'All right, I decided, if I couldn't win tonight, I'd win tomorrow. If I couldn't win tomorrow, I'd win the day after. And if I couldn't win the day after, I'd just have my meals delivered from home and stay right where I was until I did win' Botchan is a modern young man from the Tokyo metropolis, sent to the ultra-traditional Matsuyama district as a Maths teacher after his the death of his parents. Cynical, rebellious and immature, Botchan finds himself facing several tests, from the pupils - prone to playing tricks on their new, naïve teacher; the staff - vain, immoral, and in danger of becoming a bad influence on Botchan; and from his own as-yet-unformed nature, as he finds his place in the world. One of the most popular novels in Japan where it is considered a classic of adolescence, Botchanis as funny, poignant and memorable as it was when first published, over 100 years ago. In J. Cohn's introduction to his colourful translation, he discusses Botchan's success, the book's clash between Western intellectualism and traditional Japanese values, and the importance of names and nicknames in the novel. Translated and introduced by J. Cohn
The narrator is a young man of slight build but feisty spirit who has recently graduated from university with a degree in physics, who has been hired to teach mathematics in a middle school in a small rural town. Botchan is guided by his personal moral code and sense of duty, which is exceeded only by his self importance and pomposity. Almost immediately he runs afoul of several of the students in his classes, who torment him with blackboard comments and juvenile tricks. He subsequently angers his immediate supervisor, the principal of the school, and several of his fellow teachers, who conspire against him and his supervisor. Botchan strikes out against his accusers and foes, as he longs to return to Tokyo and to the old woman who served as the family maid during his troubled childhood, as she is the only person who nurtured and believed in him.
Despite its short length of 92 pages, Botchan was a tedious read that seemed at least twice as long as its actual length. Not recommended.
The writings concentrates on the innocence and lack of insight experienced by a rookie when encountered with seasoned players(in this case teachers).Although the slow paced narration made me lose patience, it was quickly recovered with peals of laughter brought by the humorous incidents played in the school.The politics and manipulative aspects of the school were interesting and agreeable. It is a quick read. The best part about reading a classic is that it makes you understand the foundation of a culture and its attributes.
pranks (the "fried prawns" incident is brilliant) -- faculty
rivalries, are all vividly portrayed.
Not that that's bad. Animal Farm didn't have a drop of nuance but it's still a good, blunt little book. Botchan isn't going to get your brain going too hard unless you are already really interested in early 1900's Japan, but even though its target is a place from another time, people have not changed all that much, and it's still fun to read about a bunch of assholes getting their comeuppance.
My major gripe with the book is in the translation. I read the Sasaki version, and there were some places where he outright admitted that he couldn't translate a pun or joke. I would have preferred to read a translator's translation, something that worked through the knotty stuff in footnotes or something, but I can see how that might not be the preferred approach for the average reader.
Overall, if you found Holden Caulfield irritating you might like Botchan a little better (I did.) And if you want something much more upbeat than Kokoro Botchan fits the bill, although I think I Am A Cat is the better of Souseki's humorous works.