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Grass on the Wayside

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Wikipedia article

is a 1915 Japanese autobiographical novel by Sseki Natsume. It is his only autobiographical work of fiction, and his last completed work. Together with 'Kokoro' (1914), 'Grass on the Wayside' is often cited as Natsume's major literary effort.


After having returned from England, Kenz, an egocentric, emotionally detached man in his thirties, teaches English literature at Tokyo Imperial University. His wife Osumi, with whom he constantly argues, is pregnant with their third child, and to facilitate their monetary situation, he starts writing articles for magazines until late in the night. While he holds neither one of his siblings in high regard, he supports his older, sickly half-sister Onatsu with a monthly income, although she is herself married (her husband Hida is rumoured to spend his money on a mistress), and also lends money to his older brother Chtar. One day, Kenz is approached by his former adoptive father Shimada, who asks him for his financial support. Kenz remembers his secured but loveless childhood at his possessive foster parents' home, where he lived between the age of two and eight. When Shimada divorced his wife Otsune and remarried, Kenz first lived with Otsune before returning to his natural parents, where he was regarded as a burden. Although reluctantly, Kenz repeatedly gives Shimada the sums he asks for, commented on disparagingly by Osumi. In a final agreement reached between the two men and their emissaries, Kenz pays Shimada 100 yen, with Shimada in return signing a document declaring that he will never make contact with Kenz again.


* Kenz: a professor for English literature

* Osumi: Kenz's wife

* Shimada: Kenz's former foster father

* Otsune: Shimada's first wife and Kenz's former foster mother

* Onatsu: Kenz's older sister

* Hida: Onatsu's husband

* Chtar: Kenz's older brother

* Ofuji: Shimada's second wife

* Shibano: Ofuji's former husband

* Onui: Ofuji's and Shibano's daughter

* Kenz's father-in-law

Biographical background

Natsume's novel describes the short time between his return from England in 1903 and the beginning of his career as a writer. Like his literary alter ego Kenz, Natsume was a professor for English literature at Tokyo Imperial University and wrote for literary magazines in his spare time.

Release history

'Grass on the Wayside' first appeared in serialised form in the 'Asahi Shimbun' between 3 June 1915 and 10 September 1915. A book publication by Iwanami Shoten followed the same year. Edwin McClellan's English translation appeared in 1969.


Category:20th-century Japanese literature

Category:Japanese novels

Category:Japanese autobiographical novels

Category:Japanese serial novels

Category:Novels by Natsume Sseki

Category:Works by Japanese writers

Category:1915 novels

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