Botchan by Natsume Sōseki

Botchan by Natsume Sōseki

Botchan by Natsume Sōseki

Japanese fiction

Orginal title 坊っちゃん

Translator J cohn

Source – Library book

Another for Tony’s January in Japan project and another of those older Japanese writer I hadn’t got too  before now ,so this time it is Natsume Sōseki .He  was a writer from the Meiji period of writing ,he studied both Chinese and British literature .He wrote poems Haiku and Novels .He also left an unfinished book when he died .He is also on the 100 yen note in Japan .

In January of the sixth year after my mother’s death , the old man had a stroke and died ,That april I graduated from a private middle school ,and in June my brother graduated from his business school ,He took a job with some company , and was assigned to their office in Kyushu ,I still had to finish my education in Tokyo .My brother announced that he was going to sell of the house and all our parent processions before heading off to Kyushu .

How Botchan end up as a teacher a lot of bad luck .

Botchan is the name of title character of this book ,we meet him as he is finishing his education .But the path he had in mind is cruelly cut when his parents die and their home is sold by his older brother and he has to take a job as a schoolteacher in the very traditional area of Japan Matsuyama .So he starts to teach maths ,but is drawn into a world of tricks at the hands of the pupils as they see him as an easy target .Add to this a bunch of strange fellow teacher that have a lot of nicknames  which Botchan gave them when he arrived in his new job  they are ,the porcupine ,red shirt and the principal the badger .We see this young man torn between the modern Japan that he left and the old values and customs he is surround with here .Also he faces moral questions as things happen  around him ,as he has been brought up with very strong morals and is finding them challenged .

I got here yesterday .It’s a nothing place .I’m staying in a 15 mat room .I gave them a 5 yen tip and the lady who runs the place bowed down so low she scrapped her forehead on the floor .Last night I couldn’t et to sleep .I dreamed that you were eating those sweets ,bamboo leaf wrappers and all ,I’ll be back next summer .Today I went to school and I gave all the teachers nicknames ,The principal is the badger .The assistant principal is redshirt ,The English teacher is pale squash ,the other maths teacher is the porcupine ,and the art teacher is the hanger -on .I’ll write you more about it later .Goodbye !

Botchan maybe shows his youth with the nicknames after his first day in his new job .

I loved this and can see why that over a century after it came out it is still highly popular in Japan and outside Japan .Botchan is a young man on the brink of manhood  ,he is facing taking the right path for him or for what is expected  for him? He reminded  me a times of a later character from english fiction and that is the Paul pennyfather in Evelyn Waugh’s decline and fall, they share same reason of bad luck to end up being a teacher and both find the school and teachers they are surrounded with very strange at times .But also like Naomi which I reviewed earlier this month it tackles the changing face of Japan the traditional Japanese world and the modern Japanese world .This was also based on the writers own experience he spent three years teaching in the same region as Botchan was a teacher .

Have you read this or any book by Natsume Sōseki

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tony
    Jan 20, 2014 @ 00:46:19

    This is a great short read, very funny with some parts that hit close to home for a teacher. It’s one I’ll have to reread soon🙂

    Reply

  2. WordsAndPeace
    Jan 20, 2014 @ 05:30:30

    I read Botchan and enjoyed it a lot. see my review: http://wordsandpeace.com/2013/12/22/book-review-botchan-by-soseki/
    I even liked more Kokoro, read before my blogging days – no review

    Reply

  3. MarinaSofia
    Jan 20, 2014 @ 09:01:30

    Required reading on my course. Little did we realise it was preparing us for life in the classroom!

    Reply

  4. sakura
    Jan 23, 2014 @ 16:54:08

    This is one of those books that is so famous in Japan and that I’ve been meaning to read for years but still haven’t. My mum even bought me a manga version to read as a child but I wasn’t interested in classical literature at the time… I’m glad you really loved it – I still haven’t tried anything by Soseki although many of my Japanese friends have said he writes beautifully.

    Reply

  5. Trackback: That was the month that was Jan 2012 | Winstonsdad's Blog
  6. Trackback: That was the month that was Jan 2014 | Winstonsdad's Blog
  7. Angelina Hue
    Oct 07, 2015 @ 10:19:30

    I discovered Natsume Soseki in an Oxfam bookshop earlier this year. Botchan is a fun, refreshing read and I enjoyed it very much. I also like Kokoro, which is completely different from Botchan, and would strongly recommend. Here’s my review of Kokoro: http://angelinahue.com/2015/08/05/natsume-soseki-kokoro/

    Reply

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