I am deeply drawn into the atmosphere in Kokoro. There is something so "Japanese" about the book that I could not describe. Quiet, slow, serene, beautiful and seemingly calm, yet somehow so strong, so unsettling, stirring my heart. I enjoyed this feeling, the deeply unsettled emotions.
The story flows and unfolds so very slowly, still somehow I found myself devouring every single word. The mere 250 pages seem to last a lot longer, as if I have experienced the deep, silent, cautiously guarded sadness for years. No sense of time told and felt, except for the death of Emperor Meiji briefly mentioned and related. Other than that, at times time is so fleeting, and others it's unmoving. No name, either, all characters remain intensely anonymous. Interestingly, unlike other fictions in Western world, or at least in books that I have read where people seem to be happily confined to: "he," "she," "the man," etc., Japanese language can address people in a simple and polite way yet it is able to add a lot of information such as the expected attitudes we are supposed to have towards them. "Sensei," "okusan," "ojousan," just to name a few, are some of such convenient words. In fact, I did not realize that no name is told until well into a third of the book. Just names of places are there for us to grasp that this is still Japan with its culture and transforming society.
I feel deeply connected to the underlying reason of Sensei's agony. It's not the particular sad story, but rather the very universal reaction, the feeling, the lesson from it that Sensei has nurtured. What distrust in human can be greater than the distrust caused by the person him/herself? We tend to always easily dub others as bad and wish to keep for ourselves the "integrity," the goodness, and hope that we can do so until the very end of our life with pride. But ironically, no man can stay "innocent" forever. We are humans, we are selfish, we are full of faults, we are jealous, greedy, and sometimes cruel if not all the time. We are despicable. And that's why Sensei is so beautiful, despite his youth and his crime. For he has punished himself forever.
The book strikes me, further more, with its remarkable honesty. We readers, in contact with these characters, are from time to time forced by Natsume Souseki to encounter the little ugliness of life, which I myself often try to ignore. Or is it because I myself am ugly that I notice that ugliness?