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The Authenticity of Natsume Soseki

Author(s): Ward William Biddle


Source: Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 28, No. 4 (Winter, 1973), pp. 391-426
Published by: Sophia University
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Monumenta Nipponica

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The Authenticity of Natsume Soseki

by WARD WILLIAM BIDDLE

And I say to myself, . . . What can a man do but follow his own way
to truth? Man is a moral creature, and so the most noble thing he can
do is to follow the true way as he knows it. And if a man walks along
his path to truth, why, even the gods will have to step aside and let
him pass.

N _ rATSUME SOSEKI bared one of the deepest convictions of his soul through
this remark of Shirai in his novel Nowaki. 'To follow his own way to
truth .... the true way as he knows it'"-this came to be an overwhelm-
ing disposition of Soseki's character which drove him on to expose human nature,
including his own, in the starkest way through the medium of the modern novel.
It would seem that precisely this was his path to truth, and that he could do no
more for his fellowmen than to walk it faithfully, at whatever cost, in pursuit of
total personal authenticity and the pure objectivity of his art.
The term 'authentic', of course, has been developed into a major existential
philosophical category by Heidegger in modern times. But the notion has a long
history in Japanese religious and ethical traditions. It is so rich, and has been at
the root of so many varied and beautiful life-expressions in the history of Japan,
that by embodying it as he did in his life and work Soseki has become a major
figure in modern Japanese literature. In his agonizing life's quest he probed the
depths of his own self, and in doing so repossessed this central value of Japanese
tradition in his own unique way. This article attempts to demonstrate how Soseki
seems to have attained a profound degree of self-consciousness and honesty, the
sheer severity of which passes over as a creative energy to the serious student of his
fiction. No more symbolic assessment of S6seki's achievement can be written per-
haps than his own words, cited above: 'Even the gods will have to step aside and
let him pass.'

THE PRESENT article is based on the author's nami Shoten, Tokyo, 1957, in, p. 367. Quoted
Master's thesis presented to the Faculty of from Edwin McClellan, 'An Introduction to
Philosophy, Columbia University, in 1972. Soseki', in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, xxii,
1 Natsume Soseki Zenshl A ] AF , Iwa- 1959, p. 181.

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392 Monumenta JNipponica, xxviii, 4

Sokuten kyoshi P'J-;zA


IT IS POSSIBLE to be so taken up with S6seki as an artist as to miss much of the
moral greatness of the man. Many commentators have been sympathetic with his
idiosyncracies and the well-known violent outbursts of his domestic life.2 His
paranoid tendencies are usually handled gently and with understanding. After
all, his first eight years were notoriously lacking in the love that is so vital for
emotional security and maturity later on. His entire life could be considered as a
bitter struggle marked by depressing setbacks and important victories. Extremely
gifted though he was, his was an uphill battle all the way until his death, because
of a constant propensity to loneliness, despondency and doubt. He has well been
named 'the novelist of alienation'.3 But precisely because the causes of alienation
were largely beyond his control, and because he was able to universalize his own
personal confrontation with them into his creative art, we can discern a moral
stature that deserves recognition.
'Authenticity', being true to oneself or genuine, is the term or concept which
seems best to sum up what Soseki was seeking as a solution for the many-sided
alienation of his soul and of his times. I do not refer to a single Japanese term
which Soseki may have been fond of using, such as, for example, makoto - or sho-
jiki 1Et. Perhaps seyjitsusei . may well be so translated. No one particular
word is important here. To quote him once more: 'Man is a moral creature, and
so the most noble thing he can do is to follow the true way as he knows it.' This
represents a whole complex of personal valuations beyond the level of mere
categories.
This ideal of S5seki was at least nurtured, if not born, in the school of Confucian
thought that Japan made its own. In addition to Shushigaku, both the YJmei and
the Kogaku branches of Confucianism exerted widespread influence on the mer-
chant and peasant classes as well in the century before S6seki's birth, so that the
national ethos of Tokugawa Japan was permeated through and through with
Confucian morality. The same ethos was fundamental to the Meiji period.
In describing the personal despair felt by S6seki in England, Eto Jun has ob-
served that he 'experienced a painful emergence from his previously all-enveloping
Confucianism.'4 He returned to Japan with a perhaps deeper sensitivity to the
spiritual heritage of pre-modern Japan, including the Confucian ethical tradition.
It is possible to identify the first signs of his later motto of sokuten kyoshi in the spirit-
ual alienation of those two years in England. The fundamental meaning of sokuten
kyoshi is not just fidelity to self, but to one's true self, as this was determined by
heaven. 'Follow heaven; forsake self', is an accurate translation. It contains the

2 Howard Hibbett, 'S6seki and the Psycho- Inc., New York, 1969, pp. 25, 39 & 53.
logical Novel', in Donald Shively, ed., Tradi- 3 Hibbett, p. 308.
tion and Modernization in Japanese Culture, 4 Et6 Jun, 'Natsume S6seki: A Japanese
Princeton U.P., 1971, pp. 314 & 318; Beong- Meiji Intellectual', in The American Scholar,
cheon Yu, Natsume Soseki, Twayne Publishers, XXXIV, 4, 1965, p. 607.

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Biddle: The Authenticity of Natsume Soseki 393

secret of Soseki's life, and was a hidden source of strength in the interior struggles
that lasted throughout his mature life.
Confucius himself apparently taught little about what we call authenticity,
makoto or sei. But his disciples defined it in Ch-yo, or The Doctrine of the Me
that quality by which man becomes present to heaven and heaven to man. Man
thereby becomes a counterpart of heaven and earth in the moral universe. He
who is absolutely sincere or authentic (shisei ) 'can fully develop his nature,
and thus develop the nature of others . . . . and assist in the transforming and
growing process of Heaven and Earth.'5 When Neo-Confucianism became the
official teaching under the Tokugawa shoguns in the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries, two of its greatest teachers, Hayashi Razan and Yamazaki Ansai carried
forward this Confucian concept of makoto, particularly as it had been received and
adapted by the Shinto mentality of early Japan, and bent it to nationalistic ideals.
The same tendency to synthesize Confucian and Shinto traditions can be found in
Nakae Toju, Kumazawa Banzan, and the other great Confucian teachers of the
Tokugawa period.
Soseki revealed little express conformity with Confucian or Neo-Confucian ter-
minology, but the first part of the phrase, sokuten (follow heaven), hearkens back
to this Confucian teaching. Chinese philosophy, even before the time of Confucius,
put great emphasis on a heavenly order for all created things. This emphasis was
on the whole played down, if not suppressed, in Japan in accommodation to the
Shinto belief in the divinity of the emperor. It surfaced only in men such as Ansai
or Ninomiya Sontoku in the nineteenth century, and this makes Soseki's choice of
it for himself more significant. The second half of the phrase, kyoshi (forsake self),
seems to connote Taoist and particularly Buddhist values,6 and is directed at the
phenomenal self or ego. Insofar as this self-negation is considered a necessary
means to finding the true and authentic self, this part of Saseki's sokuten kyoshi
is apparently connected with the understanding of makoto. Zen Buddhism, of
course, might well have been instrumental in Soseki's choice of the word kyoshi,
especially in the light of his extended interest in Zen.
In view of the prominence of these values in pre-modern Chinese and Japanese
religious and ethical traditions, we have solid grounds for concluding that this
motto of Soseki was a modern repossession of certain Eastern sensibilities in the
late Meiji context. The synthesis of its two parts might therefore be more properly
judged a modern rendition of a central intentionality of Neo-Confucianism, which
had itself developed into a unique synthesis of the legacies of classical Confucian-
ism, Taoism and Buddhism. In the Japanese case, the whole was further inter-
preted in the light of the native Shinto bent for naturalness and honesty. Sakamoto

I Joseph j. Spae, Japanese Religiosity, Oriens Religion, Tuttle, Tokyo, 1971, p. 74; Spae,
Institute, Tokyo, 1971, p. 107; the quotation pp. 127-8. Sokuten kyoshi is also discussed in this
is taken from Chuivo AI* (The Doctrine context
of the by Sako Jun'ichir6 IttR-f3, Kindai
Mean), chapter 22. Niihon Bungaku no Higeki t J
6 Masaharu Anesaki, History of Japanese Gendai Bungeisha, Tokyo, 1957, pp. 110-2.

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394 Monumenta 1Niipponica, XXVIII, 4

Hiroshi and Watsuji Tetsura have both studied this motto, not so much as regards
its origin, but with respect to what it reveals of Soseki himself.7 For different
reasons, each sees in it an expression of Soseki's deep honesty and authenticity, the
depth of which becomes more accessible to us in the light of the pre-modern legacy
to which I have alluded.
Although this motto was chosen in Soseki's latter years, the idea and spirit
behind it were manifested much earlier. Saseki reminisced on his dark days in
London and on how he was finally able to help himself:

.... I had finally hit on the four words, 'on my own terms', and trying to
prove them, plunged into scientific studies, philosophical reasonings....
Having thus grasped in my hands these four words, 'on my own terms', I for
the first time felt secure. Now I had the courage to defy the world. Indeed, it
is these four words, 'on my own terms', that rescued me from the state of de-
spair and directed me where to stand firm and in what direction to proceed.
... At that moment the sense of insecurity left me altogether. With a lightened
heart I looked around that gloomy London. To use a figure of speech, I felt as
though I had finally struck a vein of ore after those many years of frustration.
To repeat, I felt like one who, having been long lost in a thick fog, was shown
his way clear in a certain, particular direction.8

At first sight one might wonder where is the connection between 'follow heaven'
(sokuten) and 'on my own terms' (jiko hon'i); is there not a fundamental contradic-
tion between the two phrases? The explanation goes right to the heart of Soseki's
whole outlook on life and to the way he sought to work it out in his writing. In
this basic problem, as in so many lesser matters, he shows a remarkable fusion of
East and West. He was thoroughly Japanese, resolutely so. Yet his thinking, as
well as his literary art, was deeply colored by the Western thought and literature
in which he had eagerly steeped himself.

'On my own terms'

SOSEKI DISTINGUISHED the phenomenal ego in man from his true self, although he
never attempted precise philosophical explanations. Perhaps his clearest statement
is found in the talk that he gave at the Peers' School under the title Watakushi no
Kojinshugi (My Individualism) in 1914, although, even here, one must refer to
other sources, such as his letters, to arrive at a clear understanding of his true
mind. One point that comes through most strongly from this address is that Soseki
did not see his 'own terms' apart from the needs of others and society in general.

7 Sakamoto Hiroshi Mi;*E, 'Sokuten kyo- 'S6seki Sensei no Tsuioku' m E in


shi ni tsuite' pJJXgrAh vs'(, in Meiji Taishl Karaki Junz6 )74J'1-, ed., Watsuji Tetsuro,
Bungaku Kenkya F vii, July 1968, pp. 412-24.
1952, pp. 41-8; Watsuji Tetsur6 fatI3, 8 Yu, pp. 26-7.

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Biddle: The Authenticity of Natsume Soseki 395

Kosaka Masaaki writes on this subject:

.... Soseki's individualism was [far removed] from ego-centrism. It was indi-
vidualism in the best sense of the term.... He felt that to the extent that a
person manifested unethical behavior, to that extent, the development of his
individuality [was] without value.... He spoke of his individualism as 'based
on moral principles' or 'a doctrine of right and wrong from which the spirit of
factionalism has been banished.'9

Et6 Jun traces S6seki's convictions about the ego and the self back to his Confu-
cian training, and hence sees a real crisis in the anguished experiences in London
when he hit upon the 'on my own terms' motto.

