Dear Behold My Swarthy Face:
Columbia University Press is pleased to announce the publication of Light and Dark: A Novel by Natsume Sōseki, translated and with an Introduction by John Nathan.
• Natsume Sōseki is widely regarded as one of Japan’s greatest writers.
• Light and Dark is considered Soseki’s masterpiece, yet remained unfinished at the time of his death.
• Previously considered untranslatable, the work has largely been unavailable to an English reading audience until now.
• A substantive introduction by Nathan discusses the importance of the novel in Soseki’s canon and its overall place in modern Japanese literature.
Light and Dark, Natsume Sōseki’s longest novel and masterpiece, although unfinished, is a minutely observed study of haute-bourgeois manners on the eve of World War I. It is also a psychological portrait of a new marriage that achieves a depth and exactitude of character revelation that had no precedent in Japan at the time of its publication and has not been equaled since. With Light and Dark, Soseki invented the modern Japanese novel.
Recovering in a clinic following surgery, thirty-year-old Tsuda Yoshio receives visits from a procession of intimates: his coquettish young wife, O-Nobu; his unsparing younger sister, O-Hide, who blames O-Nobu’s extravagance for her brother’s financial difficulties; his self-deprecating friend, Kobayashi, a ne’er-do-well and troublemaker who might have stepped from the pages of a Dostoevsky novel; and his employer’s wife, Madam Yoshikawa, a conniving meddler with a connection to Tsuda that is unknown to the others. Divergent interests create friction among this closely interrelated cast of characters that explodes into scenes of jealousy, rancor, and recrimination that will astonish Western readers conditioned to expect Japanese reticence.
Released from the clinic, Tsuda leaves Tokyo to continue his convalescence at a hot-springs resort. For reasons of her own, Madam Yoshikawa informs him that a woman who inhabits his dreams, Kiyoko, is staying alone at the same inn, recovering from a miscarriage. Dissuading O-Nobu from accompanying him, Tsuda travels to the spa, a lengthy journey fraught with real and symbolic obstacles that feels like a passage from one world to another. He encounters Kiyoko, who attempts to avoid him, but finally manages a meeting alone with her in her room. Sōseki’s final scene is a sublime exercise in indirection that leaves Tsuda to “explain the meaning of her smile.”
Natsume Sōseki (1867–1916) was the foremost Japanese novelist of the Meiji period, known for his books Kokoro, Botchan, and I Am a Cat. He is also the author of Theory of Literature and Other Critical Writings.
John Nathan is Takashima Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Part of the series Weatherhead Books on Asia
To find out more about this book click on this link.
With best wishes,
Columbia University Press