A young student makes himself the acolyte of an old man he calls 'Sensei'. Bitter, cynical and indolent, Sensei has withdrawn from society. The young student is at once attracted by these qualities and also deeply puzzled.
Not even Sensei's wife knows the source of his inconsolable heart. As their friendship grows, the young student becomes more intrigued by the secrets that haunt Sensei, the mysteries of his past that have compromised his relationship with the world. Kokoro, meaning heart in Japanese, is a meditation on the part played by honour, friendship, love and death in Japanese culture.
Beautifully written by Japan's preeminent author Natsume Soseki, and profoundly absorbing, it is also a sly subversion of all of these things. Kokoro joins the UNESCO Collection of Representative Works, which include "The Gate", "The Tower of London" and the "The Three-Cornered World" from Peter Owen Publishers as part of an international programme to bring one of Japan's best known authors to a new English speaking audience. Natsume Soseki's importance to Japanese literature can be compared to that of Dickens to Britain or Henry James to America.
Like these writers, his work now holds a hugely popular and important place in the literary imagination of his country. Unlike them, his work is only recently coming to the attention of readers from overseas. As Damian Flanagan says in his new critical introduction "Kokoro" is the Soseki novel that has been given most attention by critics and the public in Japan.