Yet why did he consider this emergence of the modern ego, despite his own
principle of 'egocentric individualism', to be bad and ugly? I believe it was
mainly because of the survival within him, despite everything, of a private,
Confucian value system. According to Confucian ethics in general, and Chu
Hsi ethics in particular, the worth of a man's existence is determined solely in
terms of his connection with the transcendental t'ien (usually translated as
heaven). If he is severed from this transcendental source of value, he becomes
worthless-virtually nothing. Trained in this strict Chu Hsi tradition, Soseki
could not tolerate the existence of his own exposed ego, entirely separate from
any transcendental values. The still more disturbing impression that nothing
but individual ego existed in this world caused him further fear and revul-
sion-resulting in a vehement form of self-condemnation.10

It is important to note that Soseki did not back away from this disturbing
problem. This striving for intellectual honesty was characteristic of Soseki. It
showed true strength of character, as he forced himself to face the issues as they
appeared on the horizon of his consciousness. It is also of some importance to note
Et6's choice of words in speaking of Soseki's 'private Confucian value system'. In
Eto's penetrating analysis the future novelist possessed at that period not just a set
of traditional values, which many Japanese were losing in the mad rush for
modernization. Eto considers that Soseki had internalized this Confucian moral
system to such a degree that he had become personally convinced of its truth. This
is not to claim that he lived up to it fully, not at that point of time anyway. Nor is
it to claim that he even clearly recognized its presence within himself. But S6seki
was being courageous and honest with himself in facing up to the ethical problem
of 'authenticity' as a central -value of the Confucian heritage.
Perhaps one reason why Eto terms Soseki's value system 'private' is because in
his essay Bungei to Dotoku (Literature and Morality), 1911, the novelist referred to
Tokugawa Confucianism as 'pre-Restoration morality', contending that it was

9 K6saka Masaaki, ed., Japanese Thought in Press, Tokyo, 1958, p. 451.


thze Meiji Era (tr. David Abosch), Pan-Pacific 10 Et6, p. 609. See also Hibbett, p. 304.

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396 Monumenta NVipponica, XXVIII, 4

inadequate for the times and had already been superseded by a 'naturalistic
morality .... a system based on the observed fact that human beings are imperfect
and at all times impure."' Hence Soseki was gradually working out his own
philosophy of life and human nature, grounded on the old Confucian set of values,
but adjusted to modern life as he was coming to experience it personally. This was
the very core of his authenticity: his conscience would not allow him to be satis-
fied with anything less. He does not even attempt to dodge the issue. His inner
tension was exacerbated many times over by his being in an alien country, with-
out a close friend, living in materially poor conditions, when the crisis came. He
was tense and strained to the extreme. 'On my own terms' somehow afforded him
enough light to see his way out of the heavy gloom; it gave him the stamina to set
out on a new course of inquiry. It was this quest that was later to propel Soseki on
to writing psychological fiction and therein to probe the human psyche in his
career-long attempt to find the ultimate answers, not only on his own terms, but
on those that might be recognized as universal.
Soseki spoke in 1911 of a 'naturalistic morality'. Although there was or had
been in Japan a whole literary school of Naturalism, he had often and severely
criticized the Naturalists on philosophical and aesthetic grounds. We can there-
fore conclude that S6seki used the term 'naturalistic morality' here to signify a
conformity with 'nature' as he understood it on his own Confucian terms: sokuten
kyoshi. We have already seen that this involved being respectful of the rights of
others and therefore self-denying. Moreover, it involved acute awareness of one's
own culture and of worthy national traditions as integral parts of one's 'own
nature'.
Furthermore, a passive aspect of sokuten may be noted. 'Follow heaven' (or
nature) connotes a looking toward some objective direction of one's own life, a
sense of destiny (ming) and of the presence of a Way (tao). S6seki reveals his mind
on this in a letter written in 1907 to an old friend who had approached him to
accept a position on the faculty of Kyoto University:

So far, I have had no opportunity to test my worth. Nor have I ever once
trusted myself. All along I have relied on my friends' sympathy, my superiors'
charity, and my fellowmen's goodwill. But from now on I'll never rely on that
sort of thing-not even on my wife, children or relatives. I must go alone as far
as I can until I collapse. Otherwise, I feel I shall never find the real meaning
of life, neither the challenge to live nor the certainty whether I am alive or
dead. Since life to me is a gift from heaven, I would be sorry if I didn't per-
sonally experience the meaning of life.'2
The bitter experience of his two years in London could easily have made of him
a less honest man, warped in his judgment of the West. Traces of hurt and some
bitterness regarding English literature do indeed come out in some of his corre-
spondence and recorded recollections. But he would not be worsted by them. 'I

11 K6saka, p. 433. 12 Yu, p. 56.

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Biddle: The Authenticity of Natsume Soseki 397

must be honest,' he wrote.13 He would use his wide knowledge of English as well
as of Chinese literature in order to seek out the very raison d'etre of literature
itself:

Thereafter, in order to solidify my ground in relation to literature, or rather


to build it afresh, I began to read books which had no immediate bearing on
literature. In a word, I had finally hit on the four words, 'on my own terms',
and trying to prove them, plunged into scientific studies, philosophical
reasonings. . ..14

One of Soseki's conclusions derived from this broad pursuit of learning was that
Japan was trying in a few decades to force upon herself from without a structure
of modernization which had evolved quite naturally in the West, from within,
over a much longer period of time. To Saseki, Japan's modernization was un-
natural, neither genuine nor authentic, and thus the nation faced the prospect of
suffering a nervous breakdown. Typical of the man, he found the emptiness in
the intellectual community a form of insincerity and therefore reprehensible,
because 'such intellectual insincerity results in moral unfaithfulness.'15
Perhaps the most touching evidence of all is the great honesty and objectivity
with which he could treat his mental illness. He was aware that a Japanese
acquaintance in London had written back to Japan about his strained behavior.
In his long worked-over Bungakuron, published four years later in 1907, Soseki
remarked ingenuously in the preface:

The Englishmen called mine a case of nervous breakdown. A certain Japa-


nese, I understand, sent home a report that I was insane. I presume that
these sagacious gentlemen cannot be accused of falsehood. My only regret is
that due to my dullness of nature I am incapable of expressing my gratitude
for their kind opinion.
After my return home I have been said to be a victim of nervous strain and
insanity. Since even my own relatives confirm this view, I realize that there is
no room for my plea of innocence. However, when I consider that I owe to
this nervous breakdown and insanity I Am a Cat, Yokyoshui, and Uzurakaga, I
think it quite proper to acknowledge my indebtedness to this condition.
As long as there is no change in my personal situation, this condition of
nervous breakdown and insanity will continue-the rest of my life. And since,
as long as they last, it is my hope to produce many an I Am a Cat . . . , I only
pray that nervous breakdown and insanity may never desert me.16

For a man of Saseki's literary stature and fame, even as attained by 1907, such
a degree of detachment is remarkable. It was a pattern that will be found becom-
ing clearer as time goes on. At the beginning of 1915, almost two years before his

Is McClellan, p. 163. tion, 1868-1926, ii, Kokusai Bunka Shink6kai,


14 YU, p. 26. Tokyo, 1968, pp. 25-6.
16 Yu, p. 39.
15 Nakamura Mitsuo, Modern Japanese Fic-

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398 Monumenta Nipponica, XXVIII, 4

death, Soseki wrote in the series of short pieces published in the Asahi Shimbun
under the title Garasudo no Naka:

In what I have written until now, observations on self have been all mixed in
with observations on others. When I have written about others, I have taken
great pains not to give them offense. On the contrary, when I have written
about myself, I have experienced a welcome sense of freedom. Still, in what I
have said of myself heretofore, I have not yet reached the point where I have
been able to look at myself without protective shading. If I have not been so
vain as to try to deceive my readers with a tissue of lies, I have nevertheless
failed to reveal my worst points-my most disgraceful and humiliating de-
fects.... My sins, if we can so call them, may have been recorded from a very
agreeable angle.'7

'Sin' was not a word that S6seki used with ease, most probably because the
acts or attitudes most commonly decried as sins by almost all religions were not
what he considered most fundamentally evil. Egoism (jikoshugi, kojinshugi), which
seemed to grow more strong in the fertile soil of modern life, was the basic prob-
lem. And S6seki found such egoism to be so deep-rooted within himself and others
that he may have hesitated to call it sin. One is tempted to put on his lips or at the
tip of his pen a phrase such as 'original sin', for he found the egotistical spirit to be
the root-origin of all other evils. But with Saseki, as with so many of his contem-
poraries, it seems that the only notion of original sin was that of a Protestant
theology which renders human nature thoroughly corrupted by the first sin. One
wonders how they would have reacted had they known the Catholic teaching on
original sin and original justice. The latter could well supply for Soseki's seigi,
while the former (that original sin wounded, but did not essentially corrupt,
human nature) might have assisted S6seki in his quest for an explanation of the
deep egoism in man, which he doggedly continued to believe was not incurable.
Watsuji Tetsur6 has written of S6seki as preoccupied with the problem of in-
tegrity (seigi), a spirit of complete objectivity and impartiality in dealing with self
and others. This is not to say that the man himself lived according to this seigi, for
Watsuji was aware of S6seki's faults of character. Rather, it was the ideal toward
which men ought to strive. This integrity would correspond to an 'original justice',
from which all good and genuine love would spring. According to Watsuji's analy-
sis, it is a root-authenticity, by which man would forsake his egocentricity and
realize his own 'true self' of heaven's design: sokuten kyoshi.18
It will be seen later how S6seki tried to plumb the depths of the human spirit
in the realm of interpersonal relationships. Choosing as the subjects in his novels
different types of ordinary Meiji men and women, this novelist of alienation
created for his characters circumstances of daily life that pushed them to the limits

17 Zenshzi, xvii, pp. 197-8; quoted from in MN, XXVI, 1-2, 1969, p. 241.
Francis Mathy's review of Grass on the Wayside, 18 Watsuji, p. 420.

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Biddle: The Authenticity of Natsume Soseki 399

of selfishness, loneliness and human frustration. With utter fidelity to the actual
human condition as he knew and saw it, Soseki allowed his characters to act out
their parts in this stark human drama to the extremities of isolation, where they
were faced with crises that left them only suicide, insanity or faith in the divine.'9
Yet, in an effort to be absolutely true to the stark reality of weak and doubting
human nature as he experienced it, S6seki refused to let them go through the gate
of faith. In a supreme effort at authenticity he searched the human heart for some
way out of the dilemma without recourse to God-or at least, to any God outside
of man himself. One may wonder whether any novelist of any land ever probed
more deeply in the heart of man for a salvation that could be labeled entirely
human. This humanistic concern is surely an illustration of his embodiment of
the Confucian value system. Soseki well knew the interior struggles and tensions
of a deeply spiritual man who must always begin again. Less than a month before
his death he wrote to a young Zen Buddhist friend:

As for me, I mean to go on my search for the way, in my own manner as far as
I am capable. I realize there are so many things I'm not satisfied with. Every-
thing I do is false. I am ashamed.20

And the next day in another letter he honestly admitted: 'Strange as it may sound,
I am a fool who, at the age of fifty, has for the first time realized the need to seek
the way.'2' Natsume S6seki was indeed a man of his age, a Japanese of the Meiji
era who was smitten by the Western spirit of scientific discovery and progress. He
would seek out to the furthest limits of his literary talent the psychology of self-
centered modern man, but always as the negative counterpart to the Way of
Heaven he pursued.

