Book review: Botchan by Soseki

Botchan

Botchan

Botchan
By
Natsume Sōseki
Translated by J. Cohn
Publisher: Kodansha International

Pub. Date: 2005
First published in Japanese in 1906
ISBN: 978-4770030481
Pages172

Genre: Literary fiction
Source:
public library
Goodreads

Buy Link

This book counts for the following Reading Challenge:

      Japanese Literature Challenge 7

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK

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MY THOUGHTS

I finally decided to read a second book for my Japanese Literature Challenge. The biggest part of the challenge is to find something I would like to read that fits the challenge AND is available in my public library system. Not always easy.

I had very much enjoyed Kokoro, by the same author (I just wrote a couple of lines about it in my early days of book blogging), so I decided to try Botchan.

Botchan (meaning the kid) is a young kid doing all kinds of crazy things, like all kids. He is very much disliked by his parents and brother, who think nothing good could possibly come out of him, but he is admired by Kiyo, the family old servant. She keeps thinking he will eventually become someone important. He studies physical sciences and becomes a math teacher. This could have been good, but it ends up being a very tough and poisoning experience because of nasty students and crazy colleagues.

I will let you read the book to discover what eventually happens to him.

I liked the character development, as Botchan, first rather good and naïve, soon discovers that not all people are good and honest. He tries to figure out who are the good and the bad guys around him. He realizes that in life, many people are two-faced.

What is most interesting for me in this novel is the humoristic tone for almost the whole first half of the book. I say interesting, because I believe this is the first time I read a Japanese novel that funny in tone. It was also intriguing to accompany Botchan and try to know with him whom could be trusted or not.

The book contains fascinating elements on culture, especially on cultural differences between Tokyo and small remote villages.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT

Like The Catcher in the Rye or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Botchan, a hilarious tale about a young man’s rebellion against “the system” in a country school, is a classic of its kind. Among Japanese readers both young and old it has enjoyed a timeless popularity, making it, according to Donald Keene, “probably the most widely read novel in modern Japan.”

The setting is Japan’s deep south, where the author himself spent some time teaching English in a boys’ school. Into this conservative world, with its social proprieties and established pecking order, breezes Botchan, down from the big city, with scant respect for either his elders or his noisy young charges; and the result is a chain of collisions large and small.

Much of the story seems to occur in summer, against the drone of cicadas, and in many ways this is a summer book light, funny, never slow-moving. Here, in a lively new translation much better suited to Western tastes than any of its forebears, Botchan’s homespun appeal is all the more apparent, and even those who have never been near the sunlit island on which these calamitous episodes take place should find in it uninterrupted entertainment. [Goodreads]

QUOTATIONS

When I took my chalk and headed for the second class, I felt as if I was marching off into enemy territory. In this class all the kids were bigger than me.
p. 37

Two-faced was what he was. If a man isn’t as upright as a stalk of bamboo, you can’t trust him.
p. 111

READ THE BOOK

WATCH A COOL VIDEO ON SOSEKI’S HOUSE

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

SosekiNatsume Sōseki (夏目 漱石) was the pen name of Natsume Kinnosuke, who is widely considered to be the foremost Japanese novelist of the Meiji Era (1868–1912). He is commonly referred to as Sōseki. He is best known for his novels Kokoro, Botchan, I Am a Cat and his unfinished work Light and Darkness. He was also a scholar of British literature and composer of haiku, Chinese-style poetry, and fairy tales. From 1984 until 2007, his portrait appeared on the front of the Japanese 1000 yen note.[Goodreads]

HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK?
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BOOK BY SOSEKI?

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3 thoughts on “Book review: Botchan by Soseki

  1. Pingback: Japanese Literature Challenge 2013 | Words And Peace

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