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Lake [Paperback]

Yasunari Kawabata
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 10 2004

Lake is a Kodansha International publication.


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Review

"Seizes the reader's imagination from the first page...." -Village Voice"Compact and immense ... hypnotic and shocking." -The New York Times Book Review"A work of so unusual a nature as to throw new light on the whole of Kawabata's distinguished career." -Donald Keene"This unusual and striking story probes the mysterious relation between beauty and evil." -Publishers Weekly.".. one senses here the presence of an intensely Japanese, yet universal, master of the erotic."-SR/World

About the Author

Yasunari Kawabata is a Kodansha International author.

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First Sentence
Gimpei Momoi arrived in Karuizawa at the end of the summer season, although up there it seemed more like autumn. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars somewhat memorable May 22 2001
Format:Paperback
This _The Lake_ is not as well known as Yasunari's _Master of Go_ or _Snow Country_, but I found it a pleasant and profound reading experience.
It's the story of Ginpei. He is a former schoolteacher who has been dismissed for having a relationship with a student, or making advances to a student. Ginpei is truly pathetic; he is more or less an ordinary guy, but he truly cannot help himself. He follows around women all the time. He is truly seeking some kind of affection from women, and needs a boost to his confidence. He thinks he is ugly, and he had feet which look like the feet of a monkey.
The story itself is not exciting or extraordinary, but Yasunari probes the soul of Ginpei to provide a very interesting character study. Also the author does a very fine job of describing nature, whether it be lakes, trees, streams, etc.
Perhaps this is not the masterpiece by Yasunari. I suppose that title falls to one of the other novels. But _The Lake_ is a good solid novel (although it is short on plot) and not a bad introduction to the author.
ken32
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5.0 out of 5 stars It Stays With You Oct. 17 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I have read other books by Kawabata and "The Lake" is generally not considered one of his best works but this was the one that had the most effect on me. It stayed with me like a pleasant sunny afternoon that suddenly erupts into rain or an acquaintance that reveals a disturbing side to their personality. Make no mistake. This is a shocking book made even more so by the relaxed Knut Hamsun-style narrative tone and the sensuality of the natural world surrounding the characters (more on display in "Snow Country"). Like Henry Miller with a conscience, Kawabata tells the story of sad, perverse, complex schoolteacher Gimpei with a tone that most reminds me of "Victoria" by Hamsun. The relationship between him and his female student Hisako is memorable. What I most liked is the author's refusal to cop out and produce a neat, conventional ending. Nothing is resolved (as it should be).
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3.0 out of 5 stars Chasing real life. Dec 10 2002
Format:Paperback
The main character of this novel, Gimpei, chases unsuccessfully young girls with eyes like a lake. His father also drowned in a lake.
The lake is a symbol for life. Gimpei is chasing real life, but can't conquer it. His deformed feet, soiled by all possible infamies of the world, are a symbol of his Sisyphus run.
He abandons a prostitute with a child.
This novel with an unsympathetic protagonist is captivating because of its poetic vigour.
A minor work.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Tangled Web May 15 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Another of Kawabata's masterpieces, The Lake is even less structured than his other work. Told through a series of shifting narrators, the story mainly concerns Gimpei, on the run from the law for an unknown crime. We become intimately acquainted with Gimpei, who turns out to be a real creep: he spends most of his time following beautiful women. Though flashbacks that are carefully woven in to the narrative, we learn Gimpei past: his unrequited love for his cousin Yayori, his destructive affair with his student Hisako, and his possessive madness - he would rather have the objects of his affection dead than with another. The books shifts it's focus slightly at times, turning to the people who come into contact with Gimpei, and revealing how closely connected they all are without even realizing it. It is this tangled web of relationships, both direct and indirect, that make this work so enjoyable. A wonderful book, although some readers may find the character of Gimpei so repugnant that they may abandon the book before it's finish.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A voyage into the mind of a stalker of young girls Nov. 14 2004
By Zack Davisson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Lakes are mysteries, dark bodies of water that swallow secrets and hide those parts of ourselves better left submerged. Bodies are dumped in lakes, along with stolen cars and used weapons of violence. In "The Lake," Kawabata has used this metaphor for his protagonist, the unsettled and possibly psychotic Gimpei Momoi, who's mind swirls past and present and make-believe into one massive body of water, under which the corpse of his father lies sleeping.