The Novelist

SOSEKI ONCE WROTE to a friend that he was much too commonplace to be classified
as any kind of 'neo' or as an adherent of any 'ism'. Yet he has been called in retro-
spect a 'neo-idealist' whose writings went against the movement of naturalistic
fiction of his day.22 As a true artist and man of letters he did not investigate or
elaborate his ideals in abstract concepts, as a philosopher might. He created
human personalities in the pages of his novels and through them he investigated
human nature and its vagaries.
S6seki had just launched his career as a novelist when the naturalism movement
began to dominate the Japanese literary world. Ephemeral though it proved to be
as a movement, it was impressive in its vigor and ultimate effects. Its devotees,

19 Soseki provides 'three alternatives' in 1970, pp. 225.


Kojin 1rA (The Wayfarer): suicide, insanity, 20 Yu, p. 177.
religion. For some penetrating observations on 21 Yu, p. 177.
S6seki's views on human relations, see Koma- 22 K6saka, p. 436; see also Okazaki Yoshie,
shaku Kimi .KR, , Soseki: Sono Jiko Hon'i Japanese Literature in the Meiji Era (tr. V. H.
to Rentai to -Fk, 4 O3 4 T e, Tokyo, Viglielmo), Obunsha, Tokyo, 1955, p. 430.

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400 Monumenta Nipponica, XXVIII, 4

reacting against the nationalistic spirit that culminated in the Russo-Japanese


War of 1904-5, turned inward upon themselves to produce a rash of confessional-
type fiction. Nothing, however subjective or personal, could remain secret.
Novelists were considered old-fashioned if they did not produce works that were
more autobiographical than fictional. It became an obsession, admittedly cathartic.
It was at this most significant juncture that S6seki's authenticity emerged. His
idealism was not just a matter of being stubborn and not conforming, or of being
different from the rest. There were a number of principles upon which naturalists
based their movement that were congenial to his spirit-for example, breaking
away from the 'romanticist morality' of the past, expressing oneself in straight-
forward, unencumbered language, and freedom in content from the old literary
customs and patterns.
S6seki in fact revealed a great deal of himself in his novels. Michikusa is the story
of his life cleverly compressed into a short period of only six months. It was his
most firm conviction, as he stated in 1912, that 'art begins and ends with self-
expression.'23 But here, to be sure, the style is the man. And this man objected to
the masochistic blood-letting of the naturalists. It was too artless for him, too
devoid of craftsmanship. Perhaps his main objection was its unnaturalness, in spite
of its name. Saseki saw the movement as lifted from the West, imposed on an ill-
prepared Japan and not suited to its soil. It was unnatural because it was
ultimately devoid of 'sincerity'.
The absolute inseparability of life and sincere art in the process of their unpre-
dictable unfolding-this was the core of S6seki's literary ideal. To portray all this
true to life, authentically and with real craftsmanship, was his constant endeavor.
Futabatei Shimei, Japan's first modern novelist, had asked: 'Is art worth devoting
the whole of a man's life to?' One wonders whether S6seki could even have postu-
lated such a query, so dedicated was he to this pursuit. Early in his career he wrote
to Suzuki Miekichi:

I should .... like to attempt a literature which will have the give-and-take
spirit of life and death, which will breathe the fierceness and ardor character-
istic of the patriots who brought about the Meiji Restoration.24

The admiration he here shows for those heroes who 'restored' the Emperor was
an honest manifestation of his soul. He could hardly have approved of their hide-
bound 'romanticist morality', nor of their deviousness in establishing their own
new order under the cloak of Restoration. But he did admire their often selfless
dedication to their country, for which he himself unequivocably stated that he
wished to work and serve.

Because of the recklessness I inherited from my parents, I have been a loser


ever since my childhood.25

23 Yu, p. 174. Concerning Grass on the Way- 24 K65saka, p. 43 1.


side as an expression of S6seki's inner convic- 25 Botchan: Master Darling, tr. Mori Yaso-
tions, see Komashaku, p. 223. tar6, Seibund6, Tokyo, 1927, p. 1.

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Biddle: The Authenticity of Natsume S6seki 401

Botchan was not the first of S6seki's novels chronologically, but it reveals most
charmingly the authentic spirit of its author, his unabashed honesty. Later works
would manifest a real correspondence with details of his life and, of course, with
his spirit as well. But Botchan is a symbol. There are similarities between the life of
its hero and that of S6seki. Still, its value as revelatory of the author is as symbolic
of his beau ideal. Botchan is irrepressible in his frankness, uninhibited by artificial
customs of the past, and yet as Japanese as he can be in so many of his attitudes
and manners.
'Love of freedom is my nature,' Soseki once declared. This uninhibited spirit,
more than daring or recklessness, is the real theme of Botchan. Like the hero of his
story, the author had journeyed from Tokyo to Matsuyama to teach in a high school.
But the S6seki of those days was hardly so free of inhibition. Rather, the complete
naturalness of Botchan is what the novelist wished he might have been. S6seki once
reminisced in a letter to a friend about the lack of independence that his life had
shown.

It was suggested to me that I should teach. I had no desire to teach or not to


teach.... When I think about it, I am surprised. I entered the literature
department of the university because a friend encouraged me to do so. I became
a teacher because someone told me to become one. I went abroad, upon my
return I taught at the university, I joined the staff of the Asahi Shimbun, I wrote
novels, all for similar reasons. In a sense, therefore, I am what people have
made me.26

One can catch the note of regret that he had not lived more recklessly and more
on his 'own terms'. But was it perhaps the subconscious urge of his sensitive soul
to 'follow heaven' that made him so docile to the suggestions of his friends? Was
he being more true to himself than he realized at these junctures of his life? Later
on, when he rejected the government's Doctor of Letters degree and the gold cup
of the popularity poll that he had won, he would display more of the spirit of the
protagonist of this story.
Botchan was symbolic of more than its author. Fifty years ago, Sasaki Umeji, its
first translator into English, remarked in his Foreword:

The hero of the book is in many respects a young man embodying the new
ideals of New Japan. Soseki was prophetic in delineating such a character in
his book.... Old Japan with her polite, yet often deceptive, ways is passing to
return no more, and New Japan with her honest, simple, frank democratic
ways must come to speak and act in world terms.27

Sasaki has put his finger on something here that has perhaps been neglected in
the commentaries and interpretations of this novel. Botchan was not after all a
balloon that S6seki sent up to test the literary winds or weather of the day. If in
some sense it might be called an experiment, its creator nevertheless was at the

26 Zenshi, xx, p. 51. 27 Botchan, p. 7.

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402 Monumenta fipponica, XXVIII, 4
time a lecturer teaching English literature at the Imperial University of Tokyo.
And in that capacity he was noted for his serious views on the nature of literature
in general, and for his critique of eighteenth-century English literature in particu-
lar. S6seki was saying something to his fellow countrymen through this novel. Like
a prophet he was delineating the future, but doing so by speaking out and address-
ing himself to life in the present.
It is interesting to discover in the content of his lectures on 'Eighteenth-century
Literature' (Bungaku Hyjron) that he faults a writer such as Pope or exalts one
such as Swift according to the lack or presence, respectively, of naturalness and
authenticity as he saw it. S6seki suggests that Pope's talent could have produced
something far better had he given it free rein. And in reference to the author of
Gulliver's Travels, he says:

Swift is the kind of person whose vision, applied to the world or to men, is
completely satirical; and his satire is not based on a temporary attitude but
the deeply rooted, ineradicable nature he was born with.28

He goes on to assert that Swift used his natural talent and developed his artistry
for what he saw to be the benefit of Englishmen of his day.
Authenticity here demands that S6seki try to do the same for the Japan of the
early twentieth century. His view of his own literary gift and work was always a
serious one. It is therefore reasonable to see a message in Botchan, one expressed
comically and with a fine degree of satire. Red-shirt, Porcupine, Green Squash,
Badger, Madonna and the Clown speak for themselves. Each is a type ofJapanese
character which all his readers could recognize. Together they are a chorus, and
their lyrics bring home to us the value of honesty and naturalness-even when
these do not always seem to win. Even in Kiyo, the elderly servant so vividly
portrayed in her old-world mannerisms, S6seki may have foretold the enduring
substratum of traditional Japan that would continue to coexist with modern life.
In his tracts on literature at the university and on many other occasions Soseki
reveals his conviction of the moral dimension of fictional writing. This is curious
in the light of the fact that the Magna Charta of modern Japanese literature,
Tsubouchi Sh6y6's Shosetsu Shinzui, comes out so strongly against any didactic
purpose on the part of the author. True, Sh6y6 had in mind a different species of
novel altogether. Be that as it may, S6seki strove throughout his career with the
utmost seriousness to impart a lesson. How disarmingly and unobtrusively he
could do this he shows in Botchan, even better that he had done some months
previously with Wagahai wa Neko de Aru.
Wagahai wa Neko de Aru had really launched S6seki on his career when the work
had appeared in nine installments of the publication Hototogisu. This was really
a novel way of writing for the Japanese, and a perfect vehicle for satire, to com-
ment on the manners of the new Meiji sophisticates, viewed from a feline vantage
point. Didactic as every satire is meant to be, yet it is mild and humorous. Its

28 YU, p. 36.

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Biddle: The Authenticity of Natsume S6seki 403

freshness and wit won it instant popularity.


This first novel was decisive, if not critical, in a number of areas of the author's
personal life. As could be expected, of course, its success provided a great psycho-
logical lift for S6seki, so prone to be despondent and pessimistic. Certainly it would
have been an immense source of personal satisfaction, for no matter how well
received and acknowledged he may have been at the university, S6seki did not
really want to be a teacher. He must have sensed that his not being able to follow
what he felt to be his calling did not contribute to his psychological well-being.
Teaching was a job providing the money to support his family. But events proved
that it was not for him a healthy way of mortification or of forsaking his self. The
picture he paints of himself in Kushami in Wagahai is evidence enough of this.
This satirical novel acted as a safety valve for S6seki, allowing him to let off
steam of frustration. Caricaturizing himself also gave him an opportunity of seeing
how he was not being true to himself and to his talents. That Soseki did not try to
blame others for his state is characteristic of his honesty. The success of Wagahzai
opened a new path for him. It would take a while longer for him to certify in his
conscience that he was not doing wrong to himself or his family in leaving his
teaching post to become a full-time writer. But this attempt at taking an incident
from his own life, like the stray black cat that crept into his home, and using it
creatively in a story to point up unseemly qualities of modernizing Japan, was an
eye-opener for S6seki himself with respect to his own ability. As a visiting nurse
had predicted to his wife, that cat would bring luck to the household. S6seki's
spoof in Wagahai set the stage for Botchan and other more serious works to follow.
He was beginning to discern the freedom of spirit needed to 'follow heaven' as
well as to 'forsake self'. Thus Wagahai and Botchan ring their own changes on the
theme of sokuten kyoshi in S6seki's early career. But he was ever impelled forward
in pursuit of his own way. He wrote:

I want to try my hand at anything, whatever. I want to try as many varieties


as I am capable of. I want to try as many directions as suit my nature and my
temperament.29

S6seki truly believed that by being true to his genius he was fulfilling the call of
heaven. And so along with the writing of the more famous novels, he was working
on shorter, lesser pieces of various literary genres. It was at this time that, follow-
ing what he intuited was his own way, he resigned from Japan's most prestigious
university, and accepted the offer to write serially for the Asahi Shimbun. This was
an unheard-of move in tradition-bound and honor-conscious Japan, and must
have confirmed the opinions of those who thought that S6seki was insane.
Characteristically, S6seki wrote up the announcement for the paper. He stated
outright that there should be no difference whether one worked at an academy or
at a newspaper. At the latter he could devote himself entirely to creative work, his
life. 'Nowadays S6seki does not feel alive unless he is writing something,' he

