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Sunday, June 5, 2022


 I'm rereading this novel by Soseki.  I used to love it, and now I'm not so sure. The narrator is a student who chooses as his mentor a man whom he call sensei. There is no real reason why sensei is admirable. He doesn't do anything, and hasn't accomplished much. He's an embittered misanthrope, pretty much, perhaps a misogynist too.  

There's one scene I remember; haven't gotten there yet, when a character shares a room with an older woman in an inn and doesn't take advantage of the situation. Then it becomes clear that she would have slept with him if he had made a move. That's pretty much all I remember of the novel, which I probably read 30 years ago, when I was closer to the narrator's age than to sensei's.  I had thought that this scene was at the beginning of the novel, but it isn't, so perhaps it will happen to sensei, not the narrator?  

They key to this novel is a certain quality of feeling, an exact definition of an emotion that does not really admit of exact description. It has to be done by suggestion, as Mallarmé might say. This perhaps explains the admiration of the young man toward sensei. If there was an explicit reason for admiring him, then that would be too definite a thing. The aesthetic here is a fin-de-siècle je n'e sais pas mood.  Maybe that's why I liked it so much.  

For better or worse, a compelling novel has to have an it, something that gets you.  

[UPDATE: I think the scene must be from another novel; I'm not finding it.]. 

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