I have always considered that reading Soseki in Japanese would be one of the greatest achievement of this whole Japanese journey. Since I heard from a Japanese that reading Soseki was hard for Japanese too, I thought I would keep it for “when I am fluent” or something like that.
What made me buy 『こころ』the other day was this particular cover that I found very beautiful. Somehow, it is gratifying to buy one of the masterpieces of world literature with a cover that has an attractive pattern for only 360 yen.
I started it, thinking I would give up soon, but it was unexpectedly accessible. I think that the real challenge lies in vocabulary but after some work on it, there remains no real difficulty. Soseki uses relatively plain and simple sentences. Looking up words is enough to understand most of the sentences and it happens very seldom that I should still be puzzled by the meaning of a paragraph after having cleared my way with the dictionary.
Looking up words requires a little devotion, but it is easily managed with my electronic dictionary. What usually discourages me is when I cannot make out a sentence even though I know the meaning of each word. Sometimes, it comes from the grammar, sometimes the sentence is too long or too intricated, sometimes it refers to something I don’t know, etc. Fortunately, I was, for the most part, spared these discouraging moments in 『こころ』.
One thing that I find helpful is the book’s structure. The three parts of the novel are divided into very small chapters of 2 or 3 pages. I read only one chapter at a time and as they are very short, I don’t mind spending some time studying them. What I do is that I try to look up every unknown word, add the relevant ones to Anki, and make sure I understand every sentence of the chapter before closing the book. This is not always possible, but I try to.
Thankfully, the story in 『こころ』suits a slow progression in reading. I am satisfied with reading only one chapter from time to time, the story stays with me between two reading sessions and I try to take note and write down citations that would help me go back into the story, should a long time have elapsed before I open the book again.
This is my experience with Soseki’s Kokoro, I am excited to be able to read it and I finish every chapter with a greater sense of achievement than when I finish a whole book by another author. I am afraid that the book might become more difficult after, but I also know that if I stumble across a difficult part, I can still take a peep at an English translation.
I don’t expect to finish it soon but it would be fantastic if I could finish it next year.