I tried instead to drown my soul in drink. I cannot say I like alcohol but I am someone who can drink if I choose to, and I set about obliterating my heart by drinking all I could. This was a puerile way out, of course, and it very quickly led to an even greater despair with the world. In the midst of a drunken stupor, I would come to my senses and realize what an idiot I was to try to fool myself like this. Then my vision and understanding grew clear, and I sat shivering and sober. There were desolate times when even the poor disguise of drunkenness failed to work, no matter how I drank. And each time I sought pleasure in drink, I emerged more depressed than ever.”~ Natsume Sōseki, Kokoro
“From then on, a nameless fear would assail me from time to time. At first, it seemed to come over me without warning from the shadows around me, and I would gasp at its unexpectedness. Later, however, when the experience had become more familiar to me, my heart would readily succumb – or perhaps respond – to it, and I would begin to wonder if this fear had not always been in some hidden corner of my heart, ever since I was born. I would then ask myself whether I had not lost my sanity. But I had no desire to go to a doctor, or anyone else, for advice.”~ Natsume Sōseki, Kokoro
“I often laughed, and you often gave me a dissatisfied look, till you pressed me to unfold my past before you as if it were a roll of picture. It was then I felt respect for you. Because you unreservedly showed me your resolution to catch something alive in my being, and to sip the warm blood running in my body, by cutting my heart. At that time, I was still living, and did not want to die. So I rejected your request, promising to satisfy you some day. Now I am going to destroy my heart myself, and pour my blood into your veins. I shall be happy if a new life can enter into your bosom, when my heart has stopped beating.”~ Natsume Sōseki, Kokoro