29 YU, p. 79.

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404 Monumenta Nipponica, XXVIII, 4

remarked, and teaching did not afford him enough time for this. It was
well thought out and implemented in a detailed contract with the news
concluded the announcement:

Heart is won by heart, as an old saying goes. For the Asahi, which accepts an
oddball like me, I shall certainly do as much as an oddball can do, and I
consider it my pleasant obligation.30

One of Soseki's less known novels is Nowaki. Although artistically not compa-
rable with others from his pen, it is significant for showing another side of his
authenticity: his genuine commitment, as an intellectual, to the cause of social
justice. Perhaps the chief flaw in the work is that it is too blatantly honest, not
dressed up in the garb of social satire as was Wagahai, nor decked out in the
critique of symbolism of Botchan. The hero remarks,
I have no trust in such a thing as reputation, and so I don't care what happens
to my name. It is for my own satisfaction that I work for the good of the world.
I may become infamous, my name may become odious to others-why, I may
even end up mad. But what can I do about it? I work like this because if I
don't, I will be dissatisfied. And I say to myself, 'If this is the only way I can
find satisfaction, then it is the only true way for me. What can a man do but
follow his own way to truth?'31

Entirely characteristic of S6seki is the specific object of the social justice that is
championed in this story. It is the right of Japanese society at large to the riches
of the spirit: Shirai, the protagonist, detests the rich not because of his own
poverty, but because in their smugness they have all but destroyed the spiritual
aspirations of the people.
Breathing the pure air of the spirit was most important in S6seki's judgment.
Or rather, it was more perhaps a matter of instinct for him rather than of judg-
ment. In the last months of his life as he labored over the unfinished novel Meian,
the author could stand only for half a day at a time the polluted air of the human
world he was creating. He would retreat into the refreshing atmosphere of Chinese
poetry in the afternoons. Wagahai, Botchan, and a group of seven stories that he
turned out successively in the early years of his career, created a need in him for
something purely artistic. And so he produced Kusamakura, literally, Grass Pillow.
The novel's thin plot revolves around the desire of the painter who narrates the
story to catch the beautiful daughter of the inn-keeper at just the right moment for
artistic creation. But in fact what seems primary in this work is to create an
artistic milieu. The painter says:

This type of poetry, which is remote from the world and its cares, is as
essential as sleep in helping us to stand the pace of twentieth-century life.
Unfortunately, however, all the modern poets, and their readers too for that

30 YU, p. 59. 31 Zenshl, iii, p. 367.

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Biddle: The Authenticity of Natsume Soseki 405

matter, are so enamoured of Western writers, that they seem unable to ta


boat and drift leisurely to the realm of pure poetry.32

And for Soseki, this pure realm of the arts is the realm of nature, where one is free
from the oppressive burden of all the social amenities that men have made to
mask the truth about themselves. The English title of the translation of the novel
is The Three-Cornered World, and it is taken from a passage that suggests liberation
and a spirit untrammeled by artificial conventions: 'An artist is a person who
lives in the triangle which remains after the angle which we may call common
sense has been removed from this four-cornered world.' But S6seki must be
honest, and so he immediately has the painter add:

Of course, I am only human. Therefore, however dear to me this sublime


detachment from the world may be, there is a limit to how much of it I can
stand at any one time. I do not suppose that even Tao Yuan-ming gazed con-
tinuously at the Southern hills year in and year out. Nor can I imagine Wang
Wei sleeping in his beloved bamboo grove without a mosquito net. In all
probability Tao sold any chrysanthemums he did not need to a florist, and
Wang made money out of the government by selling bamboo shoots to the
local greengrocer. That is the sort of person I am. However much I may be
enthralled by the lark and the rape blossoms, I am still mortal enough to have
no desire to camp out in the middle of the mountains.33
Here S6seki pokes sly fun at himself, and this is very reminiscent of his first two,
satirical novels. He never wrote another novel like Kusamakura, although he
thought at the time that its unique style might start a new trend in literature. It
manifested another facet of S6seki's genius. Different though it was from other
works, both those of other novelists and his own, it was a real, true part of him
and sprang from his quest for authenticity.

The First Trilogy


WITHIN SIX MONTHS Soseki wrote two more novels, the first ones to be serially
published in the Asahi. They will not be treated here in any detail. Both Gubijinsj
(The Poppy) and Kofu (The Miner) were experimental, at least as viewed in
retrospect. Their failure to gain appreciation may in general be attributed to
Soseki's not being true to himself in their composition. The former was too stud-
ied; the latter built up, it is said, around material that was not his own. However,
both served to deepen the novelist's self-knowledge and to prove to him that gen-
ius had to be guided more naturally. Perhaps these experiments served to convince
him that he had need to listen to his heart and 'follow heaven' as he wrote. The
egotistic self could intrude into the area of his art; he must forsake it in order to
find and to reveal his true self.

32 The Three-Cornered World, tr. Alan Turney, 33 The Three-Cornered World, p. 21.
Tuttle, Tokyo, 1968, pp. 20-1.

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406 Monumenta fipponica, XXVIII, 4
S5seki's following three works, Sanshiro, Sore Kara and Mon have become k
as his 'first trilogy'. Sanshiro, published in 1908, began the series, and by its very
unpretentiousness shows what its author had learned from his stylistic errors. To
begin with, Soseki announced in the newspaper that the novel was about to
appear, and gave the briefest preview of what he had in mind. His wording is
so frank and humble that it deserves to be quoted in full.
A graduate of a local higher school, Sanshiro now enters Tokyo University,
and this exposes him to a fresh atmosphere. His varied responses result from
his contact with college friends, elders, and young women. My only task is to
let these people free in this particular atmosphere. The rest is up to them-as
they swim around freely, there will be a drama. In the meantime the readers
and the author getting used to the atmosphere will come to know its inhabit-
ants. If it turns out that neither the atmosphere nor its inhabitants are worth
all the trouble, we shall have to resign ourselves to our want of luck. It is
simply commonplace. I cannot possibly work wonders.34

Soseki's hero stands out only for his simplicity, his lack of guile and savoir-
faire. Sanshiro, a real country bumpkin, journeys from the south to Tokyo, the
exact opposite of Botchan, the Edokko, who goes down from the capital to live and
work in a small town. Still, they are alike in their complete lack of sophistication.
Perhaps Soseki's own unaffected character would not permit him to write sym-
pathetically of a sophisticated hero. If he were to do so, the character's heroicity
would have to be found in his facing up to his unauthentic conduct.
Sanshir6, like Botchan, is really a loser. With all his idealism, Soseki was too
honest to force any other conclusion on the story. The most devastating criticism
of Gubijinso had been that its author's interjecting too blatantly his own philosophy
had resulted in artificiality. He had actually said: 'I'll tack a philosophy onto the
conclusion, the kind of theory which I'm writing this novel to prove.' That was
against the best of his principles. He would not make that mistake again. 'My
only task is to let these people free.'
Sanshiro manifests the authenticity of Soseki, no matter what technical flaws it
may possess. It depicts the typical rural lad of the Meiji era, like a fish out of
water when exposed to the unaccustomed element of big city, university life. We
laugh at him. We shake our heads at his clumsiness. But we love him because he
is 'for real' and his naive innocence is attractive.
One very valuable result of Soseki's experimentation in KJfu was that he began
to establish for himself where he must place his emphasis, if he were to be true to
his own genius. Many novelists achieve fame for their vivid character portrayals,
brought out especially in the action of their novels and in the reaction elicited
from the characters placed within interesting circumstances. The dark, drab
atmosphere of a coal miner's job in S6seki's novel is most unpromising in this

34 YU, p. 72.

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Biddle: The Authenticity of Natsume Soseki 407

respect. Thus Soseki forced himself to concentrate on the psychology of his


characters, on their motivation and value judgments, for the material of his book.
Sanshiro shows the effect of this testing. As S6seki reveals the psyche of his hero,
his dreams and daydreams, he gives us a glimpse not only of a student's young
mind, but of the method he will use and try to perfect in his later novels. He was
to become the expert of the pyschological novel in Japan. As Kawabata Yasunari
has testified, S6seki's novels constitute 'the most mature psychological fiction of
modern Japan'.35 This could be so only because the man himself was so extremely
introspective. He had searched his own heart deeply and had studied his own
motives closely. In short, the expertise of S6seki's psychological novels was a
direct consequence of his honesty with himself.
Undoubtedly this was why S6seki could maintain so well the proper distance
between himself and his characters-at least, after the unsuccessful Gubijinsj. He
had achieved a degree of detachment from himself, and had learned to review
his own ulterior motives penetratingly enough not to be surprised at his own
weaknesses. Thus he could treat those same motives in his characters with more
objectivity without it appearing like his own confession, or without falling into
sentimentality.
Strangely enough, S6seki was criticized for this by his contemporaries, the
Naturalists, as lacking in 'sincerity'. 'Sincerity' for them was the virtue that
sanctioned their autobiographical exposes. And yet, could they have but seen it,
Soseki was actually manifesting psychological discoveries about himself that went
far deeper than their own self-exposures. Thus S6seki could write of himself in the
newspaper as an 'oddball', and calmy treat of his 'madness'. He had frequently
enough turned the spotlight of reflection upon his own reaction to those words
when they were spoken by others about himself. In the utter nakedness of
self-scrutiny S6seki had learned to distinguish at least some of the undesirable
elements in himself for which he was not culpable. S6seki was a paradigm of
'making the will sincere'.36
It is with the next novel of the first trilogy that S6seki began in earnest to fulfill
his own special 'vocation' as a novelist. Sore Kara (And Then), 1911, is a novel of
profound depth; in fact, from this time onward each of his stories is so serious in
content and style that Sanshiro should perhaps not be classified with them at all.
The hero of Sore Kara is Daisuke, a bachelor and second son of a wealthy Tokyo
gentleman. He has his own little house, with an elderly cook and a simpleton for
a houseboy. Soseki was evidently out to mirror for society a certain type of self-
centered Meiji intellectual. Moreover, he was exploring as never before the
potential for both good and evil latent in the human heart.
Daisuke's ennui with life is interrupted by two events that occur one after the
other; both work together to catapult the hero into a momentous decision. But

