Light and Darkness (novel)

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Light and Darkness
Author Natsume Sōseki
Translator V. H. Viglielmo and John Nathan
Illustrator Natori Shunsen (English translation only)
Language Japanese (translated to English)

Light and Darkness or Light and Dark (明暗, Mei An) is the last novel by Natsume Sōseki. It was incomplete at time of his death in 1916. It has been translated into English by V. H. Viglielmo and John Nathan.


Mei An was first published in daily serialized installments in the Tokyo and Osaka editions of the Asahi Shimbun beginning on May 16, 1916. It was the ninth and last of his novels to be serialized by the newspaper.[1]

In a letter to the paper's editor, Sōseki explained that because of his illness—a combination of bleeding ulcers, intestinal catarrh, and hemorrhoids—he only began work on the novel a week before the serialization was scheduled to run.[1] He also remarked that he was able to complete nine installments before the serialization was published, a lead he managed to maintain until his death on December 9, 1916.

The writing of the novel became increasingly problematic for Sōseki as his illness worsened over the year. On November 16, less than a month before his death, Sōseki confided to a pupil the toll that the writing of the novel was taking on him: "It troubles me that Mei An gets longer and longer. I'm still writing. I'm sure this will continue into the new year."[1]

By November 21 Sōseki had become too ill to continue work on the novel. He died on December 9, leaving the novel unfinished. 188 installments had been completed; a manuscript with the number "189" penned in the upper right corner was found on his desk after his death.[1] The following year, Iwanami Shoten published the extant 188 installments in book form. Despite being incomplete, the novel is the longest work Sōseki ever wrote—over 200 pages longer than his I Am a Cat and approximately twice the length of his other novels.[1]

The Columbia University Press translation includes the Spot drawings: Illustrations by Natori Shunsen, published in the daily serial of Light and Dark (Meian) in Ashai Shimbun, May 16 – December 14, 1916 (Collected in Natsum soseki ibokushu bessatsu [ Tokyo: Kyuryudo, 1980], 64–69) as noted on the title page verso.


In the novel, protagonist O-Nobu suspects her husband, Tsuda, of loving another woman and tries to find the truth. Tsuda, who cannot forget his past lover, goes to a hospital for a minor operation. O-Nobu visits her and her husband’s relatives in order to get some extra financial support since the couple are extravagant. Kobayashi, who is an unemployed former friend, visits and threatens Tsuda that if he does not treat him in a good manner, he will reveal Tsuda’s past to O-Nobu. He also visits O-Nobu but nothing happens. After Kobayashi leaves, Tsuda’s sister comes to visit him and tries to make him realize how he should act towards his parents as a son. After that, Mrs. Yoshikawa, the wife of Tsuda’s boss and a meddler, visits him and also trying to make him change his attitudes. She sends him away to an onsen where Tsuda finally meets his former lover, Kiyoko. She is now married to another man.


  1. ^ a b c d e Sōseki, Natsume (2014). Light and Dark. Introduction by John Nathan: Columbia University Press. p. 442. ISBN 9780231161428. 
  • Light and Darkness: Natsume Sōseki′s Meian. Translated and with an Afterword by V.H. Viglielmo. CreateSpace, 2011. ISBN 9781460982310.