The Pequod Review:
Sanshiro, Natsume Soseki's twelfth book, is a deeper and better coming-of-age story than his more popular Botchan (1906). In this book, Soseki tells the story of 23-year-old Sanshiro, a recent high school graduate from a rural Japanese province who moves to Tokyo to begin university life. Soseki’s writing has improved considerably since his earlier novel, and Sanshiro more successfully explores the clash of the traditional and modern in Japanese culture. I also liked the sections where Soseki explores the methods and aims of the artist, as when a painter describes his work to Sanshiro:
An artist doesn’t paint what’s inside, he doesn’t paint the heart. He paints what the heart puts on display. As long as he observes everything in the display case, he can tell what’s locked up in the safe. Or we can assume that much, I suppose. A painter has to resign himself to the fact that anything he can’t see on display is beyond the scope of his responsibility. That’s why we paint only the flesh. Whatever flesh an artist paints, if it hasn’t got the spirit in it, it’s dead, it simply has no validity as a painting. Now take Mineko’s eyes, for example. When I paint them, I’m not trying to make a picture of her heart, I’m just painting them as eyes. I’m painting these eyes because I like them. I’m painting everything I see about them – the shape, the shadow in the fold of the lids, the depth of the pupils – leaving nothing out. And as a result, almost by accident, a kind of expression takes shape.