35 Hibbett, p. 307. of Chinese Tradition, Columbia U.P., New York,


36 Wm Theodore de Bary et al., ed., Sources 1960, pp. 131-5.

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408 Monumenta fipponica, XXVIII, 4

here, in contrast to Sanshiro, the characters are not permitted to 'swim around
freely'. S6seki spent two months planning this novel, then followed his own out-
lines faithfully and completed the work before its serialization began. The people
in this story act with a seriousness befitting the weighty message of the drama.
The denouement is the decision. What follows is the 'and then', left to the reader's
imagination.
The two events are first, an arranged marriage proposed by Daisuke's father,
and then the appearance of a formerly loved girlfriend, Michiyo, whom he had
magnanimously conceded in marriage to his best friend. The girl's manifest
unhappiness rekindles in his heart the love that he once felt for her. In the sudden
revival of his love he feels his whole being, down to its very roots, come alive. In
his old love for Michiyo and in her response to it, Daisuke has an intuition of
being that he has never experienced before. With his quick intelligence he senses the
depths of his own potential being, brought to the verge of actuality by the love,
given and received, of this girl. Saseki means this to be for the hero and for his
beloved a question of 'to be or not to be'. Although the existential decision made
in favor of being is crucial, it is not the be-all and end-all of the drama. Unlike
Shakespeare, S5seki goes on from here to the real objective of his creation: a
psychoanalysis of his characters in reference to this decision.
The adulterated selfish motivation of the father, the eldest son and his wife, as
well as the understandable reaction of the girl's husband, are now depicted. To
some extent it could be said that these characters 'swim freely' according to their
worldly types. But the psychological impact of this decision on Daisuke himself,
this decision for his own and the girl's authentic being as Daisuke sees it, becomes
the upshot of the entire novel. Daisuke obviously becomes a maturer man, and
also a truer self than he could ever have guessed possible. 'Today for the first time
I am going back to the naturalness of my old days,' he says. 'Why could I not go
back sooner? Why did I resist nature from the start?' Yet withal the young man's
motivation is by his own confession rather self-centered. 'My life needs you,' he
tells Michiyo. 'Yes, I do indeed need you.'
Saseki does not appear to condone the breach of ethical norms and social mores
in this story. That the hero and the woman he loves were subjectively justified in
their choice, the novelist leaves no doubt. And although this would raise problems
in the minds of his Meiji readers, Soseki ran the risk for the sake of exploring a
new variation on the theme of authenticity. With this striking example he would
show how important it was to be true to one's mind-and-heart, one's genuinely
given nature, which in this case involved being faithful to one's true love. It was
a startling way to show the creative and recreative dynamism, the maturing power
of genuine love.
Mon (The Gate), published in 1910, is the last of the first trilogy. Sosuke, the
hero, has little about him to merit that title. He is an extremely pessimistic civil
servant who lives in Tokyo with his childless wife in a dreary and dank little
tumble-down house at the end of a sunless alley. Again Soseki presents us with a

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Biddle: The Authenticity of Natsume Soseki 409

sankaku kankei, the love triangle. S5suke has stolen Oyone from his friend Yasui
and married her. Their childlessness and every other misfortune are interpreted by
them as divine retribution for betraying Yasui. Life for this couple not only holds
no hope; it is overshadowed constantly by the suspicion that something further
will befall them.
A visit from Yasui is announced, and S5suke, to escape the embarrassment of a
meeting, flees to a Zen temple in Kamakura. Religion is no answer, for him at
least. Its gate is closed, as indeed any gate to a better life seems shut and he
unable to open it.
What was S5seki trying to say through this seemingly fruitless visit to the Zen
temple? It could hardly be that religion is not a viable solution for the ills of mod-
ern man. S5suke was too warped a man to warrant such a general conclusion.
Some scholars find a link with the visit the novelist himself paid to a Zen temple
soon after graduating from the university.37 Link there may be, since his own stay
at the temple came in for scant notice in the years that followed, suggesting that
it may have proved of little value. Yet, as has been noted, S5seki does not usually
approach his composition of a novel with ready-made answers. He sets the stage
and places his people on it. It is only in the actual writing that he comes to know
his own people, and at the same time his own mind, as their activities unfold in
his creative imagination. So just because the novelist himself had failed to find
much that was congenial in Zen in his younger years would not mean that Sosuke,
placed in similar circumstances (the temple was in the same place, Kamakura),
was bound to react in like manner.
I am inclined to believe that S5seki guided his protagonist to the temple with
the open-ended idea that something might come of it. Saseki had often expressed
dissatisfaction with organized religion, and he may well have been critical of its
lack of relevance to the times. But this is not to say that he did not intuit the bene-
fit of religion and even have a religious sense himself. Many of the brightest lights
of the Meiji period became Christians, then abandoned formal Christianity even
more radically than did Uchimura Kanzo, without losing their religious sense.
And was not this very 'religious rationalism' another instance of Soseki's Neo-
Confucianism?
There is a good deal to be said for S6seki's convictions with regard to sokuten
kyoshi and to the 'true self' that could lead us to recognize in him a deep religious
dimension. Reference has already been made to the synthesis of Confucian and
Buddhist values in the sokuten kyoshi formula, involving particularly something
very close to 'nature' and much akin to Zen.38 From the perspective of this

37 Sako, pp. 41-2; Masamune Hakucho Tenkai E l Jr k I z b I ? 1 i


,Qi, Sakkaron 4'-t, i, Tokyo, 1957, Sogensha AUlUT, Tokyo, 1937, pp. 149-221,
p. 194; Yu, pp. 94-5. writes of Soseki as a great thinker in the
38 Hirata Jisaburo A ?k1Y, Natsume Zen tradition. V. H. Viglielmo, 'An Introduc-
Soseki, Tokyo, 1969, p. 83, describes sokuten tion to the Later Novels of Natsume Soseki',
kvoshi as 'zenteki'; and Ienaga Saburo .l 5 in MN, XIX, 1-2, 1964, pp. 14-6, provides a
Nihon Shisoshi ni okeru Shu7kyoteki Shizenkan no Christian interpretation of the phrase.

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410 Monumenta N'ipponica, XXVIII, 4
synthesis, S5seki was able to discover in Zen a universal value that did not
necessarily require the ritual of the temple or even formal zazen. He discerned this
value especially with reference to a cure for the ego, much as did Carl Jung some
decades later, and as some modern Japanese psychiatrists are discovering. Herein
would lie the deepest meaning of his kyoshi: a losing of the self to find it again in
a much richer sense.39 Soseki would lead S5suke to the temple gate, but he
was too genuine to force it open, either from within or from without. Edwin
McClellan remarks,

Soseki respected religion but could not understand it. Neither Sosuke in Mon
nor Ichir5 in Kjjin therefore attain faith. S5seki would not have been honest
had he allowed his protagonists to become religious. It simply would not have
been convincing had he tried to depict a state of mind which was totally alien
to him.40

I would not go so far as to say 'totally alien', since I feel that Saseki was dealing
with something describable as religious experience. However, he could not affirm
a religious solution dualistically conceived, and therefore I would agree that it
was his 'honesty', that is, his 'sincerity', that made him refrain from bringing
S5suke beyond the gate. To commit suicide, to go insane, to enter the gate of the
Zen temple, involved in each case a failure to face the real question, to 'face' one's
own self on one's own terms.
The drabness of this novel, almost as bleak a setting as a mine, provides the
appropriate background to offset the inner workings of the hearts of its characters.
But at the same time it accentuates the mood present in almost every subsequent
novel-Saseki's increasingly gloomy outlook on life in general, and on human
nature in particular. He was not a fatalist, but his pessimistic approach to man
could be considered as somehow akin to the most negative of the Protestant views
of human nature. The difficulty is that he did not have the compensating strong
faith in the merciful providence of God. But these are Western religious categories
that do not seem entirely to fit the problematic of sokuten kyoshi.
I have used the term 'original sin' earlier in a restricted sense to identify Soseki's
concept of the ever-present egoism that he found in man. It was so penetrating
that anything man did was shot through with selfishness, and this seemed to him
to be the very root of all evil-far deeper than any ordinary concept of sin. Kyoshi
seems to involve Soseki's original apercu of the Buddhist teaching of Avidya as the
root of suffering. The saving factor was what might be termed his Neo-Confucian
conviction about the basic wholeness and healing property of nature (sokuten).
Perhaps this dynamic structure actually functioned for him like a saving grace of
heaven that kept him from utter despair of man. It may have been his kind of
faith.

39 See Yu, p. 181, for Soseki's marginal referring to forsaking self.


notes written in his copy of the Bible on a text 40 McClellan, p. 200.

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Biddle: The Authenticity of Natsume Soseki 411

As a result of his authenticity, however, Saseki found it extremely hard to


'solve' the problems of everyday life philosophically. This gave rise to real exis-
tential agony and spiritual depression, which he was best able to work out in the
process of writing. Mori Ogai, his contemporary and an equally great thinker and
novelist of the Meiji period, showed a much more serene attitude toward human
nature, as we find even in Gan, for example, and certainly in the historical novels
of his later life, such as Takasebune. S5seki exhibited a particularly negative
approach in Mon, where Sosuke and Oyone are left little else than remorse for the
past, frustration in the present, and fear for the future.

The Second Trilogy


SOSEKI HAD NO SOONER completed Mon than he was hospitalized with a severe case
of ulcers. A few months later he went to Shuzenji to rest, but he became worse
while there and lapsed into a coma. The Omoidasu Koto Nado (Random Recollec-
tions) that began to appear in the Asahi at the end of October in that year of 1910
provides evidence of what this period of sickness meant to him, although there is
no need to discuss here the controversy over the interpretation of this Shuzenji
experience. Curiously, however, the installments of Omoidasu manifest a brighter
S5seki, almost at times a cheerful one. He was warm in expressing his appreciation,
while losing nothing of his connatural honesty and candor.

.... As I was lying in bed and staring at the ceiling I realized that the world
was more generous than I myself; with this realization there rose a sudden
stir of warm breeze in this world which I had believed to be unlivable.... As
my body survived my illness, so did my spirit.... I wishfully hoped to become
a good soul; and made the pledge to myself that whoever destroys this happy
thought of mine shall be my eternal foe.41

S5seki looked upon his short coma as a taste of death, and he was greatly
impressed by the experience, although not in any morbid sort of way. Even when he
later wrote about the dark side of the human condition, he did not give the
impression of the despair that he had manifested in Mon. In fact, Higan Sugi Made,
the first of the new trilogy, was relatively quite light in style.
The work is made up of six short stories told either by or to Tagawa, a young
university graduate, and concluding with an epilogue. All but the first story
revolve about the Taguchi family or their relatives and acquaintances. The elder
Taguchi's daughter, Chiyoko, and his nephew, Sunaga, who is a friend of Tagawa,
are the real focus of the novel. Higan Sugi Made is not among S5seki's best pieces of
work, but it displays a fine array of clear-cut characters in a new novelistic form.
Particularly noteworthy is the girl, Chiyoko. She is not the typical Japanese
woman such as the one S5seki would portray in his next work, Kokoro. She is a type
of modern woman, who emerges with marvelous feminine qualities of grace and

41 Yu, p. 1oo.

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412 Monumenta Nipponica, XXVIII, 4

beauty of both body and soul, along with a fearlessness that seems to fiber her
whole being. S5seki would paint a dream-lady in his final work, Meian, but per-
haps Chiyoko could be called his ideal of womanhood-one that he may actually
have feared, as Sunaga confesses in the novel.
Thus, Higan Sugi Made, while representative of S5seki's later works in its psy-
chological approach to the people involved, has an individuality all its own. It
mirrors faithfully the less somber S5seki, the S5seki become more mellow, or at
least less at a loss, in confrontation with human egoism. He can flesh out a strong-
willed yet compassionate woman who does not appear besmirched with the dark
stain of selfishness. But this relative mellowness gradually appears to dissolve
again as the author slipped back into the tensions of his busy professional life,
where he observed and no doubt provoked the manifestations of man's self-
centeredness.
S5seki must have liked the idea of linking short stories together to form a novel.
He did the same thing with Kojin (The Wayfarer), the next work of the second
trilogy. This time his narrator is right at the center of the involvement, and the
four parts are like four acts of a unified drama. Jiro, its relator, is ajinan, or second
son in the family. The chief attraction is his brother, Ichiro, whose strained
relations with his wife, Onao, are the springboard for most of the action. Jir5
is a surprisingly selfless person for a male character in Saseki, but his brother's
egotistical personality more than makes up for this.
In almost all of his novels S5seki is at pains to dramatize some of the ills of
Meiji society. The diligence and spirit of dedication he brought to the work is
strong proof of his love for Japan and his fellow Japanese. He had a most pene-
trating appreciation of the agony of his age. It was precisely the gigantic problems
arising out of Meiji modernization that provoked his own personal human crisis.
The human crisis is indeed permanent, but in every 'modern' age there are a
select few who, because of circumstances of education and environment, become
so completely identified with the agony of their times that their lives would be
simply incomprehensible outside of it.42 Camus is a more modern example, and
represents a generation or more of Frenchmen-and of men in many countries-
who can identify neither with the faith of their fathers nor with the new beliefs of
the modern age, and must search out answers to existential problems on a dark
and lonely road.
KJjin records a portion of Saseki's search. From one novel to another it is difficult
to say whether he has made progress on the road, or whether perhaps he has
missed a turn and backtracked. He was too candid, too utterly authentic, to try
and fool anyone-least of all himself. He recorded only what landmarks he could
make out at the time, sometimes the same ones. He might appear to contradict
himself. He tried only not to betray himself and his readers.

