Book review originally published on January 29, 2016 in my Goodreads account.
Inside My Glass Doors is the first of its kind that I’ve read. As a work of literary miscellany, it is a loose and eclectic collection of personal vignettes written by Natsume Soseki throughout a period not long before his passing. The essays touch on a variety of topics, ranging from Soseki’s existential reflections on life and death, his childhood memories, and brief episodes from his life during the period of this collection’s writing. This volume, the essays of which were serialized in a newspaper, would be an equivalent to personal blog entries today.
Soseki’s prose is honest and unexaggerated, his writing easy and casual, as if he were leisurely sharing his life, past and present, in snippets to the reader. His philosophical insights on life are born of his own thoughtful personal reflections. In one chapter, perhaps the one that left the strongest impression to me, he starts to acknowledge the state of his health and wonders how he continues to survive one illness after another, while in contrast, he learns of the deaths of people he used to know, some of them healthier and even younger than him. Soseki engages the mystery of human life in a satisfyingly concise yet profound existential rumination. One never really thinks about one’s own death as if living continually was natural—and it is at this point that humans start to ever slightly forget their mortality. Humans cling strongly to life and Soseki beautifully puts it together in the line, “Everybody is alive until his death.”
Natsume Soseki opens his life in this collection of personal essays and does so in a hospitable voice, warmly inviting the reader to have a look through the glass doors.