Biographies of modern writers
Short biographies of modern writers, with more detailed accounts in some cases. Where extra information has been provided, it is classified in up to four categories: life, translations, studies (mostly book-length or chapter-length in size), and online links.
Although personal judgments are incorporated, much of the content is culled from such common, useful, and inexpensive reference sources as Shakaijin no tame no kokugo hyakka (Encyclopedia of the Japanese Language for Working Adults, published by Taishūkan Shoten), Shin shōsetsu kokugo benran (Illustrated Handbook of the Japanese Language, Newly Revised and Updated, published by Tōkyō Shoseki), and -- yes -- the Japanese version of Wikipedia. Shinchō Nihon-bungaku jiten has occasionally been consulted for purposes of verification and amplification.
Natsume Sōseki, one of the premier novelists of modern Japan, was the literary name of Natsume Kinnosuke. Born in Tokyo, he spent his early childhood with two foster families before returning to his own family at the age of nine. As a student he excelled in both Chinese and English, entering the First Upper Middle School in 1888 and then proceeding (as was often the case) to Tokyo University in 1890.
The highly strung Sōseki graduated from Tokyo University, where he majored in English, in 1893, and while studying in the graduate school began teaching part-time at Tokyo Higher Normal School. In 1894 he abruptly accepted a job as an English teacher at Matsuyama (Shikoku) Middle School, moving to the Fifth Higher School in Kumamoto in 1895. He stayed here even after his marriage in 1896 until he was sent to England for two years on a government scholarship in 1900. Life in England for Sōseki was unpleasant, to say the least, and he returned to Tokyo in 1903 resolved never to go back. In April of the same year he was appointed lecturer at both the First Higher School and Tokyo University.
Sōseki, however, was dissatisfied with teaching, and the largely unexpected success of his early novels - including the lightly satirical Wagahai wa neko de aru (I Am a Cat, 1905-06) and Botchan (1906) - prompted him to give up his post in 1907 and join the Asahi Shimbun as the editor of its literary page. All of his subsequent serialized novels appeared in the newspaper's pages. The tone of these novels, beginning with Sanshirō (1908), Sorekara (And Then, 1909), and Mon (1910), was much darker than in Sōseki's previous fiction, many of the central characters belonging to what Donald Keene has called Sōseki's "gallery of self-torturing heroes." Some readers find the bleakness more than they can stomach, but several of these later works have a poignancy that is quite affecting, and one, Kokoro (1914), can be said to represent the legacy of a generation of Meiji intellectuals.
Sōseki suffered severe ulcer attacks beginning in 1910, after completing Mon. He came very close to death that year when he vomited a large quantity of blood while on a recuperative visit to the hot-spring resort of Shūzenji, in Izu. Sōseki's physical distress was further attended by profound marital disharmony. He continued to write and lecture, producing his last complete (and first autobiographical) novel Michikusa (Grass on the Wayside) in 1915, but succumbed to ulcer complications in 1916 before he could complete Meian (Light and Darkness).
- The 210th Day. Trans. Sammy I. Tsunematsu. Boston: Tuttle Publishing, 2002.
- And Then. Trans. Norma Moore Field. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 1978. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1978.
- Botchan. Trans. Umeji Sasaki. Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1967.
- Botchan. Trans. Alan Turney. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1972.
- Botchan. Trans. Joel Cohn. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 2005. New York: Kodansha America, 2005.
- The Gate. Trans. William Sibley. New York; New York Review Books Classics, 2013. Also see Mon, below.
- Grass on the Wayside. Trans. Edwin McClellan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969.
- I Am a Cat. Trans. Katsue Shibata and Motonari Kai. Tokyo: Kenkyusha, 1961.
- I Am a Cat. Trans. Aiko Itō and Graeme Wilson. Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1972.
- Inside My Glass Doors. Trans. Sammy I. Tsunematsu. Boston: Tuttle Publishing, 2002.
- Kokoro. Trans. Ineko Kondo. Tokyo: Kenkyusha, 1950.
- Kokoro. Trans. Edwin McClellan. Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1957.
- Kokoro. Trans. Meredith McKinney. London: Penguin Books, 2010.
- Kusamakura. Trans. Meredith McKinney. London: Penguin Books, 2008.
- Light and Darkness. Trans. V. H. Viglielmo. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1971.
- Master Darling. Trans.Yasotaro Mori. Tokyo: Kinseido, 1951. Reprint of Botchan; Master Darling, 1947.
- The Miner. Trans. Jay Rubin. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1988.
- Mon. Trans. Francis Mathy. London: Peter Owen 1971. Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1971. Also see The Gate, above.
- My Individualism and the Philosophical Foundations of Literature. Trans. Sammy I Tsunematsu. Boston: Tuttle Publishing, 2004.
- Sanshirō. Trans. Jay Rubin. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1977.
- Sanshirō. Trans. Jay Rubin. London: Penguin Classics, 2009.
- Spring Miscellany. Trans. Sammy I. Tsunematsu. Boston: Tuttle Publishing, 2002.
- Ten Nights' Dreams. Trans. Sankichi Hata and Dofu Shirai. Tokyo: Tokyo News Service, 1949.
- Ten Nights of Dream. Trans. Ayako Into and Graeme Wilson. Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1974.
- The Three-Cornered World. Trans. Alan Turney. London: Peter Owen, 1965.
- The Tower of London. Trans. Peter Milward and Kii Nakano. Brighton, UK: In Print Publishing, 1992.
- The Wayfarer. Trans. Beongcheon Yu. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1967.
- Brodey, Inger Sigrun and Sammy I. Tsunematsu. Rediscovering Natsume Soseki: With the First English Translation of Travels in Manchuria and Korea. Folkstone, Kent: Global Oriental, 2000.
- Doi, Takeo. The Psychological World of Natsume Sōseki. Trans. William J. Tyler. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1976.
- Gessel, Van C. Three Modern Novelists: Sōseki, Tanizaki, Kawabata. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1993.
- Hibbett, Howard S. "Sōseki and the Psychological Novel." Tradition and Modernization in Japanese Culture. Ed. Donald H. Shively. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971.
- Keene, Donald. Dawn to the West. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984.
- McClellan, Edwin. Two Japanese Novelists. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969 (available from Charles E. Tuttle).
- Miyoshi, Masao. Accomplices of Silence. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974.
- Tsuruta, Kin'ya and Thomas E. Swann, eds. Approaches to the Modern Japanese Novel. Tokyo: Sophia University, 1976.
- Ueda, Makoto. Modern Japanese Writers and the Nature of Literature. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1976.
The Eldritch Press Natsume Soseki Home Page: This site contains the complete text of Edwin McClellan's translation of Kokoro (with the permission of Regnery Gateway, which owns the copyright). It can also be downloaded as a ZIP compressed file. Some links are listed, but they date from 2000 and are mostly broken.
English Heritage has a short page on the Blue Plaque erected in London at the site of Sōseki's lodging house in Clapham. The Soseki Museum in London formerly had a website with photographs of other lodging houses, but the museum closed its doors in 2017 due to a lack of visitors.
The Museum Meiji-Mura: This site includes a photograph of the house shared (at different times) by both Ōgai and Natsume Sōseki in Tokyo, now relocated to this outstanding open-air architectural museum in Aichi Prefecture. The photograph can be found in the list on this page.