Sōsuke had been relaxing for some time on the veranda, legs comfortably crossed on a cushion he had set down in a warm, sunny spot. After a while, however, he let drop the magazine he had been holding and lay down on his side. It was a truly fine autumn day, the sun bright, the air crisp, and the clatter of wooden clogs passing through the quiet neighborhood echoed in his ears with a heightened clarity. Tucking one arm under his head, he cast his gaze past the eaves at the expanse of clear blue sky above. Compared to the tiny space he occupied here on the veranda, this patch of sky appeared extremely vast. Thinking what a difference it made, simply to take in the sky in the rare, leisurely fashion afforded by a Sunday, he squinted directly at the blazing sun for a few moments, then, averting his eyes, rolled over to his other side and faced the shoji. Beyond its panels his wife was seated, busy with her needlework.
—the first paragraph of Nasume Sōseki’s The Gate, translated by William F. Sibley and on sale today. The Gate is a classic of the Japanese Meiji era, and it was Sōskei’s favorite of his own novels. Pico Iyer, in the introduction to this edition, writes that, “in Sōseki’s world doing nothing should never be mistaken for feeling too little or lacking a vision or doctrine.” Sam Sacks, reviewing the book in the Wall Street Journal, notes something else: “Sōseki had a genius for sensitively depicting souls in torment.”