Book review: The Three-Cornered World (Natsume Soseki)

Title: The Three-Cornered World
Original title: Kusamakura (草枕)
Author: Natsume Soseki
Rating: 3/5 stars


 As you may or may not know, Natsume Soseki is one of Japan`s most famous literature writers. His book “I am a cat” (Wagahai wa neko de aru) is one of the most famous pieces of literature to have been written in Japan. As such, I was kind of excited to find this book for only 2 euro at the big book fair I`ve mentioned before. After all, I`d never actually read anything by Natsume Soseki before, and having studied Japanese for 5 years I figured that needed fixing.

Still, like with most literature, I was a bit apprehensive before starting. Literature, especially as old as this (1906) still has the image in my mind of stuffy books, long-winding sentences and difficult words and general boredom.

However, just as with The Great Gatsby, I was pleasantly surprised when I finally did read this book. I ended up finishing it in 6 days, which, combined with a 32 hour workweek, family, friends, and generally having a life is quite an achievement for me.

I wouldn`t say this book was very easy to read. It definitely had long passages, entire pages even, of descriptions of flowers and all of their philosophical meanings. There were a lot of parts in the book that were tedious and boring to read.

However, switching with these parts, were very interesting parts. There was a lot of pondering about life and society, yes, but a lot of it was actually very interesting. There was very obvious critique on society, which strangely amused me to read.

The actual story itself was not that interesting. The story of a man from the city going into the mountains to learn how to be an artist obviously only served as a backdrop for philosophical ponderings, and actual dialogue was few and far in-between. When it was there though, it was very entertaining.

What I enjoyed most about this book though, was the amazing way Soseki describes things. I could imagine everything perfectly in my head, whether he was describing the view from his room in the hotel, the kimono of the mysterious girl, or just how rough the barber was shaving him.

It is still very much a book only interesting for those already interested to begin with. I won`t recommend this book if you`re not interested in literature, or if you know nothing of Japan. This book is literature interlaced with criticism, poetry, a lot of typical Japanese things, and a bit of storyline, and if that`s not your thing I don`t recommend it.

But if you already love Japan, and if you enjoy reading the type of books that makes you shake your head and go “oh you silly Japanese people”, then this book is for you.

(Currently reading: “the Gods of Gotham” by Lyndsay Faye)

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