ISBN 0 7206 1156 3

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The Three-Cornered World

Natsume Soseki

In the award-winning translation by Alan Turney

‘Walking up a mountain track, I fell to thinking.
Approach everything rationally, and you become harsh. Pole along in the stream of emotions, and you will be swept away by the current. Give free rein to your desires, and you become uncomfortably confined. It is not a very agreeable place to live, this world of ours.’
- Natsume Soseki, The Three-Cornered World.

Opening with the most famous introductory lines in Japanese literature, The Three Cornered World has been cherished by generations of readers as a glittering jewel in the crown of Soseki’s artistic achievement.

A painter escapes to a mountain spa to work in a world free of emotional entanglement, but finds himself fascinated by the alluring mistress at his inn and, inspired by thoughts of Millais’ Ophelia, he imagines painting her. The woman is rumoured to have abandoned her husband and fallen in love with a priest at a nearby temple, but somehow the right expression for the face on her painting eludes the artist . . .

Beautifully written, humorous and filled with bitter-sweet reflections on the human condition, The Three Cornered World was intended as a unique ‘haiku-novel’ with a mood utterly different to anything ever produced in the West. Demonstrating along the way a mastery of everything from Western painting to Chinese literature, Soseki succeeded in an artistic tour-de-force that produced what legendary recording artist Glenn Gould would simply refer to as his ‘favourite book’.

‘Vastly refreshing . . . Soseki doesn’t shrink from seeking and finding exquisite pearls of beauty.’ — Guardian

‘A writer to be judged by the highest standards. His works create, after the fashion of all great writers, a new and completely individual reality.’ – Spectator

‘The greatest Japanese novelist of the modern period.’ – Sunday Telegraph

‘An extraordinarily varied and accomplished writer.’ – Observer

Natsume Soseki (1867-1916) is Japan’s most revered writer, whose works continue to attract vast quantities of critical scrutiny and debate. His influence, both on contemporary Japanese authors and throughout East Asia and beyond, has been immense.