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Snow Country Paperback – Jan 30 1996
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“Beautifully economical. . . . The haiku works entirely by implication; so, in this novel, using the same delicate, glancing technique, Mr. Kawabata probes a complicated human relationship.”
—The Time Literary Supplement (London)
“Kawabata’s novels are among the most affecting and original works of our time.”
—The New York Times Book Review
From the Back Cover
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.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
When the book is taken into Japanese context it becomes a piece of art.
Modern geishas are motivated by art and culture. The geishas in the early 1900's were motivated by money. Older married men are attracted to geishas, not young bachelors. If a woman becomes a geisha she would know that she was giving up the prospect of finding a husband. She will always be the number two woman in any mans life. The Japanese readers would know this.
The Japanese consider a wilted flower more beautiful than a flower in bloom. The characters are going in this direction.
The Japanese also have something called Haragei, which is an implicit way of communicating; this book is full of it.
Here are some words to a geisha song:
'Old man let's play together, Better hurry up, You don't have much time, Come let's play' I looks like this novel is following the theme of the geisha song.
I strongly suspect that the book was written out of compassion for the geisha Matsuei, so I would guess that the sadness in the book is a reflection of what was going on in her life.
I had real trouble rating this book. The problem is the book does not come to you. You have to want to look inside the book to feel it.
Kawabata tells the story of Shimamura, a wealthy man of leisure who's visiting a hot springs mountain resort to meet the local geisha, Komako. He comes for distraction and out of boredom with his real life in Tokyo. Komako is a reluctant geisha, but has resigned herself to her role, while hoping for some other life. The contrast between what they are and what they would like to be is played out in their interactions. Shimamura is drawn to the unreal or the unlikely or impossible. He wants to remain "just friends" with Komako. Her chatty and highly emotional outbursts leave him somewhat amused and bored, yet he misses her when away from her. She does not behave like a real mountain geisha. His room is like a refuge from that life, a place where she can literally let her hair down.Read more ›
It is a demanding read, one that expects the reader to be able to catch the substance of the unsaid, the implied. Almost nothing is spoon-fed. There is no action, no crisis, nothing that most literary traditions has lead readers to expect from a novel. It demands patience, even though it is a slender volume.
Personally, I found it captivating, and intensely deep and moving. Having read other Kawabata, I was prepared for the subtlety of style and the sparseness of language and story that is his trademark. He is the inheritor of the Haiku, which implies with as few words as necessary. The emotional depth of the novel is incredibly deep, much deeper than many novels I have read who express with much more fanciful language. The Geisha and the Dilettante, the one who affects love but cannot know true love, and the one who gives herself to love even though she knows it cannot be. It is a passionless affair, yet intense. Like the snow country itself, the landscape of their hearts is sparse, yet life lies under the surface covering of insulation.
I did find the translation annoying and disappointing, and I was surprised to find such a lackluster translation on one of Japan's premier novels. The constant use of quotations for "mountain trousers," for instance, instead of just naming it once and using the Japanese term. I am sure that a better translation could capture the novel even better, and perhaps transport it for a new audience.
All in all, one of the best Japanese novels that I have read. Simply incredible, and worth the time. But remember your patience.
Characters in this novel are, so to say, lost (the Japanese have a long tradition of writing about lost characters, Murakami Haruki being the one of the latest of such authors). Komako, being a geisha and understanding that Shimamura is already married, cannot do anything. Shimamura, even after realizing he is in love with Komako, doesn't do anything. The beauty of their relationship lies in their inaction, indulgence, and pensiveness. These attributes were frozen into colorful yet subtle moments. I enjoyed such images.
Most recent customer reviews
The plot is subtle, as it is was intended. The symbols and themes are countless. The language is simple but beautiful. Read morePublished on Nov. 24 2003 by Robert Sheppard
I was greatly disappointed by this book. I found the main character, Shimamaru, difficult at times to identify with, mostly because of his insentivity to the things going on around... Read morePublished on Oct. 19 2003 by William Wu
As the so-caled masterpiece of one of Japan's most renowned writer, and one of the only two who have been awared a Nobel prize for literature (so far), I had pretty high... Read morePublished on Sept. 21 2003 by Wilmington
Snow Country is the story of Shimamura, a wealthy Tokyo denizen who is unable to love and his trip to a hot spring in the snow country of Western Japan. Read morePublished on April 19 2003 by Randyll McDermott
I'm being generous with the one star rating. I would've given it a zero but a rating that low is impossible. There was no plot to this book. Read morePublished on Feb. 25 2003 by Joe Julian
After completely hating (and saying so in a previous review) Kawabata's Sound of the Mountain, I wanted to find out why he was selected for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Read morePublished on Nov. 20 2002 by raboof
I will admit that when I finished the book, my first thought was something along the lines of "What? That's the end?!? Read morePublished on Feb. 28 2002 by C. E. Stevens