Yasunari Kawabata First Snow on Fuji

ISBN 13: 9781582431055

First Snow on Fuji

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9781582431055: First Snow on Fuji

The stories of Yasunari Kawabata evoke an unmistakably Japanese atmosphere in their delicacy, understatement, and lyrical description. Like his later works, First Snow on Fuji is concerned with forms of presence and absence, with being, with memory and loss of memory, with not-knowing. Kawabata lets us slide into the lives of people who have been shattered by war, loss, and longing. These stories are beautiful and melancholy, filled with Kawabata’s unerring vision of human psychology. First Snow on Fuji was originally published in Japan in 1958, ten years before Kawabata received the Nobel Prize. Kawabata selected the stories for this collection himself, and the result is a stunning assembly of disparate moods and genres. This new edition is the first to be published in English.

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Review:

Although he was the first Japanese writer to win the Nobel Prize, Yasunari Kawabata (1899-1972) remains much more obscure in the West than his high-profile protégé Yukio Mishima. Yet he's a writer of formidable talents. For one thing, Kawabata recognized early on the affinity between Japanese poetry--with its abrupt transition from image to image--and the jump-cut flavor of modernist prose. He also explored erotic life at a truly microcosmic level. Some may find a novel like The Mole--which revolves around a woman's habit of fiddling with her eponymous birthmark--a little too molecular in its approach. But sex, like God, is in the details, and throughout his career Kawabata has unearthed some surprising truths about our most urgent appetites.

First Snow on Fuji, a collection of stories originally published in 1958, is a fairly representative slice of the author's oeuvre. In "Her Husband Didn't" (a classic Kawabata title, by the way), a woman's earlobe becomes the discreet object of desire:

The earlobe was just as round and plump as an earlobe ought to be--it was small enough that Junji could squeeze it between the tips of his thumb and forefinger, no bigger than that--yet it filled him with a sense of the beauty of life. The smooth skin, the gentle swelling--the woman's earlobe was like a mysterious jewel.... He had never known anything with a texture like this. It was like touching the lovely girl's soul.
For Kawabata's characters, the physical usually leads straight to the metaphysical, which is what prevents him from deteriorating into a soft-core thrill merchant. And in several of the other stories here, he proceeds directly to the weightier issues. "Silence," for example, is at once a study in failing inspiration and a gloss on Kawabata's own career (the latter argument is made very effectively by translator Michael Emmerich in his introduction). And the title story offers an intriguing take on memory, which Kawabata seems to regard as a distinctly feminine operation: it's "the docility of women that makes it possible for them to return to the past."

What we love most in a writer--the idiosyncratic music of his or her prose--is the hardest thing for a translator to capture. There are times, alas, when Emmerich's ear seems inadequate to the task. His rendering never falls beneath a certain literate level--but for a writer of Kawabata's minimalistic delicacy, a clunky transition or flatfooted phrase can sink the whole enterprise. Readers might prefer to start, then, with Thousand Cranes or Snow Country. But for all its linguistic flaws, First Snow on Fuji reminds us that in literature most of all, less can be more--much more. --James Marcus

About the Author:

Yasunari Kawabata is best known for his novels, Thousand Cranes, and Snow Country. He was the first Japanese writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature (1968).

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Book Description COUNTERPOINT, United States, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. New edition. Language: English . Brand New Book. The stories of Yasunari Kawabata evoke an unmistakably Japanese atmosphere in their delicacy, understatement, and lyrical description. Like his later works, First Snow on Fuji is concerned with forms of presence and absence, with being, with memory and loss of memory, with not-knowing. Kawabata lets us slide into the lives of people who have been shattered by war, loss, and longing. These stories are beautiful and melancholy, filled with Kawabata s unerring vision of human psychology. First Snow on Fuji was originally published in Japan in 1958, ten years before Kawabata received the Nobel Prize. Kawabata selected the stories for this collection himself, and the result is a stunning assembly of disparate moods and genres. This new edition is the first to be published in English. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9781582431055

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Book Description COUNTERPOINT, United States, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. New edition. Language: English . Brand New Book. The stories of Yasunari Kawabata evoke an unmistakably Japanese atmosphere in their delicacy, understatement, and lyrical description. Like his later works, First Snow on Fuji is concerned with forms of presence and absence, with being, with memory and loss of memory, with not-knowing. Kawabata lets us slide into the lives of people who have been shattered by war, loss, and longing. These stories are beautiful and melancholy, filled with Kawabata s unerring vision of human psychology. First Snow on Fuji was originally published in Japan in 1958, ten years before Kawabata received the Nobel Prize. Kawabata selected the stories for this collection himself, and the result is a stunning assembly of disparate moods and genres. This new edition is the first to be published in English. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9781582431055

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