Monday, June 09, 2014

40 Days of Sumer (in Japan) - Part Juuni

I took no pictures today. I didn't see anything fascinating or novel which warranted a snapshot. I don't have any qualms about that. I really have no qualms about this, but if you were expecting pictures in this post, sorry in advance.

Today was a pretty conventional day. Woke up, went to school, came home, rinse, repeat. Nothing especially interesting happened. I had lunch in the cafeteria but these two guys who sat at the same table put their bags between me and them, obviously signalling that they didn't want to be disturbed. After dinner, I spent the night working on my first paper, which was assigned today and due in a week's time.

Since there's nothing much else to say, I guess I'll talk about Sanshiro.

Sanshiro is a novel written by Natsume Soseki in 1908. It tells the story of the eponymous young man who has come from the country to do his graduate studies at Tokyo University. He is overwhelmed by this new world and its new rules for playing the social game; he is pretty much a passive observer for most of the story. He is enchanted by a girl that he sees near the University pond one day, and over the course of the novel, falls in love with her, but doesn't really do anything because he is too afraid to act on his half-formed impressions and uncertain conclusions.

Literary critics have interpreted a great many things from Sanshiro: the transition in Tokyo from the Meiji period to the Taisho period (i.e. modernity); the notion of the "growing-up" novel and the loss of youthful innocence; a critique of the educational system; a study of consciousness and action - all sorts of things. There is much meaning to be found in works such as these.

The novel resonated with me in ways I can only begin to describe. In the most superficial way, I too am like Sanshiro: coming to Tokyo, being overwhelmed by the metropolis and its people, intrigued by her beautiful women. On a deeper level, the story unfolded like a memory to me; the protagonist's feelings and confusion all to familiar, like a flashback, a biography.

I wonder if the serialization of the novel -  a format popular at the time - affected the way the story was received, or the way the story was written. I asked Prof Jacobowitz about it, but he didn't really answer my question. Ah well. I can find out elsewhere I guess.

Stray sheep, stray sheep.

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