42 Robert N. Bellah, 'Ienaga Saburo and tudes Toward Modernization, Princeton U.P.,
the Search for Meaning in Modern Japan', in 1965, p.398.
Marius B. Jansen, ed., Changing Japanese Atti-

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Biddle: The Authenticity of Natsume Soseki 413

Toward the end of KJjin, Ichiro's friend tries to assist him by reminding him:

All you have to do is to realize that there is no need for you alone to worry so
much.... What I mean to say, it is our fate to wander blindly through life.

Ichiro is not consoled, partly because he senses that his friend is speaking more
from hearsay or theory than from experience. And when it is suggested that Ichiro
turn to religion for a solution, we have what must be the most truly authentic line
in the whole novel: 'Name me any god who is as trustworthy as even a ricksha
man.' This is how S5seki was often inclined to feel about the human condition;
it is how he thought that a genuine Meiji-educated, modern Japanese often felt.
And Soseki did not mean this as an indictment of religion-no more perhaps than
Christ meant to indict the godhead by crying out in his last agony and asking
why he had been abandoned. S5seki was trying faithfully to mirror the human
situation. Edwin McClellan writes about KJjin:

But Soseki is trying to say something quite awful about human nature in this
novel: through Ichiro, he is saying that the only thing we can say with cer-
tainty about any man is not that he is good or bad, loyal or disloyal, but that
he is alone.... It is a frightening conclusion.... It is no wonder then that
S5seki introduces extreme situations; how else can he have convinced the
reader of the reality of the fear .... men feel?43

S5seki has depicted graphically through the hero of this novel an aspect of the
human condition that was, to be sure, not exclusive to Japan or to his age. Still,
it was the almost mad rush toward modernization in the earlier Meiji years that
he felt had really brought the problem to a painful head. A perennial problem,
yes, and a universal one. Quite evidently Soseki believes his vocation is to portray,
as vividly as his artistry will allow, how a man has to struggle with this problem
for dear life.
The last novel of the second trilogy is the most popular of his serious works.
S5seki introduced and recommended Kokoro:

To those who wish to grasp their own heart I recommend this book which has
succeeded in grasping the human heart.44

These were ambitious words, and the author sincerely felt that they were true. If
one adjective can capture the whole picture that Saseki has painted here of the
human heart, it would be the word 'lonely'. And although the novelist would
hardly claim that all men's hearts are like the lonely heart of S5seki, he would
suggest that they are so sometimes, at least, in varying degrees.
The plot of the novel is quite simple. The young student who tells the story
meets Sensei on the beach at Kamakura. Their acquaintanceship deepens as the
young man visits his friend at his home, where he and his wife live alone. Happy

43McClellan, p. 204. 44 Yu, p. 124.

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414 Monumenta N'ipponica, XXVIII, 4
though a man should be with such a beautiful and loving wife, Sensei manifests
quite a morbid spirit. On their long walks together, while not revealing much
about himself, Sensei allows the student a glimpse of his pitiable heart. It is not
until the last part of the book, however, that the reasons for his loneliness become
known. In a long letter about himself to the student, Sensei recounts how, left an
orphan, he was cheated of an inheritance by his uncle. But the most startling and
significant revelation describes how Sensei himself cheated his best friend of his
fiancee. The rest of his life is haunted by this memory and by the deepest remorse.
The letter closes with the announcement of Sensei's resolved suicide, which is
carried out after the example and pattern of General Nogi, who killed himself on
the day of the Emperor Meiji's funeral.
What lies at the bottom of this story is the human portrayal involved. Watsuji
has pointed out that the opposite of sin for S5seki was righteousness or integrity
(seigi); I have equated this with authenticity or fidelity. The cheating perpetrated
by one human being on another strikes at the very heart of this. It creates in man
a distrust of his fellow man. But when Sensei realizes his own infidelity to his
friend, followed by such tragic consequences, there is no conclusion left but the
untrustworthiness of all men.
Basically this is what creates the lonely heart of man: his egocentric isolation
from all those around him caused by, and resulting in, the inability to trust others.
Saseki tries to convey his message by showing what happens to men when they
are not true to their nature, both individual and social. He has given us a powerful
demonstration of how badly man needs to trust others, and to show himself worthy
of their trust. Sensei's betrayal by his uncle as a lad was the beginning of his isola-
tion. 'When I was cheated by my uncle I felt very strongly the unreliableness of
men.' But the scandal of his own untrustworthiness, heightened by the suicide of
his friend, exiled his heart forever to a state of chilling solitude. Even the warm
embrace of a devoted wife could not pull him back, since she was a constant
reminder of his unforgivable deed.
S5seki brings out very clearly that Sensei blames himself, and not his uncle or
fate, for the act of betrayal that he has perpetrated. But it seems that the novelist
also tries to shift the whole psychological action to a higher plane. For instance, in
his letter Sensei attempts to explain his feelings to his young friend. 'I felt very
strongly the sinfulness of man.' This is a subconscious generalization from the
wrong of one person, or of two, to the whole of mankind. But then Sensei instinc-
tively goes to the aid of his sick mother-in-law, and lavishes attention upon her.
'I was seeking a means of atoning for the wrong I had done.' Is S5seki suggesting
that, even though man betrays man and thus drives him into isolation, he can
hope to find healing only through another man? By reaching out to assist the
ailing woman Sensei discovers a great universal truth: 'I felt that I was in some
way helping the whole of mankind.' The heart of Sensei was good, but his burden
was too heavy.

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Biddle: The Authenticity of Natsume Soseki 415

After the death of his mother-in-law, he returned to his exile of isolation. He


could not forgive himself. He could not face up to the truth about himself and
make a new start. And in the end it is not really the sense of guilt that leads him
to suicide. It is rather just his lonely heart. The comparison that Soseki makes
between Sensei's suicide and the self-immolation of General Nogi, who had there-
by supposedly atoned for a military blunder committed years earlier, does not ring
true except as a convenient way out for Sensei. Had he truly considered his suicide
in some way noble, like that of Nogi, would he not have at least been glad to
comfort his wife in that way?
S5seki would like to show his fellow men how one human heart can harm
another, above all by selfishness, and in so doing inflict the greatest harm of all
upon himself. 'No man is an island,' wrote John Donne. Whether for good or evil,
his deeds affect all men in some way. Only in being true to himself will his life and
work have meaning and value. Saseki again has taken a via negativa to prove his
point, for Sensei loses to his own self-alienation.

The Autobiography
Two YEARS BEFORE HIS DEATH S5seki wrote Michikusa (Grass on the Wayside),
generally acknowledged to be autobiographical. The novel actually represents
only a half-year in the life of Kenz5, its hero. But the flashbacks, by way of Kenzo's
recollections, take in pretty much of his entire life. Without being in the style
of the watakushi shosetsu, Michikusa contains a good deal of confessional matter.
Particularly with regard to the most unattractive relationship between Kenzo
and his wife Osumi, S5seki revealed himself to be a disagreeable husband and an
uncongenial father.
The six months of the novel correspond to the time immediately following his
return from England. Although the hero has a respectable position as a teacher,
his salary has not only to provide for the needs of his own family of four, which
increases to five in the course of the story, but also to help out some of his relatives.
So when his foster parents and then his father-in-law come to borrow sums of
money from him, Kenz5's disposition, as well as his wallet, is strained to the limit.
This makes up the entire action of the novel, but of course it is more than
sufficient for the accomplished Saseki to X-ray the hearts of the characters
and flash the film upon the pages of the book. Particularly unforgettable is the
incident of the birth of his third child into Kenz5's own trembling hands, before
the midwife can reach the house. The character delineation of the husband and
wife is masterful.
In quite a number of his novels Saseki has dealt with the subject of marriage
and married love. He will do so a last time in Meian, the uncompleted work. In
Michikusa, although the foster father, Shimada, and the anxiety that he causes, run
throughout the entire story, one gets the impression that Soseki was actually high-

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416 Monumenta N'ipponica, XXVIII, 4
lighting married love, but, of course, through its deficiency. Kokoro depicted what
seemed to be an ideally matched couple, whose married life was overshadowed
by the suicide of their friend. We caught only the briefest glance of what real
matrimonial happiness might be. Even Sensei's wife felt compelled to ask him:
'Can't a man's heart and a woman's heart ever become a part of each other, so
that they are one?' S5seki himself seemed to manifest his doubt in the Sensei's
reply. If Michikusa is in truth a reflection of the novelist's own matrimonial life,
then we can well understand upon what experience his doubt was based. Kenzo,
even more than his wife, is a cramped and selfish person. Their life together, as
Saseki seems to be continuously suggesting, could be so much brighter with a little
more openness, a little more giving in to each other.
One particular incident permits us a deeper look into the problem of their
unhappy married life. Osumi had bought some cloth.

'I thought I would make you a kimono. How do you like it?' She was smiling
cheerfully.
Kenz5 doubted her sincerity. She thinks she's being clever, he told himself;
she's not going to fool me with her phony charm. Chilled by his attitude, she
quickly left the room. As he watched her leave, he thought unhappily: I have
been forced somehow or other to behave like this to my wife.
When he saw her again he said, 'I am not as heartless as you think I am. I
could be warm and affectionate as the next fellow, but you make me bottle up
all my natural feelings.'
'That's not true! Why should I want to do a thing like that?'
'You are always doing it.'
She looked at him bitterly. She had no idea what Kenza was getting at.
'Your nerves are in a bad way,' she said. 'I wish you would try to be a little
more understanding.'
Kenz5 could not pay much attention to what she was saying; he was too
busy being angry with himself for having become so callous, so different from
what he used to be.
'No one is doing anything to you,' she said. 'If you are unhappy, you have
only yourself to blame.'
They were getting nowhere. Each thought the other pig-headed and
unsympathetic, not worth talking to seriously, and each thought that it was
up to the other to make amends.45

Undoubtedly S5seki was dramatizing the selfishness that was at the root of their
unhappiness. It was this that made Kenza 'bottle up all my natural feelings', as
he put it. Were he able to be himself, his true and better self, 'what he used to

45 Grass on the Wayside, tr. Edwin McClellan, 1969, pp. 34-5.


The University of Chicago Press, Chicago,

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Biddle: The Authenticity of Natsume Saseki 417

be', then what a difference it would have made. Kenz5's sister is married to a man,
Hida, whose selfishness appears even worse than his own:

The poor woman was wasting away before his very eyes, yet he was totally
unconcerned. During the thirty years of their marriage, this man had not
once said a kind word to his wife.46

We might say that Soseki tried in Michikusa to exemplify in marriage the gen-
eral theme of how the modernization of the contemporary culture was bringing
out the worst in people. However, there does not appear to be anything particu-
larly Meiji in the attitude of his husband figures toward their wives. So it seems
that he has hit upon a wider theme. Allowing for differences in degree as we think
of different cultures, the problem nerve-centers that Soseki exposes in the married
life of Kenzo and Osumi are probably universal enough.

