The Master of Go Paperback – May 28 1996
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"This novel is one of modern literature's greatest, most poignant elegies" Washington Post "Kawabata's narrative spirals through the book's events in ruminative glides and turns... There is a kind of low-key daring, an austere, autumnal nobility, in Kawabata's tale" Time "An archetypal saga... there are storms and landscapes as cool, as luminous, as any in Japanese paintings and woodcuts" The New Yorker --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Yasunari Kawabata, winner of the 1968 Nobel Prize for Literature, was one of Japan's most distinguished novelists. Born in Osaka in 1899, he published his first stories while he was still in high school. Among his major novels published across the world are Snow Country (1956), Thousand Cranes (1959), The Sound of the Mountain (1972), and Beauty and Sadness (1975). Kawabata was found dead, by his own hand, in 1972. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Although the back of the book says that it is fiction, that is not altogether true. Yasunari Kawabata actually did write a series of articles for Tokyo and Osaka newspapers about the Master of Go and his last game against a much younger opponent. Although the opponent's real name was Kitani not Otake. Kawabata, however, did add abit of fiction to it. He changed his name and made the Master of Go a much nicer person.
Why is this book a good read? That is hard to say, but the Go match seemed to me to be just as tense as the last game of the world series. It has been pointed out before, but I must say again that the underlying story is actually moe important than the actual story. It is true that the story is about a young man defeating the Invincible master, but it is also a book of change. As the reader reads through the pages he or she sees how Kawabata made this story of a Go match something much more. He shows us how the old Japanese order was slowly fadeing and something new was coming to take its place. Good Book.
The story is a chronicle of a match of Go between the older Master and the younger challenger. Each products of their generation, and the very contrasting lifestyles from which they grew up in. Kawabata manages to touch on this theme through representation of situation rather than and deeply symbolic literary techniques. Maybe this is what makes his writing so light, easy to read, and still so satisfying.
I don't think there's much background knowledge about Go needed to enjoy the novel. However, even a simple understanding of the game will open up a side to the novel that reflects the game itself. Each chapter is a move, placed here or there on the board, mindful of the larger picture of the full game itself. Story lines begin to connect, and motives are unveiled, revealing the final story of two sides. Black vs white.
MoG might not be for readers looking for high action or plot. It's a slow, character sketch type of novel based in deep thought about Japanese tradition and art.
Instead, because this is Kawabata, we have an intimate portrait of three people, the two players and the author himself, basic and alive and honest human beings. Of course, there is a bit of metaphor and conclusions can be drawn, but ultimately the three people do not require any grandeur beyond there immediate status as human beings. It is enough.
The Master of Go himself, the highest available rank in the official Go association, is a portrait of obsession and dedication. He is only comfortable playing games, and even amidst his failing health and the demands of his retirement challenge, he ensnares anyone around him in any game possible, be in Mah Jong or Billiards. His opponent, a young yet high ranking challenger, has fought his way through a year-long tournament for the honor of being the opponent in the Master's final match. High strung, and with health issues of his own, he brings everything he has to defeat the Master in his last game. The author, a newspaper reporter assigned to cover the match which is being sponsored by his paper, unable to penetrate the minds of the two players, lays open his own feelings and interpretations while retaining a newspaperman's eye for reporting facts rather than speculation.Read more ›
The writer's style--the author won a Nobel Prize for another work--connotes these complex themes with simple prose. Translating this work must have been a challenge. To read it in the original Japanese would be rewarding.
No background in Go is necessary to understand the novel. For those who are curious, however, the version of the Go in the Yahoo! Games section gives a suitable introduction to the game. If you play a few beginner, 9x9, games prior to or during your reading of the book, it will help you visualize the scenes.
The human power of this book stirs the reader; some scenes I shall never forget. For anyone who has strived to master something--even if only themselves--this book will prove a poignant reminder of the tug-of-war between teacher and student, defender and challenger, the retiring and the upcoming generations.
Most recent customer reviews
Great book. Amazing story. Interesting display of the game and its players.Published 7 months ago by rhyan
Kawabata is more difficult to translate into english than say someone like Mishima. He lets us view a pre-war Japan mind set that can sometimes seem a little alien to the... Read morePublished on July 30 2001 by Paul Miller
This could have been one of the best books to ever emerge from Japan: If the author had interpolated each chapter with reminsces by the aging player, Shusai ("Grand... Read morePublished on July 7 2001 by jack schaaf
This is a novel about a man who has devoted his life to only one thing, and who has nothing left when that is taken away from him. Read morePublished on May 21 2001 by Immanuel A. Magalit
In my opinion, this is the most complex of Kawabata's books. Kawabata's presentation of the eternal conflict between rapidly vanishing Japanese traditional culture (accelerated by... Read morePublished on May 17 2001 by Boris Aleksandrovsky
In 1938, a go match was played over six months in 14 sessions at several different locations in Japan. Read morePublished on July 10 2000 by Bob Newman
Kawabata's 'The Master of Go' is a moving, at times agonizing, cultural depiction of the old v. new in Japan. Read morePublished on April 17 2000 by Jeffery D Berg
I've read many books in my life, but none of them surpass the beauty, elegance, and creativity embodied in "The Master of Go. Read morePublished on May 15 1999