“To objectively fabricate a purpose at the outset and to apply it to a human being was something that the individual who came into this world had to make for himself. But no one, no matter who, could freely create a purpose. This was because the purpose of one’s existence was as good as announced to the universe by the course of that existence itself.”
Back when my good friend Jason T. gave up on his dream of becoming a professional sumo wrestler in Nippon, and subsequently failed to be accepted into the yakuza community, he moved to Korea, where I was living at the time. We became fast friends and he soon introduced me to Japanese literature, which is to say pretty much every writer except the two Murakamis (Haruki and Ryu).
One of these novelists was Natsume Sōseki, considered by many to be the greatest Japanese writer in the modern era. Sōseki wrote around the turn of the 20th century and had a profound impact not only on his peers and colleagues, but on generations of Japanese writers to come.
My first foray into Sōseki’s universe was through And Then. Per the book’s introduction:
“Daisuke, the protagonist, is a man in his twenties who is struggling with his personal purpose and identity as well as the changing social landscape of Meiji-era Japan. As Japan enters the 20th century, ancient customs give way to Western ideals, and Daisuke works to resolve his feelings of disconnection and abandonment during this time of change”
As seen from the Quote of the Day, however, there is also an existential element to the story about free will versus fate. While thinking of a friend recently who is struggling with her own significant life choice (is she indeed the master of her fate, the captain of her soul?), I came across this book I read many, many moons ago, a time, as they say, when tigers smoked.
For anyone looking to broaden their Japanese literature resume, I would highly encourage you to enter the world of Natsume Sōseki. Do not pass go and do not collect $200. Just read him!