Having never read this author before, I had no idea what to expect from this novel. Sōseki is a Japanese author from the turn of the 20th century. The Miner is now believed to be one of his most important novels, despite being widely ridiculed on publication in 1908. I didn’t totally enjoy this novel, if it can be called a novel; it is very interesting but doesn’t particularly have much of a story.
We follow a young man of 19 as he leaves Tokyo, his family and his past. He is on his way to commit suicide or just to lose himself, this is never truly established. The reasoning for this is the break down of his relationship, a fact we find out later in the novel. This narrator is unnamed and because of this I found it hard to connect with him; he is a naive character, who is then coerced into becoming an employee of a mine. The narrator shows his inexperience by almost blindly following a dubious looking man who’s sole purpose is to recruit men to work in the mine. After a lengthy journey the young man arrives at the mine. He is immediately thrust into a life that he is not cut out for; working class men, bedbugs, horrible food.
Throughout this novel there are numerous allusions to hell, most notably when the narrator is told, “‘This’s the door to hell'”, and the young man decides to descend into the mine. He is guided around the mine, descending further and further. His journey into the mine is significant as he uses this time to explore his feelings about taking a job in the mine.
The young protagonist is twice given the option to return home, and takes neither, eventually becoming the bookkeeper for one of the mines boarding houses. The novel never really starts and finishes without a true conclusion. It is an interesting read but not that entertaining. I would recommend it as a fine example of descriptive writing but not much else.