Usually after such unpleasant occurrences there would be a period of nor-


malcy to give them the respite they needed, and they would begin talking to
each other like other married couples.
But normalcy was like a transient guest in their house, and very quickly
they would find themselves once more living with their backs turned toward
each other.47

S5seki has not gone to extremes in his portrayal. In fact, there is a real convinc-
ing power in the ordinary, down-to-earth narration. Although most of his heroes
are drawn from the intellectual world, as is Kenzo himself, of course, yet the pic-
ture of daily marital life as Michikusa shows it to us could be verified probably in
countless ordinary homes throughout the world. This is yet another manifestation
of the author's authenticity and his attempt to probe the human heart to the
utmost. Kenz5 remarks to his wife:

But when two people live together, no matter how bad things may get
between them, they somehow manage to stay close. I suppose human beings
are made that way.48

Mr Kushami of Wagahai and Kenzo have many points of resemblance. But we


seldom despise Kushami, whereas Kenz5's character often calls forth the reader's
disdain. The only redeeming feature is Kenz5's total honesty.

When the maid would appear with the visiting card of someone like an
insurance agent-who would not have been welcome at the best of times-he
would angrily scold the innocent girl in a voice loud enough to be heard by
the caller. Later he would be ashamed, angry at himself for his inability to
treat ordinary harmless people like an insurance agent with a modicum of

46 Ibid., p. 40. 48 Ibid., p. 105.


47 Ibid., p. 88.

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418 Monumenta JNfipponica, XXVIII, 4

graciousness and goodwill. At the same time he would again console himself,
almost proudly, with his fond excuse: 'It's not my fault, and even if that fellow
doesn't know, at least I know it.'
Because he had no faith, he could not say, 'At least god knows.' In fact, the
thought that he might be happier if he could never occurred to him. Morality
for him was something that began and ended with himself.49

At the time of an earthquake Kenzo ran out of the house into the garden
without a thought for his wife and children. She reproached him: 'There's no end
to your self-centeredness. Can't you think of anyone but yourself?' And his
reaction: 'Kenzo was taken aback; he had never imagined that she would be so
angered by what after all had been an impulsive act prompted purely by instinct.'
There is a deeper confession in this novel by S5seki than in any of the 'I-novels'.
In his own life he had perhaps given up on himself, at least with regard to correct-
ing many of the manifestations of egoism. But he wants to tell about egoism as it is
in the world, not as a means of catharsis, but in the hope that others may profit
from seeing how despicable it is and how devastating it can be in its consequences
in life.

Last Testament: Meian


ONLY ABOUT A MONTH before he died Soseki told some of his closest friends:

Lately I have entered a certain state which I would call sokuten kyoshi, al-
though others might label it differently. It is something like this: to forsake
the small self which I usually regard as myself, and to leave it to the dictates
of a larger and universal self, so to speak. But I cannot describe it fully in
words. And in this state all assertions, all ideals, and all isms, however
grandiose, begin to look trivial, whereas those things which ordinarily seem
insignificant, find place for their own existence.... Light and Darkness I am
writing in this attitude.50

That Natsume Soseki was attempting to obey the dictates of his 'call' as a psycho-
logical novelist seems clear. His own interpretation here of the sokuten kyoshi is
very simple: devotion to duty, recognized as a real self-fulfillment. As he devoted
the mornings of his last months on earth to his duties as a writer, working on the
never-to-be-completed Meian, he felt repugnance toward the world that he had
too realistically created. The later hours of the day afforded him entry to a better
world, revealed to him in the reading and writing of Chinese verse. Somehow for
Saseki all his ideals saw their fulfillment in this occupation. The latter was light,
the former, darkness.
In this last novel the ordinarily insignificant things take on more meaning, as

49 Ibid., pp. 91-2. 50 Yu, p. 155.

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Biddle: The Authenticity of Natsume Soseki 419

he analyzes as never before the area of interpersonal relationships. Character-


istically, he exposes quite mercilessly the foibles of his people, as he closes in on
their pride and self-love and general untruthfulness. They are all, with one excep-
tion, egotists: Tsuda, the hero, and O-Nobu, the almost-heroine, their relatives
and acquaintances. Kiyoko, the angel, so to speak, hardly appears long enough
to manifest any faults.
The plot of Meian is determined by the meddling of Tsuda's employer's wife,
Mrs Yoshikawa. She is resolved to set people right, Tsuda, above all, along with
his vivacious wife. Although suffering from a physical ailment for which he is
twice operated on, the hero really needs spiritual surgery. And in this Tsuda is
not alone. All men need such an operation, toward which others can assist by way
of authentic interpersonal relationships.
Soseki satirized the unauthentic in Wagahai and Botchan; he has told us in any
number of characters in the trilogies that untruthfulness and fear to be oneself and
cheating to win a wife cannot possibly pay off in the long run. By way of its
opposite, he has shown us how honesty pays, how it is best not to wear the official
'persona', or mask, of one's position in life more often than is really necessary.
Few men are such clever actors, or can bear up under the strain of constant acting.
But not to deliberately deceive others about oneself, and to actually reveal oneself
to others-these are two different things. In this final novel Soseki undertakes to
show some of the possibilities for helping others that lie in everyday relationships;
the deeper the relationship, the deeper the self-revelation required. Self-revelation
is helpful in eliciting trust, which it implies. Usually, of course, Soseki demon-
strates these truths negatively by projecting opportunities that are not made use
of by his characters. But still there is as much light in this story as darkness, and
this makes for an exception in his serious works.
Tsuda is the center of what little action there is in the novel. And, of course, the
plot being what it is, he has to appear sick, spiritually as well as physically. He
comes off a not very likable man, typical of the times in his rather old-fashioned
treatment of his modern wife. He is not obnoxious, but just ungenerous and
uncooperative. This is in part a front that he displays, but he can disguise or
conceal it on occasion, as when Mrs Yoshikawa treats him like a child.

And yet he possessed in full measure a self which could not be treated in this
way by such a person as Mrs. Yoshikawa. But he purposely had not forgotten
the necessary preparations for hiding this self when he met her. Thus, while on
the surface he was reacting rather casually to being teased so unreservedly by
her, underneath he was always leaning against the thick and sturdy wall
which he himself had built.51

The wall becomes all too evident when he and his wife are alone. They have

51 Light and Darkness, tr. V. H. Viglielmo, Tuttle, Tokyo, 1972, p. 19.

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420 Monumenta N'ipponica, XXVIII, 4

been married for only six months, and however unattractive many aspects
husband seem to her now, O-Nobu is resolutely determined to make a go of her
marriage. She writes to her parents of her marital bliss, and tries to convince her
unmarried cousin. She seeks to attract her husband and to draw him out from
behind the wall.

.... he had certain areas of diffidence within him. At least there was a
considerable distance between his outward behavior toward O-Nobu and
his inner feelings toward her. And the shrewd O-Nobu knew that distance
precisely. She could not help being dissatisfied about it, but rather than
attacking his falseness she hated his lack of frankness. She looked upon it as
merely a kind of unpleasant reserve.52

One of the rather lovely light spots of the novel is where Soseki brings husband
and wife together in a harmonious agreement that demonstrates what could be
done in their married life, if only Tsuda would give some cooperation. This
incident appears all the brighter for following immediately upon a fierce battle
between himself and his married sister, 0-Hide, as he is recovering from an
operation for hemorrhoids. 0-Hide is no paragon of virtue, and Tsuda will brook
none of her vanity where he is concerned. In the midst of their quarrel O-Nobu
enters the sickroom and becomes involved in defense of her husband. In the half
year of their marriage, perhaps they had never been so close to one another. Indeed,

.... when she and Tsuda privately viewed their relationship, very similar to
that between sumo wrestlers facing each other in the ring every day, they felt
that.... she was always his opponent and occasionally even his enemy; yet
once they faced the world outside, O-Nobu felt that unless she thoroughly
supported him she would be openly exposing the weakness of two people
bound together as husband and wife, and she could not but be ashamed of
such an exposure.53

And so O-Nobu stood up for her husband against his sister, while still feeling that
his heart was a closed door to her, and perhaps hers to him.
But once the opposition is reduced, there is a return to type. Their mutual love
terminates in themselves instead of reaching out toward others. Mrs Yoshikawa
visits Tsuda and prescribes for him a meeting with a former fiancee, who had left
him without notice or explanation and married another man soon after. This
Kiyoko, her name means 'lucid child', is recovering from a miscarriage at a spa,
and Mrs Yoshikawa convinces Tsuda that he should go there to meet her, under
pretext of a rest. It is after their first conversation at the spa that the novel was cut
short by S5seki's death. One can only surmise what beneficial and 'lightsome'
effect the beautiful and seemingly selfless Kiyoko would have had upon Tsuda.

52 Ibid., p. 210. 53 Ibid., pp. 80-1.

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Biddle: The Authenticity of Natsume Soseki 421

The novelist perhaps gives us a clue to what he was leading when he notes down
Tsuda's musing about Kiyoko as he approaches the spa.

'. . . What effect then will this woman whom I haven't in the least forgotten,
this woman who sparkles in my mind's eye, this woman whom I have pur-
posely pursued all the way from Tokyo, have on me?'
... at that point Tsuda caught sight of several electric lights.... He even
thought that perhaps one of those lights was then illuminating Kiyoko's
figure.
'They're the lights of destiny. I can do nothing but go on my way, with
them as my guide.'54

And when he has met and is conversing with her, he watches her beautiful ear-
lobes, dyed crimsom in the morning sun: 'Her ear-lobes were thin, and it seemed
as if, because of her position, the sunlight which streamed behind them reached
him only after passing through the blood vessels in them.' 'He had the feeling of a
man who for the first time notices the difference between day and night.' In fact,
during this one brief visit together, Kiyoko has an amazing influence upon her
former fiance.

