Literally meaning 'Pillow of Grass', "Kusamakura" is Soseki's portrayal of an artist who opposes convention and logic, and shuns emotional involvement. Soseki's artist attempts to live as a hermit using other people as his stimuli for his sensations and reflections. The artist fluently and prolifically composes poetry, but finds himself unable to paint - despite befriending a beautiful young divorcee. He remains emotionally distanced from her for a long time and it is only one day when he sees compassion in her eyes that he finds himself able to paint her, but also reconnected with the emotional undercurrents he had hitherto tried to avoid, thereby ending his retreat from the world. Siseko's beautiful and haikuesque novel is infused with his own musings on art and nature, and helped to establish the novel as a major literary form in Japan.
Natsume Soseki (1867-1916) is one of the best-known Japanese authors of the 20th century and considered as the master of psychological fiction. As well as his works of fiction, his essays, haiku, and kanshi have been influential and are popular even today. Meredith McKinney holds a PhD in medieval Japanese literature from the University in Canberra, where she teaches in the Japan Centre. Her other translations include Ravine and Other Stories, The Tale of Saigyo, and for Penguin Classics, The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon.
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