Light and Dark: A Novel
Published in 1917, Light and Dark is unlike any of Natsume Soseki’s previous works and unique in Japanese fiction of the period. What distinguishes the novel as “modern” is its remarkable representation of interiority. The protagonists, Tsuda Yoshio, thirty, and his wife O-Nobu, twenty-three, exhibit a gratifying complexity that qualifies them as some of the earliest examples of three-dimensional characters in Japanese fiction.
O-Nobu is quick-witted and cunning, a snob and narcissist no less than her husband, passionate, arrogant, spoiled, insecure, naive—yet, above all, gallant. Under Soseki’s scrutiny, she emerges as a flesh-and-blood heroine with a palpable reality, dueling with her husband, his troublemaking friend, Kobayashi, and her sister-in-law, O-Hidé. Tsuda undertakes his own battles with Kobayashi, O-Hidé, and the manipulative Madam Yoshikawa, his boss’s wife. These exchanges explode into moments of intense jealousy, rancor, and recrimination that will surprise English-speaking readers who expect indirectness, delicacy, and reticence in Japanese relations. Echoing the work of Jane Austen and Henry James, Soseki’s novel achieves maximal drama with minimal action and symbolizes a tectonic shift in literary form.
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A Note on the Translation
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abruptly appeared asked aunt bayashi began brother can’t conversation doctor’s door engawa entrance eyes face father feel front gaze glanced hadn’t hakama hand he’s head hear heard heart Hideko-san Hori husband I’ve imagine inside intended isn’t kimono Kiyoko Kobayashi Kyoto lady laughed leave letter Light and Dark look Madam Yoshikawa maid Makoto marriage matter mean mind minute moved Natsume Sōseki never night O-Hide O-Hide’s O-Nobu felt O-Toki obliged observed Okamoto once person question reply rickshaw seemed sense Sensei she’s silence sister smile someone Sōseki sound spoke stairs standing stepped stopped surprised talking tatami tell There’s things thought tion Tokyo took trouble truth Tsuda felt Tsugiko turned unable Uncle Fujii uncle’s understand voice waiting wasn’t What’s who’s wife woman won’t wonder words worry Yoshio-san you’d you’ll you’re young Yuriko