And Then is the fifth book I’ve read by Natsume Soseki, one of Japan’s most highly regarded novelists. And Then is part of a trilogy, and is meant to follow his earlier novel Sanshiro, followed by The Gate (or Mon). Yet these books couldn’t be further from one another, for one does not need to read any or all of them in their designated order.
Oddly, And Then is unlike any of the other Soseki works I’ve read. He tends to lace his books with humor, and will often deliver moments of pathos within them (such as in I am a Cat).
Perhaps And Then most closely resembles Kokoro, save for And Then’s weakness: verbosity and flaccidness at times. While many regard this as his best novel, many also claimed the same for Kokoro, yet I would argue they’re both on par with one another.
Kokoro works better in terms of structure and also brevity, yet at times suffers from the whole suicidal melodrama shtick. And Then also has its moments, but it also drags and lacks concision. Despite Soseki’s attempt at a “serious work” Soseki’s best and most effective work is that which contains his humor (such as Botchan, Cat and even the lesser Sanshiro).
And Then centers on a young man named Daisuke who has spent his life sponging off others. He’s received a top-notch education, he is well read, and has been granted privileges that few others have received. Yet, he is unhappy because he lacks focus and drive, but also feels misunderstood by those around him, including his father, who supports him financially.
Ironically, readers will feel far more empathy towards the father rather than their star protagonist, simply because he creates his own problems and refuses to do anything to change them. Daisuke is very much a common stereotype one can find in the arts: an above-average intelligence and education, yet lacks the discipline and drive to even be able to hold a job at Starbucks. Add to that a sense of entitlement and you've got the character.
Daisuke is not the only “failure” in the book however, for he later reconnects with friends from his university, and notices that they too have fallen short of their life goals. One of them is a failed novelist who lives in poverty. Daisuke notices this failure and becomes more detached from people, or at least tries to, for part of his dilemma is that he is unable to really detach fully. His greatest struggle in life is that he suffers from ennui. Boo hoo. Yet Daisuke is able to rationalize his behavior, believing that at least he will never suffer from insanity, since to be insane one must have passion.