The Gate | Natsume Soseki

TITLE / The Gate

AUTHOR / Natsume Soseki


DATE OF PUBLICATION / Dec 4, 2012 (Originally published in 1910)

NO. OF PAGES / 256


If you like beautifully written novels where nothing much happens, this is the book for you.

Natsume Soseki's The Gate tells the story of Sosuke and his wife Oyone as they live quiet and uneventful lives on the outskirts of early 20th century Tokyo society. The couple already lives a life of little comfort when they find themselves suddenly burdened with supporting Koroku, Sosuke's younger brother, through the rest of his schooling. The novel follows about a year in the life of the young couple as they take in Koroku, continue their basic daily routines, and revel in each other's presence.

And that's about it. Something I learned about myself while reading this novel is that I actually really enjoy fiction with the very basic plot of just following someone's everyday life. The Gate's plot is brilliant in its ordinaryness, breathtaking in its quiet happenings. For some reason, it actually reminded me quite a bit of Jane Austen's Emma. The main action in this novel is the entrance and exit of new and different characters while the main character's daily life doesn't actually change that much.

Soseki somehow makes everything seem beautiful and poetic, from huddling around a brazier to changing clothes to Sosuke clipping his nails in the very last scene. Like the other Japanese literature I've read, Soseki's writing is so descriptive and yet simultaneously so subtle, and I now wonder if all those more modern writers learned this from Soseki himself.

I will say I wasn't completely enthralled with certain plot decisions, such as Sosuke's sudden decision to up and visit a Zen monastery. That whole section felt oddly disjointed and out of place and jerked me out of the world of the novel entirely. But as a whole I think this is a beautiful work that I would recommend to someone interested in getting to learn more about Japanese literature and Japanese culture.

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