A modern classic in Japan on par with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or The Catcher in the Rye, Botchan is a very popular Japanese novel and still widely read decades after its first publication.
Botchan, a timeless Japanese novel written by Japan's most beloved novelist, Soseki Natsume, is now available in a revised edition featuring a new foreword by Dennis Washburn, Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Languages at Dartmouth College. Prof. Washburn's foreword places the importance of both the author and the book into perspective for the modern reader.
Botchan's story is a familiar one: the youngest son in a middle class Tokyo family, he is consistently in the shadow of his elder brother. With a practically nonexistent relationship with his family, Botchan finds himself cast adrift after both his parents die. Now on his own, Botchan drifts through college only to find himself thrust into a teaching job in the unfamiliar realm of a country school, far from Tokyo and the life he has known. Botchan's difficulty adjusting to his new life is eloquently described, from his nosy landlord to his students, who delight in tormenting the newcomer from the big city.
Through it all, Botchen's life is threaded with his vacillating concern for Kiyo, the family servant he left behind who was the only person to give him love and understanding in his life. Regardless of where he goes or what he does, he is always trying to apply the lessons she taught him to his life.
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Soseki Natsume was born in Tokyo in 1867, and upon graduating from the prestigious Tokyo University, worked as an English teacher for a time. He was sent to London for three years by the Japanese government in 1900 on the first English literary scholarship, where he developed a love for Shakespeare. Returning to take up a position at Tokyo University, he began his writing career with Botchan. This is one of his most famous works, along with I Am a Cat and Kokoro. Soseki enjoyed tremendous popularity before his death in 1916 and his works are always cited as among the best in Japanese literature.
When Japanese readers and critics are asked which authors they admire, Soseki's name frequently appears at the top of the list. He is also the only Japanese author referred to by his personal name (Soseki) and not his family name (Natsume), and his image appears on the Japanese 1000 yen note.
Dennis Washburn is Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures and Comparative Literature at Dartmouth College. He is the author of Translating Mount Fuji: Modern Japanese Fiction and The Ethics of Identity and translator of Temple of the Wild Geese and Bamboo Dolls of Echizen.
It wasn't long before the school got on my nerves too.
One evening as I was strolling through a part of the town called Omachi, I saw a sign next to the post office which said: Noodles, with the footnote, Tokyo-style. I've always been very fond of noodles, and when I was in Tokyo could flever pass a noodle shop and smell that spicy aroma without going in. Since I had come to this town I had--what with school and antiques--forgotten about noodles; but now, seeing that sign, I just could not walk past. I thought that I would have a bowl while I was there, and went in.
The interior didn't live up to the sign outside. They had announced that this was "Tokyo-style," so the place should have been clean, but either from ignorance of Tokyo, or lack of money, it was filthy. The tatami matting was discolored and, for good measure, it was gritty underfoot. The walls were grimy with soot, and the ceiling, which was also black from the smoke of an oil-lamp, was so low that you involuntarily ducked your head as you walked about. The only thing that was plainly new was the sign on the wall which gave the names and prices of the various dishes. The owner had obviously bought an old building and opened it as a restaurant two or three days before. The first thing on the menu was noodles with fried prawns.
"Hey! Noodles with fried prawns," I called in a loud voice. At this, three people sitting in a corner, who had been eating noodles with a hissing, sucking sound, all looked across at me together. The inside of the shop was dark and I hadn't noticed them before, but I now recognized them as pupils at the school. We said good evening to each other and I got on with my meal. I hadn't had noodles for a long time and they tasted good, so I polished off four bowls.
The next day I walked blithely into the classroom, only to be confronted with the words A FRIED PRAWN FOR THE TEACHER, written in enormous letters, covering the blackboard. When they saw the look on my face, everyone burst out laughing. This struck me as absurd, and I asked them what was so funny about fried prawns, to which one of the pupils replied, "But four bowls! That's a bit much, like." I told them that it was my money and that it had nothing to do with them whether I ate four bowls or five. I then went through the lesson as quickly as I could and returned to the staff room.
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Book Description Tuttle Publishing. PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0804800715 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.2020687