The Gate (New York Review Books Classics)
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An NYRB Classics Original
A humble clerk and his loving wife scrape out a quiet existence on the margins of Tokyo. Resigned, following years of exile and misfortune, to the bitter consequences of having married without their families’ consent, and unable to have children of their own, Sōsuke and Oyone find the delicate equilibrium of their household upset by a new obligation to meet the educational expenses of Sōsuke’s brash younger brother. While an unlikely new friendship appears to offer a way out of this bind, it also soon threatens to dredge up a past that could once again force them to flee the capital. Desperate and torn, Sōsuke finally resolves to travel to a remote Zen mountain monastery to see if perhaps there, through meditation, he can find a way out of his predicament.
This moving and deceptively simple story, a melancholy tale shot through with glimmers of joy, beauty, and gentle wit, is an understated masterpiece by one of Japan’s greatest writers. At the end of his life, Natsume Sōseki declared The Gate, originally published in 1910, to be his favorite among all his novels. This new translation captures the oblique grace of the original while correcting numerous errors and omissions that marred the first English version.
presented itself. All of this being quite new to him, it seemed that each time the panel opened there was a complete change of faces, and he could not keep track of how many children he had seen. When the maid had at last ceased her coming and going, one of the children slid the thickly papered panel open ever so slightly, no more than an inch, and in the gap revealed her shining black eyes. Beguiled, Sōsuke beckoned her silently. At this the door was slammed shut and, just behind it, a chorus of
applied herself with unexpected vigor to looking after her husband and now his brother. If all of this was lost on Koroku, Sōsuke realized fully the extent of her extra efforts on their behalf. Even as he redoubled his appreciation for her diligence, he worried that the stress of their augmented household might deal a sudden, serious blow to her frail health. Toward the end of the year, unfortunately, around the twentieth of December, Sōsuke’s fears were in effect realized, and like tinder
Tokyo. When the Tokyo home had been disposed of, Sōsuke had not wanted to be burdened with ancestral tablets as he wandered about the country; he deposited all of them at the family temple and took with him only the newly made tablet of his late father. While confined to her bed, Oyone’s eyes and ears kept her acutely aware of each and every step Sōsuke took in the house. Lying faceup on her futon, in her mind’s eye she tied together the miniature tablets of her two dead offspring with the
like this!” “Well, I was thinking it might turn cold when the sun went down,” Koroku explained hastily, before following his sister-in-law along the veranda to the sitting room. “I see you’re hard at work as usual,” he said, glancing at a partly stitched kimono, and sat down cross-legged in front of the long brazier. After sweeping her sewing into the corner, Oyone moved opposite Koroku, took down the tea kettle, and began putting coals in the brazier. “If it’s tea you’re serving, don’t make
had been looking after. Evidently, it had already been two years since the man first arrived at the compound. When, two or three days later, Sōsuke first encountered this layman, he turned out to be an easygoing fellow with the face of a playful arhat. At that moment he was dangling a bunch of daikon, which he presented as a special treat. He had Gidō boil and serve the large white radishes at a meal for the three of them. This layman had such a monkish look about him that, as Gidō laughingly