ASIA212Varley

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Unformatted text preview: aling with the subject of the solitary human ego, Sòseki used the familiar confessional technique of “fictional” self-analysis so favored by modern Japanese authors. In his finer novels, like Kokoro (1914), the impact of such self-analysis is one of almost overpowering intensity. Kokoro is a story of friendship between a youth and an older man (referred to by the respectful Japanese title of Sensei or “Teacher”). As the friendship between the two unfolds, we learn that some dark tragedy lies in Sensei’s past, a tragedy that has left him with an utterly despairing, misanthropic view of life. The second half of the book is actually a novel within a novel, The Fruits of Modernity 283 presented in the form of a letter that Sensei writes to the youth confessing the story of his past. It is the tale of a triangular love affair in which Sensei is overwhelmed with guilt for, in his mind, having betrayed his friend and rival and for having driven him finally to suicide. Later, however, Sensei considers the possibility that his friend (identified only as K) had some even more desperate reason for his ghastly act than failure in love: I asked myself, “was it perhaps because his ideals clashed with reality that he killed himself ?” But I could not convince myself that K had chosen death for such a reason. Finally, I became aware of the possibility that K had experienced loneliness as terrible as mine, and wishing to escape quickly from it, had killed himself. Once more, fear gripped my heart. From then on, like a gust of winter wind, the premonition that I was treading on the same path as K had done would rush at me from time to time and chill me to the bone.10 In fact, Sensei does commit suicide after completing the confessional letter to his young friend. And he does so at a time, in the year 1912, of particular poignancy both for him and for the Japanese people: . . . at the height of the summer Emperor Meiji passed away. I felt as though the spirit of the Meiji era had begun with the Emperor and had ended with him. I was overcome with the feeling that I and the others, who had been brought up in that era, were now left behind to live as anachronisms.11 Even as the Meiji emperor’s funeral cortege was leaving the im...
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