Author: Natsume Sōseki
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Publication Date: 2009 (1908)
Source: Xmas Gift
Sōseki's work of gentle humour and doomed innocence depicts twenty-three-year-old Sanshirō, a recent graduate from a provincial college, as he begins university life in the big city of Tokyo. Baffled and excited by the traffic, the academics and – most of all – the women, Sanshirō must find his way amongst the sophisticates that fill his new life. An incisive social and cultural commentary, Sanshirō is also a subtle study of first love, tradition and modernization, and the idealism of youth against the cynicism of middle age.
In his introduction, Haruki Murakami reflects on his fascination with Sanshirō, how the story differs from a European coming-of-age novel and why it has come to be a perennial classic in Japan. This edition also contains suggestions for further reading, notes and a chronology.
As always, Sōseki's prose is beautiful, easy reading. Sanshirō is not my favourite of his books, but it is still an interesting piece that is at once a coming-of-age story while also offering reflection on a changing world (as per much of the Japanese literature of the era). It is a quiet work in so far as the events that take place within the pages can at times seem mundane and lacking punch; however, it has greater depth of meaning beneath the simple narrative of a young man trying to navigate the big-city world once you sink into the social commentary. It gets four stars from me.