Ten Nights Dreaming: And The Cat’s Grave

Translation: Matt Treyvaud


Do you fancy a magical story that takes place on the border of reality and dream, or maybe completely in a dream? Reach for Sōseki Natsume’s Ten Nights Dreaming, because it is definitely a magical book.

Sōseki is a giant of Japanese literature who lived and worked during the Meiji period, when Japan “opened” to the world again after self-isolation. He is the author of such timeless works as Kokoro and I am a Cat. Among his (quite long) novels there is this gem – Ten Nights Dreaming, a record of dreams or visions from ten nights. The texts are short, even shorter than average short story, so they look more like sketches or poems in prose, but they are as condensed as possible, without a single unnecessary sentence. They include romantic visions (perhaps inspired by pre-Raphaelite paintings, which Sōseki fell in love with during his trip to England), there are ghostly visions like a kaidan, there are dreams that are funny, some are melancholic. We can read them all during one night – hoping that we will see all the connections between the texts, recurring motifs and characters – or you can taste them slowly and come back to them from time to time.

Sōseki had a huge influence on Japanese literature and shaped the literary taste of the generations of writers who followed him. If you’ve had the opportunity to read Kaji’s Motojirō Cytryna [Lemon], I think you will notice the similarities in both form and content. Kajii read Sōseki and I have the impression that Ten Nights Dreaming had a special influence on him – don’t the tenth night and the tangerine scene remind you of the description of the fruit shop from the title Lemon?

The edition also includes a sketch The Cat’s Grave from the Eijitsu Shōhin collection – this is a record of the last days of the writer’s cat, which was to be the prototype of the hero of his famous novel.

The introduction to the book (which of course cannot be omitted) was written by Susan Napier, the author of a great monograph devoted to Hayao Miyazaki – Miyazakiworld: A Life in Art.

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