It is hard to spend 160-odd pages in the mind of Gimpei, stalker and luster of young girls. His story fluxuates constantly, changing in an instant from his childhood desire for his cousin Yayoi, to his disastrous affair with his High School student Hisako, to his pursuit of the pure 15-year old Machie, or the bath house girl with the voice of an angel. Interspersed roughly with this mix is the tale of Miyako, a sad beauty who sold her youth to an old man for money. Gimpei's thoughts are those of his nature, a dark and lonely pursuer navigating the unlit corners and ditches of other's worlds, a dangerous and haggard animal prowling the fence.

Kawabata's technique used in "The Lake" is quite experimental, and different from his more-famous works. Aside from the dark story, elements of which can be found in most Kawabata, the shifting narrative and abrupt transitions and endings can be off-putting to those expecting a more naturally flowing story. Personally, I found the jump-cuts and unresolved nature of the writing to be complementary to the tale of Gimpei, with the overall effect leaving me uncomfortable and uneasy with the world, which is the stories goal.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Chasing real life. Dec 10 2002
By Luc REYNAERT - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The main character of this novel, Gimpei, chases unsuccessfully young girls with eyes like a lake. His father also drowned in a lake.
The lake is a symbol for life. Gimpei is chasing real life, but can't conquer it. His deformed feet, soiled by all possible infamies of the world, are a symbol of his Sisyphus run.
He abandons a prostitute with a child.
This novel with an unsympathetic protagonist is captivating because of its poetic vigour.
A minor work.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It Stays With You Oct. 17 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I have read other books by Kawabata and "The Lake" is generally not considered one of his best works but this was the one that had the most effect on me. It stayed with me like a pleasant sunny afternoon that suddenly erupts into rain or an acquaintance that reveals a disturbing side to their personality. Make no mistake. This is a shocking book made even more so by the relaxed Knut Hamsun-style narrative tone and the sensuality of the natural world surrounding the characters (more on display in "Snow Country"). Like Henry Miller with a conscience, Kawabata tells the story of sad, perverse, complex schoolteacher Gimpei with a tone that most reminds me of "Victoria" by Hamsun. The relationship between him and his female student Hisako is memorable. What I most liked is the author's refusal to cop out and produce a neat, conventional ending. Nothing is resolved (as it should be).
4.0 out of 5 stars Minor Work March 31 2006
By The Dog Who Ate Your Face - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
First, I'm going to agree with several other reviewers and say that this is not the best place to start if you're unfamiliar with Kawabata. My guess is that this novel, much like "Thousand Cranes", is probably unfinished. Kawabata was notorious about continuously rewriting and adding to fiction that had long been published, and "The Lake" ends so precariously and with so much unfinished business that I can't see how it can be considered whole and complete. The final chapter reads more like an outline than prose, and several of the major characters introduced in the middle of the novel never reappear again, which left me a little aggravated--because their story-line was more interesting to me than Gimpei's.

That said, I love Kawabata and there's enough in this novel to make it worth reading despite its glaring problems. Gimpei's behavior is erratic and difficult to fathom--one striking image illustrating this is a scene toward the end where he's hiding in a ditch waiting for a young girl he admires to pass by--as he sits waiting he notices a flower growing from a crack in the wall. He leans over and then eats the flower. Gimpei's life is full of these odd moments, and his mind wanders haphazzardly through the moments of his life making distant correlations between what was, what is, and what could never have been.

The book can be frustrating at times. Gimpei's free associations of memory with moment sometimes bog down the flow of the narrative, which left me feeling dioriented and unsatisfied. Some of the metaphor is a bit too opaque, even for Kawabata, while some of the metaphor is so striking that you wish you'd thought of it. There's also a lot here for such a small book--too much, and that causes the narrative to lose focus, I think. Kawabata seems to be throwing in all sorts of narrative threads to see what sticks--some interesting, some lame, and none of which ever reach any real resolution.

Overall, I'd say if you're a fan, read this. If you're new to Kawabata, start with "Sound of the Mountain" or "Snow Country".
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