Independent Scholar, Tokyo, Japan
Anna-Marie Farrier's profile
Novel Novelties: Sorekara and the Urban Supernatural
Sōseki’s novel, Sorekara, has often been viewed as the most realistic of his works, telling a tale of “natural” love within modern Japanese society. Yet in his novel, Sōseki questions the meaning of the word “nature,” revealing it to be an arbitrary construction of language. Based on a passage from Sōseki’s Bungaku hyōron (1909) or Literary Criticism, I argue that Sorekara is a novel of the urban supernatural, where the seemingly natural, real, and modern world of Meiji Japan veers into the supernatural, artificial, and the Gothic.
At the heart of the urban supernatural in Sōseki’s formulation are rings and bracelets and perfume boxes, objects that speak of distinctly feminine artifice and adornment. Sōseki even refers to it as “reeking of face powder,” a reference that brings to mind Daisuke in Sorekara, a man with such pride in his physical appearance that he might even put on makeup.
If Sorekara is a novel of the urban supernatural, then Michiyo is its primary ghost, flitting in and out of the text. From her first appearance in the novel in the form of a photograph, a form that Daisuke would later identify as the materialization of the impossible act of “producing life from death”, to her later associations with the pearl ring and fragrant lilies, Michiyo and her baubles embody the ambiguity and anxiety underlying the urban supernatural, straddling as it does the worlds of the natural and artificial.