Kiyoko merely smiled. There was no defensiveness in that smile. One might
even have said that there was a kind of placidity in it. Tsuda, who had started
out with lies, felt only that his mood became increasingly carefree.... when he
had to deal with her, he could always function positively.... he was un-
doubtedly forgetting his circumspection that he normally used in his daily
life with O-Nobu.55

The light and darkness are so evident here, the contrast between Kiyoko's com-
plete authenticity and Tsuda's deception stands out so clearly, that the episode
becomes manifestly the climax of the whole novel. There is hardly any need for
S5seki to go any further, as indeed he was prevented by death from doing. The
author's aim in this novel of authenticity was achieved in the chiaroscuro of this
fascinating encounter.
Perhaps this scene also clears up the mystery of why Kiyoko had suddenly
broken off their engagement. Did not the light of her limpid character bring out
the darkness of his dishonesty too starkly to endure? Her honesty knew intuitively
what difficulties married life would meet with such a deeply unauthentic type as
Tsuda. She may not have followed heaven in fleeing such hardship and in refusing
to work with somebody over whom she seemed to have such power to change for
the better. For it would appear that Tsuda had become even more calculating and
unauthentic since marrying the aggressive O-Nobu.
Tsuda himself rationalizes a trait that all the characters in the story point out

54 Ibid., p. 338. 55 Ibid., pp. 366-8.

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422 Monumenta Jfipponica, XXVIII, 4

to him at one time or another:

He realized he himself was a 'liar', but at the same time he accepted un-
critically the lies of others and was not in the least distressed by them. On the
contrary, he believed one had to tell lies to be able to live. He did not know
he himself had been living until then according to such a nebulous philosophy
of life.56

Here we have precisely the attitude that Soseki wants to point up in this novel
as a most common and serious flaw in human character; it is at once a manifesta-
tion and the root cause of selfishness. This was the 'self' that had to be forsaken if
human life and human relationships were to be improved. Michikusa had actually
dealt with the same problem. But there Soseki had been either too honest or too
close to home to see much more than the darkness of a bad relationship. The
bright light of Kiyoko's simplicity and unpretentiousness shines out in this last novel
to guide us. Her kind of lucidity in self-revelation is called for in any close personal
relationship, S5seki tells us, but particularly in marriage. A constant theme in all
his serious works, married love does not come through beautifully in Meian. But
we are given hope for it. It is Soseki's own hope, stubborn and never giving up, as
Komashaku Kimi has remarked so well. Komashaku sees sokuten kyoshi itself as a
proof of the novelist's undaunting faith in human nature, despite all his predispo-
sitions to the contrary. And he calls Meian the twin of sokuten kyoshi.57
In the story's other relationships, Tsuda's sister, 0-Hide, has a good influence
on her brother almost only by accident. As for O-Nobu, while the effect upon
Tsuda of her attempt to draw him out did not meet with much success, she was
undoubtedly herself affected by the effort of love, tinged though it was by self-
interest. Kobayashi, a Marxist friend of Tsuda, also figures large in the story and
makes his own attempts to batter down the wall of artificiality and falseness in
Tsuda. He has more luck perhaps with O-Nobu in a memorable encounter with
her at home. Kobayashi is a character quite unlike any other in Soseki's fiction. He
knows no shame, proving himself on occasion both boorish and boisterous. Koba-
yashi is very outspoken, and this has its effect.
Mrs Yoshikawa strongly influences everyone she meets. And although her
motives are far from impersonal, her efforts turn out rather well. (One wishes that a
meeting between herself and Kobayashi might have been arranged.) Kiyoko alone,
the symbol of pure, fragile beauty, seems to have escaped her influence by with-
drawing from the match arranged for herself and Tsuda by Mrs Yoshikawa. As
the embodiment of S5seki's ideals, Kiyoko knows how to preserve her individu-
ality and authenticity.
Meian is a most engaging and successful study in human relations. It embraces
in a way all the themes of Soseki's works. There are the prime lessons on egoism
and the deterioration that it inflicts on the heart of man. The artificiality of Meiji

56 Ibid., p. 215. 57 Komashaku, p. 225.

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Biddle: The Authenticity of Natsume Soseki 423

culture comes in for its share of satire through the denunciations of Kobayashi,
this novel's type of lonely man, bitter over his lot in life. We are spared the utter
darkness of Mon and the absolute isolation of Kokoro. Soseki apparently saw hope
and light in the human condition as his life drew to a close. Perhaps it was sym-
bolic of the author's more hopeful outlook for mankind that the last lines he wrote
were, 'Tsuda returned to his own room, while trying to explain to himself the
meaning of her smile.'

The Impact of Soseki


THE CONFUCIAN FRAMEWORK of the world places man following the dictates of
heaven and nature to such an extent that he becomes the counterpart of both.
Faithfulness or authenticity, in Chinese thought, is not just a human virtue. It is a
quality of heaven itself. In following heaven, man can become authentic, realize
the depths of his own sheer individuality, in the human community. It has not
been my purpose to assert anything more than this moral dimension of Natsume
Soseki. He struggled for, and endeavored to realize in his art, this kind of personal
authenticity. He strove to demonstrate through his novels that man's failures to
become the counterpart of heaven and earth and to achieve real human happiness
were due to his radical selfishness. He pointed to his own life experience to illus-
trate this truth. Kenz5 of Michikusa is eloquent testimony that his counterpart in
life fell far short of his ideals. Nevertheless, in this very confession he manifested a
type of authenticity.
Sakamoto Hiroshi has written on S6seki's sokuten kyoshi, analyzing his novels in
the light of the motto.58 While many of his interpretations are thought-provoking
and help us to grasp what the author was attempting to do in general, Sakamoto
is not too convincing in his analysis. He seems almost to accuse Soseki of hiding
behind the various characters he created, and of not really pursuing the sokuten
kyoshi in his novels. But one must remember that it is S6seki's students, not the man
himself, who have attempted to find the motto present in the novels. Sakamoto dis-
tinguishes S5seki the man and S5seki the novelist, and suggests that insofar as his
role of novelist is concerned, we must reverse the order of the motto to kyoshi soku-
ten: forsaking self must come first, then the following of heaven. But Soseki knew
quite well that, in order to forsake himself in the right way, he had to have some
guidance that transcends his own lights. He also realized that forsaking self was
often a condition for discerning the guidance of heaven. There is no need to
separate this mutual causality in a novelist so skillful as Soseki, whose art was
intricately meshed with his own life and experience. Even Sakamoto in the end
praises S5seki for his honesty in writing Michikusa and revealing his own confusion
and failure to realize his ideals in practice.
Much more convincing is the treatment of Watsuji Tetsura, that truly great
Japanese philosopher, who spans the Meiji, Taisho and Sh5wa periods. Watsuji

58 Sakamoto, pp. 41-8.

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424 Monumenta JNipponica, XXVIII, 4

knew Soseki and loved him. Eight days after the novelist's death, he wrote amidst
tears a penetrating reminiscence of 'S5seki Sensei'. Discounting as we should the
bias of his affection, we discover a genuine appreciation for the spirit of the man.
Watsuji recognizes S5seki for his humane and intellectual qualities as much as for
those that made him a great artist. But above all he eulogizes him for his authen-
ticity and the message he imparts: forsake yourself, be stark honest; love knows no
other salvation.59
There is a verse in the Bible that reads: 'All men have gone astray because no
one thinketh in his heart.'60 S5seki had little to do with organized religion, but he
did believe that man should 'thinketh in his heart'. He hoped that thereby man,
and especially his fellow Japanese, could forsake the egotistical self and pursue
the heavenly path of the universal self. The modern psychological novel was his
own vehicle toward this goal, but at the same time Soseki, perhaps to a greater
extent than any other Meiji writer, succeeded in repossessing some of the central
spiritual values of Eastern tradition by his efforts.
Soseki, like Ogai, was in sympathy with modern experimentation and scientific
investigation on a broad scale. Still, perhaps more than most others, they came to
realize the need for roots, both historical and individual. In this endeavor to
repossess their own identities as individual Japanese in the modern world, they
brought to the surface of consciousness an undercurrent of thought that we can
trace restrospectively in the Meiji intellectual world from the 1870s on.
Contrary to the superficial first impression of the Meiji period as a sustained
drive toward total Westernization, scholars are finding that the representative fig-
ures of the academic and literary world-Fukuzawa Yukichi, Nishimura Shigeki,
Tsubouchi Sh5yo, Mori Ogai, Shimazaki Tason, Kata Hiroyuki, Uchimura
Kanzo, Miyake Setsurei, Inoue Enryo, Inoue Tetsujiro, Kiyozawa Manshi,
Nishida Kitaro, and so on almost endlessly-each contributed to this mounting
current in his own way. With the perspective that the ensuing decades have
afforded, the Japanese themselves and, to a lesser extent, foreign observers can
now see that S5seki towers in stature, among even the many great names of the
era, in internalizing the whole problematic of Japanese modernization in his life
and in his creative art.
As Kosaka Masaaki makes clear in his excellent section on Soseki, the novelist
was very much aware of the power that literary artists had to sway the thinking of
their fellow men.62 This motivated him to work hard himself, and to encourage
others to do so. 'We have got to be oxen,' he wrote to Akutagawa Ryuinosuke and
Kume Masao.63 Beside a few specially regarded students such as these, S5seki also

59 Watsuji, pp. 416-8. Shin'ichir6 'one of the most beautiful prose


60 Jeremiah, 12: 1 1. pieces in modern Japanese literary history'.
61 Hibbett, p. 305. Et6 Jun, in Natsume Soseki, K6dansha, Tokyo,
62 K6saka, p. 392. 1960, p. 205, deals with S6seki's relations with
63 YU, pp. 171-2. The letter of encourage- and influence on the younger generation of
ment to work hard addressed to Akutagawa writers.
and Kume has been called by Nakamura

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Biddle: The Authenticity of Natsume Soseki 425

had a group of neo-idealists who gathered around him at his home on Thursdays.
And then there was the Shirakaba group, headed by Mushakoji Saneatsu and Shiga
Naoya, who are said to have incorporated Soseki's legacy into their own brand of
humanism. They were undoubtedly impressed by his intense devotion to his pro-
fession 'to the death', based on his conviction of heaven's call to this end. Sokuten
kyoshi was a formalization or verbalization of an objective that he sensed was at the
heart of his efforts all along. His art was the making explicit, and in this sense
authentic, an intuition, almost an instinct, grounded in thousands of years of
Eastern tradition.
Did Soseki see in this intuition of his a kind of religious faith, a substitute for
religion? One is tempted to think so. It is significant that in one of his last Chinese
poems there are found these lines:

I live among men but my feeling for the way suffices.


Of light and darkness, mutually bound, three times ten thousand characters....

Not for Christ, nor Buddha, and not for Confucius:


In the narrow lanes I sell my writings just for my own delight.64

Soseki's spirit of independence and nonconformity perhaps had something to do


with the distance that he kept from any established church. There were a few
times when he was sharply critical of Christianity. He was in good company here,
for quite a number of Meiji writers and scholars besides Uchimura embraced and
then abandoned formal Christianity. Perhaps for like reasons most of them never
remained aligned with formal Buddhism or Shinto either. One suspects that the
homo religiosus that Eliade predicates of human nature found expression for these
Meiji intelligentsia in some ideal ethical formula or conviction that surfaced in
their consciousness, somewhat as sokuten kyoshi did for Soseki.
In the more than fifty years since his death, the novels of Soseki have won an
unchallenged place in the literature of Japan. It is difficult to imagine that they
will ever cease to hold a high place in Japanese literary tradition. Granting this,
one might ask, however, just how much Soseki has achieved of his ethical objective
through the psychological novels. His fiction has remained popular down to the
present day, but aside from Kokoro, we might question what percentage of the
Japanese public read his later works. But let us note here that Soseki's principal
concern was apparently the intellectual. He was not writing solely for this class,
but he seemed interested in influencing them before all others. And, of course, it
is this class of people who can be presumed to have read and to continue to read
at least some of his more serious works. Even so, to what avail?
The first translator of Botchan into English noted in his Introduction: 'Children
may read it as a story of a man who tried to be honest.... ever ready to champion
what he considers right and good.'65 We may take this as a representative

64 Viglielmo, in Light and Darkness, p.65


380.
Botchan, Introduction, p. i.

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426 Monumenta Nipponica, XXVIII, 4

judgment on the effect that Botchan has had on generations of Japanese school
children over almost seven decades. As regards the later works, let us say that at
the very least they have been a wonderful example of fine art dealing with the
human condition in an authentic manner. This is bound to be a strong influence
for good.
S5seki's authenticity comes through his writing, his obvious sincerity, and his
message: Look what happens when man follows self instead of heaven; search
your heart where heaven speaks, and trust this even to forsaking self; discover and
be your own self.

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