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Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

Snow Country (1935)

by Yasunari Kawabata

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,943473,509 (3.75)124
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English (44)  French (3)  All languages (47)
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
This novella, set in Japan's mountainous country, tells of a dilettante Tokyo man drawn to an amateur geisha. It's a consequential or inconsequential book - lives are lived and deaths are recounted. I very strongly felt alienated from the story and its painterly construction, and felt the lack of a contextual apparatus within which to experience the book. Not understanding the world of the geisha, the way in which Japanese houses and towns work, social norms etc made the events of this book for me take place in a cultural vacuum. Experiencing the alien can be a valuable gift of the novellist, but this time it felt like a step too far.
1 vote otterley | May 6, 2015 |
I absolutely loved this book. On the surface, nothing much seems to be going on. Shimamura, a man of leisure who has inherited so much wealth that he doesn't need to work, spends long stretches of time in a hot spring town with Komako, a local geisha, leaving his wife and children in Tokyo. Neither Shimamura nor Komako know or will acknowledge what they want from life. Both lack energy, drifting along, reacting to events rather than controlling them, or controlling them through inaction. Beneath the surface is the potential for passion, but neither possesses the motivation to act. The book is dreamlike in the way it jumps around and seems to have meaning without saying anything clearly. The dysfunctional relationships across the piece intrigue and frustrate equally. The prose is beautiful, with rich descriptions of time and place, like an extended haiku. I found it quite cinematic. ( )
  missizicks | May 2, 2015 |
I know that this is supposed to be Kawabata's finest work, but it didn't appeal all that much to me. What I liked about it was the description of the snow country. However, had I not read the introduction to the book, I would have missed out on the significance of this area of Japan. I also didn't care too much for the fact that the whole book was about how a married man with children spent his time traveling to and remaining with geisha Komako. I realize that this is a cultural thing. I'm also not sure what the message of this book is. The ending didn't prove satisfactory one way or the other. I have enjoyed others works by Kawabata, but this was not among those I like the best. ( )
  SqueakyChu | Jan 7, 2015 |
I read the Seidensticker translation and was not blown away by the writing of Snow Country. As the title suggests, the setting is an important part of the book, making the theme of isolation explored by the characters physically manifest in the landscape as well. Thus evocative descriptions of the setting are important, and I largely did not find them here. I do not know if this was a failing of Yasunari Kawabata or the translator. Some of the imagery was downright bizarre, like when a geisha's lips are described as a "beautiful little circle of leeches." The picture it brings to mind is gross, despite the text making it explicit that the image is "beautiful."

The character of Shimamura who the novel follows is bland, largely a nonentity in the text despite ostensibly being an important figure. The character of the alcoholic geisha Komako is far more interesting, while the third main character of Yoko is a bit of a mystery, as the book spends relatively little time with her. As is pointed out in the novel's opening, mountain geishas were little different from prostitutes. Therefore I read the book keeping in mind the possibility that Komoko's actions were largely motivated by her desire to keep a paying client, and that Shimamura is actually relatively unimportant. I saw little to contradict this view, as Shimamura, despite the novel granting him the central role, is a mere visitor to this country, and observer more than a participant. He comes and goes as he pleases, and the lives of Komako and Yoko move along without him in his absence.

These observations of mine might seem to skip around at random a bit, but in my defense the text does the same thing. Scenes occur with wide gaps in time between them, decisions are made with little to no explanation or justification, and one line of dialogue often seems largely divorced from the next. It's a strange style, almost like reading random snippets of a stream of consciousness novel. Again, I don't know how much of this was due to the translator. Like I bet the character Shimamura would do if this novel extended past its ending, I will leave Snow Country behind me and likely won't remember it at all in a few month's time. ( )
  BayardUS | Dec 10, 2014 |
Story of a man and his geisha who lives in the Snow country. Both people are distant, impenetrable, lonely, living wasted lives. Their emotional states are expressed in the nature around them. A short novel that reads like a poem. ( )
  snash | Sep 8, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
Snow Country is a work of beauty and strangeness, one of the most distinguished and moving Japanese novels to have appeared in this country.
added by GYKM | editNew York Herald Tribune

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Yasunari Kawabataprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Durán, CésarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gergely ÁgnesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kivimeis, YrjöTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lamberti, LucaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nagae, Neide HissaeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ouwehand, C.Afterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ouwehand, C.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Seidensticker, Edward G.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The train came out of the long tunnel into the snow country.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679761047, Paperback)

To this haunting novel of wasted love, Kawabata brings the brushstroke suggestiveness and astonishing grasp of motive that earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature. As he chronicles the affair between a wealthy dilettante and the mountain geisha who gives herself to him without illusions or regrets, one of Japan's greatest writers creates a work that is dense in implication and exalting in its sadness.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:27 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

With the brushstroke suggestiveness and astonishing grasp of motive that won him the Nobel Prize for Literature, Yasunari Kawabata tells a story of wasted love set amid the desolate beauty of western Japan, the snowiest region on earth. It is there, at an isolated mountain hotspring, that the wealthy sophisticate Shimamura meets the geisha Komako, who gives herself to him without regrets, knowing that their passion cannot last. Shimamura is a dilettante of the feelings; Komako has staked her life on them. Their affair can have only one outcome. Yet, in chronicling its doomed course, one of Japan's greatest modern writers creates a novel dense in implication and exalting in its sadness.… (more)

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