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Natsume Sōseki

(1867-1916). Novelist and scholar of English literature. Real name Natsume Kinnosuke. Born in Tokyo, he lived much of his childhood in foster homes. He entered the English department of Tokyo University and in 1900 studied in England. There, he suffered serious bouts of depression as a result of solitude and poverty, but these torments became the basis for his work Bungakuron (1907, Literary Theory). On returning home in 1903, he replaced Lafcadio Hearn at the First Higher School and at Tokyo University. He wrote short stories, novels, and haiku. Famous works include Wagahai wa neko de aru (1905-06; tr I Am a Cat, 1961), Gubijinsō (1907; tr Red Poppy, 1918), Sorekara (1909; tr And Then, 1978), and perhaps his most well-known work, Kokoro (1914; The Heart, 1967). Sōseki scrutinized Japan's "civilization" and the psychology of intellectuals who experience the contradictions of life in a backward country during modern times. At first his style was florid and pedantic, but he eventually developed a more colloquial prose style better suited to examining the depths of human psychology. Sōseki ranks with Mori Ōgai as a major figure in modern Japanese literature. (adapted from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993)

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