Translated and with an Afterword and Chronology by William N. Ridgeway
The lives and minds of three men come together in ways that are both commonplace and surprising.
Shirai Dôya is a man of letters, a man of principles. His principles sometimes stand in the way of his teaching career, but his writing allows him to openly address "today's youth" with stern conviction—although he is still unable to make a comfortable living from his writing. Two youths in particular show interest in his ideas: the tubercular impoverished Takayanagi, an aspiring writer himself (and former student of Dôya's, as it turns out), and his rich friend, the dandy Nakano. The lives and minds of the three men come together in ways that are both commonplace and surprising. The setting—mainly Tokyo of one hundred years ago—and the preoccupations of these characters will appear distinctly familiar, even today.
"The irony in the portrayal of characters, even those with whom Sôseki seems to sympathize, and the sharpness of the details of life in the Tokyo of 1907, make this work more enjoyable than many of his more accomplished novels."
—Donald Keene, Dawn to the West
"Written by an intellectual steeped in the traditions of Chinese learning and English literature, Nowaki stands apart from the works of the naturalist school in its audacity of moral judgment, its rigorous intellectuality, and its defense of certain literary and moral ideals."
—Angela Yiu, Chaos and Order in the Works of Natsume Sôseki
"The confessions of the characters, full of passion and intensity, are writ large in the book. A lot more of these 'insights' of the heart and mind makes for a didactic novel, but the ideas must be welcomed for their honesty and the forthcoming way they were blurted out and shared. . . . Nowaki is not only an epigrammatic novel, with every other page containing the kind of insane quotes worth underlining, but also a key work closely tethered to the novelist's themes. It explicitly identifies and discusses the abstractions that beset the protagonists of later novels. It could be Sôseki's most 'preachy' novel, surprisingly political in parts, and is a definite throwback to the subtle feelings and subdued atmospheres generated by works such as Kokoro and Mon. Nevertheless it illuminates the undercurrent of cynicism running through his mature novels. More than a novel, [Nowaki] is an 'essay on character.'"
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