Kokoro, Paperback Book

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Natsume Soseki's importance to Japanese literature can be compared to that of Dickens to Britain or Henry James to America.

Like these writers, his work now holds a hugely popular and important place in the literary imagination of his country.

Unlike them, his work is only recently coming to the attention of readers from overseas. "Kokoro" joins the recent publications of "The Gate", "The Tower of London" and "the Three Cornered World" from Peter Owen as part of an international programme to bring one of Japan's best known authors to a new English speaking audience.

As Damian Flanagan says in his new critical introduction "Kokoro" is the Soseki novel that has been given most attention by critics and the public in Japan.

On one level, a meditation on the changing face of Japanese culture and its attitudes to honour, friendship, love, death, it is also a sly subversion of all of these things.

The novel centres around the friendship between the narrator and the man he calls Sensei, who is haunted by mysterious events in his past.

As the friendship grows and the narrator gets to know more about the man he so admires he is increasingly intrigued by this hidden history.The Sensei, however, refuses to reveal anything until the third part of the book when the narrator is called away to look after his sick father and the truth is revealed in tragic circumstances, etching itself onto the narrator - and the reader's - "Kokoro" : Heart.

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