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

the sailor who fell from gace with the sea by Yukio Mishima


the sailor who fell from grace with the sea


In his time Yukio Mishima was one of Japans most successful writers been considered three times for the nobel prize ,this is one of the best known of over forty novels he wrote in his lifetime ,he also wrote plays and short stories in his time .he did after a failed coup to restore the emperors powers in japan that had been lost at the end of the second world war ,he committed ritual suicide . 

the book- 

Starts in post war japan it follows Noboruo a wayward young lad who is in a gang and has been held in his room at night by his mother to prevent him joining the gang  ,this lad is voyeuristic watching his mother dress and her liaisons with Ryjuli a sailor ,when he hangs out with a gang and the chief the head of the gang . the gang does  a particular brutal attack in the middle of the book ,Noburuo resents his mothers affair with Ryjuli and purses him with the gang .he initially likes her mothers lover but then sees flaws in him .Noburo is a typical teenager in a lot of ways this is about him wanting to break free and his sexual awakening but in a extreme way 

my view – 

this is a short review because i didn’t really enjoy this book ,the synopsis read a bit like a japanese lord of the flies or clockwork orange it did have a bit of that but also felt a bit forced by the writer am not sure if this was the translation or the style of writing ,it did give a view in to the  more traditional side of japan that we don,t  always get chance to see in a lot of modern japanese novels .the attack describe in the middle of the book is quite shocking and nearly made me put the book down !

August 2021


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