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Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata
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Snow Country (1935)

by Yasunari Kawabata

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (50)  French (3)  Dutch (1)  All (54)
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
Snow country has a complex writing history - Kawabata tinkered with it over a lengthy period from 1935 onwards, publishing bits of the story in a least five different journals in the process. It didn't appear as a complete book in its present form until 1948. (Kawabata returned to it once more at the end of his life, reworking it as one of his "palm-of-the-hand" micro-stories.)

The book relates a series of visits by an urban dilettante, Shimamura, to an obscure mountain hot-springs resort in the west of Honshu. As Seidensticker delicately explains: "The Japanese seldom goes to a hot spring for his health, and he never goes for 'the season,' as people once went to Bath or Saratoga. He may ski or view maple leaves or cherry blossoms, but his wife is usually not with him. The special delights of the hot spring are for the unaccompanied gentleman. No prosperous hot spring is without its geisha and its compliant hotel maids."

Shimamura, true to type, has left his wife and child in Tokyo (they are mentioned a couple of times in the book, but we never get to meet them) and orders up a geisha. It turns out to be a busy time, and what he gets is Komako, who when they first meet is a kind of semi-professional, "a girl who was not a geisha but who was sometimes asked to help at large parties". Shimamura is captivated by her aura of old-fashioned Japanese virtue and cleanness - "The impression the woman gave was a wonderfully clean and fresh one. It seemed to Shimamura that she must be clean to the hollows under her toes" - and starts to fall in love with his image of Komako as a simple country girl at the same time as he is physically attracted and aesthetically repelled by her occupation. The story is complicated by Shimamura's glimpses of another young woman, Yoko, whom he also instantly idealises, especially when he discovers she is in mourning for her lost lover.

Kawabata keeps feeding us little bits of description that echo Shimamura's erotic confusion: on the one side the beauty of nature and the changing seasons; on the other the hardships of life under the snow for the local people, the economic uncertainties of tourism, traditional crafts and the geisha profession. Even the insects are made to remind us that they only have the briefest of spells of being beautiful before their lives end.

This may be a geisha romance, but it's a distinctly unromantic one. ( )
  thorold | May 22, 2018 |
Not this human sadness,
cuckoo,
but your solitary cry
- Matsuo Bashō


Rich idler Shimamura momentarily retreats from the hustle and bustle of city life for a secluded life in the beautiful Snow Country, where the Milky Way stretches across the mountains and hot springs, and where his liaison with a passionate countryside geisha is fleeting as snow.

This novel is charming on many levels, but it is also disquieting. I get too many ideas in my head on too minimalist a theme. I find beauty and poetry as well as sadness in its resonance—it’s like staying at the most beautiful place in the world but wanting to immediately get out of it at the same time because the sight of it only brings you grief. There is a tender ache in which the author narrated his story. And I also feel sad for the love lost, because for Shimamura, it seems everything he has found and experienced in the Snow Country is a “wasted effort”, but for the geisha who has loved him, it is real, absolute, and unyielding. ( )
  Krista02 | May 14, 2018 |
This slight but heartbreaking story of adultery is the most unusual novel I've ever read. I must admit I don't know the intricacies of Japanese culture...but adultery is universal. An unforgettable novel. ( )
  kammbiamh | Mar 25, 2018 |
Although the language and imagery are hauntingly beautiful, I just could not sympathise with either shimamura's aesthetic coldness nor komako's inexplicable emotional outbursts. Too much of the aestheticising male gaze and not enough humanity or even dimension to the characters. This one, unfortunately, just left me cold. ( )
  judtheobscure | Oct 6, 2017 |
Set in western Japan, Snow Country is the story of a troubled relationship between Shimamura, a businessman from Tokyo, and Komako, a local geisha from snow country. Shimamura visits the hot springs a couple of times a year where he spends time with Komako. Although Komako keeps herself busy making the rounds to parties, she has genuine feelings for Shimamura and expects more than he can give. Shimamura has a wife and children back home and remains for the most part detached from his encounters with Komako but fascinated by Yoko, a young woman he sees in the hot springs. The setting is cold and desolate and I felt sorry that Komako was wasting her youth and beauty in such a far away place waiting for visitors to come and go. ( )
  KatherineGregg | Sep 10, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 50 (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 editionscalculated
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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