A key work in the Japanese transition from traditional to modern literature
"Walking up a mountain track, I fell to thinking.
Approach everything rationally, and you become harsh. Pole along in the stream of emotions, and you will be swept away by the current. Give free rein to your desires, and you become uncomfortably confined. It is not a very agreeable place to live, this world of ours."
Opening with the most famous introductory lines in Japanese literature, this novel has been cherished by generations of readers as a glittering jewel in the crown of Soseki's artistic achievement. A painter escapes to a mountain spa to work in a world free of emotional entanglement, but finds himself fascinated by the alluring mistress at his inn, and inspired by thoughts of Ophelia by Millais, he imagines painting her. The woman is rumored to have abandoned her husband and fallen in love with a priest at a nearby temple, but somehow the right expression for the face on the painting eludes the artist. Beautifully written, humorous, and filled with bittersweet reflections on the human condition, this work was intended as a unique "haiku-novel" with a mood utterly different to anything ever produced in the West. Demonstrating along the way a mastery of everything from Western painting to Chinese literature, Soseki succeeded in creating an artistic tour-de-force.