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Famous Works Explained in 100 Minutes Natsume Soseki Special (A Natsume Soseki Special - Four Works that Show the Struggle with the Form of the Western Novel)


ABE Masahiko


116 pages, A5 format




February 25, 2019



Published by

NHK Publishing, Inc.

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Natsume Soseki Special

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Soseki is a writer whom it can be difficult to “encounter” correctly. For example, when you are told that “This is a Natsume Soseki novel,” even if you have yet to read the novel in question, you can succumb to an illusion of having done so and of understanding something simply by possessing knowledge of the plot. In other words, you inevitably hold prejudices from preconceived notions by hearing the name of the author. How, therefore, should you begin to truly “encounter” the works of Soseki?
The reading of a novel is a comprehensive action involving the whole body. Of course, it involves both the head and the heart, but you must also remember to use the body. The stomach, breath, and spine are also important. You will want to feel the texture of the text, and entrust yourself to the rhythm of each sentence, laughing, tsukkomi butting in and contorting your face. Depending on the part of the text, you may be left gasping for breath, you may begin to dance, or even stomp the ground in frustration.
This program, which is split into 4 parts, offers viewers hints as to how to properly  encounter the texts of Soseki. In order to achieve this, you will be asked to imagine things, like the comfort of a smooth and rhythmic walk, or the feeling of an upset stomach. You may find that your eyes are thrust wide open as if you are convinced that “you will investigate the truth.” Soseki is the kind of author whose work is worthy of being read with the whole body.
Soseki is the perfect author to look at in order to understand how novels were written in Japan and how they have been read. He was born in the year 1867 (the 3rd year of the Keio era) but only began writing novels in earnest with the announcement of I am a Cat in the year 1905 (the 38th year of the Meiji era) and thereafter. This made him somewhat of a late-bloomer, being almost 40 years old at the time of his debut.
The Meiji era was also one in which the modern western novel began to be imported into Japan, and a number of authors began to challenge themselves to write such novels in Japanese. Soseki also adopted the styles of various novels, digesting them and turning them into a wide variety of works. If you read Soseki’s works, you will understand how he strived to incorporate Japanese language and culture into this new literary genre. The specific types of hardships that arose in a time when the modern novel was being born are all manifest here in the works of a single author.
While Soseki is the author of novels such as Ten Nights of Dreams, there are other works by him that give the reader the  impression that he did not entirely believe in this new genre of the novel, and show his skepticism. Conversely, Soseki also had a propensity to strive for humor and subversion in his writing. Soseki was not one to use the conventions of the modern novel to the fullest like an elite. He toyed with adventure and sometimes acted strangely.
Soseki was a pioneer in many ways and was someone who experienced the pain of having to live with a particular system despite it not yet being fully established. If you follow the same trajectory which he took in navigating the modern novel, I believe that you will come to understand the essence of this medium of expression.


(Written by ABE Masahiko, Professor, Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology / 2020)

Related Info

A Natsume Soseki Special – vol.1 (NHK on demand  March 4th, 2019)
A Natsume Soseki Special – vol.2  (NHK on demand  March 11th, 2019)
A Natsume Soseki Special – vol.3  (NHK on demand  March 18th, 2019)
A Natsume Soseki Special – vol.4  (NHK on demand  March 25th, 2019)

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