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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Grass on the Wayside: a review of Souseki Natsume's life

Guess, I hadn't written about book for long time. Lucky, during my long sickness, I had some times to read. In this case, I tried to finish Grass on the Wayside (which really really about to finish now..)

Due to the Introduction, it was said that this novel is an autobiography of Natsume. Oh, if you felt you did not know him but felt like ever heard his name, probably you were right. Natsume was the writer of the famous novel I am a Cat. Funny, I hadn't ever read that book. Instead, I read his other books, The 210th Day, The Wayfarer and The Gate (Mon).

It was interesting for me to compare Grass on The Wayside, The Gate, and The Wayfarer altogether as they had similarity in some aspects, especially from the genre and the mood of the story. I must say that the stories were pretty deep with strong characterization of each character. This was - somehow - quite different from The 210th Day (and probably I am a Cat), which had lite and humor inside.

If Grass on the Wayside was really an autobiograph of Natsume, I must say it was quite daring and challenging. Grass on the Wayside took adoption and money as the main topic. It was a story that mostly ran from Kenzo's (the main character) point of view. He was an adopted boy in his very young age and later returend to his family. This was interesting fact: in Japanese adoption, it seemed when you 'finished' your adoption, you would have no obligation to your foster parents anymore. However, things were not that easy for Kenzo. The foster parents visited him and he was suspecting it was all about money. Kenzo himself was not rich, and, alas, he had a lot problem with money. His relationship with everyone was drawn away for mostly because of money problem. His wife hardly understood him, while their relationship went up and down. His father-in-law had difficulty with money while it made their relation went to the worst. His relation to his sister and brother also were full of suspicion. Hence, he lived in loneliness of his own mind. Either he could solve his problem or not, you better read by yourself.

Natsume might be a unique person. He became a famous writer after he left his previous job. During this time, he wrote a lot. Grass on the Wayside was claimed as the last book he could finish before he died. By the time I read his short biography in his book, I suspected that The Wayfarer and The Gate, along with Grass on the Wayside revealed his true life. It was said that during writing Grass on the Wayside, Natsume's relationship with his wife was pretty bad. I won't be surprise if the suspicion of his wife having affair was crystallized in The Wayfarer. In the other hand, the main character in The Gate and Grass on the Wayside had many common parts. Silently, both were also revealed his university life; and pretty bold in the second book, he wrote a little about his life in London.

Natsume through Kenzo in Grass on the Wayside was a man full of loneliness. He was trapped in this kind of loneliness, dragged him into a person whom had no trust to anything. He was a clever man, yet had no spirit to live. He was full of plan, yet unable to fulfill. He lived in today, unable to move forward while hating the past. Somehow, Kenzo, if he was really Natsume, was a person that was close to us. It becomes up to us, to choose,.. as to live as Kenzo, or contemplated for a while, and decide what kind of fate we want to live in, without hating our past…

This review was written based on Grass on the Wayside, published by Tuttle.

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