Sunday, 7 March 2021

The Miner by Natsume Soseki

The Miner by Natsume Sōseki
Published in Japanese in Japan in 1908. English language translation by Jay Rubin published by Aardvark Bureau in 2015.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Miner is the most daringly experimental and least well-known novel of Japanese writer Natsume Soseki. An absurdist tale written in 1908, it was in many ways a precursor to the work of James Joyce and Samuel Beckett.

Translated by Jay Rubin, and with an introduction from Haruki Murakami, this is bound to appeal to fans of Japanese literature.

Olivia of Olivia's Catastrophe blogged her review of Kokoro by Natsume Soseki recently which reminded me I had never transferred over this review of The Miner. I first blogged this review on Stephanie Jane in October 2015.

In my ignorance of classic Japanese literature I didn't realise that Soseki is one of their lauded authors although apparently The Miner, an experimental work, is often excluded from his collected writings. I think this is a shame. It is certainly an odd novel, but I enjoyed reading it especially as its unusual structure was unpredictable.

The eponymous miner talks to the reader in the first person throughout the novel. He describes what he sees and the people he meets, while also explaining his own thoughts and feelings. This is a very introverted book. We never learn the Miner's name. A young man, he has walked from Tokyo to a forest where he meets a man procuring men to work in a copper mine. Much of the book is about the sheer pain of long distance walking. Soseki also examines the point of life, honour in suicide, human dignity, and degradation caused by harsh labour. His portrayals of the miners en masse are frequently shocking to read although he also finds hope in a claustrophobic underground scene that is particularly moving to read. 

The Miner could perhaps be considered as a coming of age tale. It reads more as a memoir than a novel and I was intrigued by both the premise and its unfolding. I think the story style is probably of niche interest and I would recommend it to quietly adventurous readers.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Natsume Soseki / Contemporary fiction / Books from Japan

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