Soseki Natsume is considered to be one of Japan's most beloved and respected authors. And Then is ranked as one of his most insightful and stirring novels.
Daisuke, the protagonist, is a man in his twenties who is struggling with his personal purpose and identity as well as the changing social landscape of Meiji-era Japan. As Japan enters the Twentieth Century, ancient customs give way to western ideals, and Daisuke works to resolve his feelings of disconnection and abandonment during this time of change. Thanks to his father's wealth, Daisuke has the luxury of having time to develop his philosophies and ruminate on their meaning while remaining intellectually aloof from traditional Japanese culture and the demands of growing industrialization. Then Daisuke's life takes an unexpected turn when he is reunited with his college friend and his sickly wife. At first, Daisuke's stoicism allows him to act according to his intellect, but his intellectual fortress begins to show its vulnerabilities as his emotions start to hold greater sway over his inner life. Daisuke must now weigh his choices in a culture that has always operated on the razor's edge of societal obligation and personal freedom.
This classic from Soseki, the great chronicler of early 20thcentury Japan, explores the conflict between a young man and his father in Tokyo circa 1905. Daisuke, the spoiled second son of a wealthy family, has a bad case of ennui. Though he is pushing 30, he shows no interest in committing to a relationship or a career, instead choosing to spend time at the kabuki theater with his brother’s wife and to live off his monthly allowance. Despite his father’s efforts at matchmaking, Daisuke clings to bachelorhood, much to the chagrin of his old man, who was born at the end of the Shogunate. Soseki (The Three Cornered World) expertly describes the emerging merchant class of Emperor Meiji’s era with its disaffected younger generation, which eerily parallels Japan’s current crop of “grass-eating men” or the lethargic sons of 1980s go-getters. An unexpected reunion with college chum Hiraoka, and his ailing wife, forces Daisuke to do some soul-searching, leading to an outcome that would be at home in a modern manga plot. Field’s elegant translation includes an informative afterword that puts this novel in context with Soseki’s large body of work. (Sept.)
Soseki Natsume is the pen name of Natsume Kin'nosuke, born in 1867 in Japan. A scholar of Chinese, Japanese and English literature, Soseki Natsume has written some of Japan's most beloved novels including I Am a Cat, The Gate (Mon), and The Three Cornered World. He is so revered in Japan that his image appeared on the 1000 yen note for twenty years.
Norma Moore Field is Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago, and author of In the Realm of a Dying Emperor: A Portrait of Japan at Century's End (1991) and The Splendor of Longing in "The Tale of Genji" (1987).