House of the Sleeping Beauties: And Other Stories

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9784770029751: House of the Sleeping Beauties: And Other Stories
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From Japan's first Nobel laureate for literature, three superb stories exploring the interplay between erotic fantasy and reality in a loner's mind.

"He was not to do anything in bad taste, the woman of the house warned old Eguchi. He was not to put his finger into the mouth of the sleeping girl, or try anything else of that sort." With his promise to abide by the rules, Eguchi begins his life as a member of a secret club for elderly gentlemen who have lost their sexual powers. At an inn several hours from Tokyo they indulge in their last pleasure: lying with beautiful young girls who are sleeping nude when the men arrive. As "House of the Sleeping Beauties" unfolds in Kawabata's subtle prose, the horrified reader comes to see that the sexual excitement is a result not of rejuvenescence, but of a flirtation with death.

The three stories presented in this volume all center upon a lonely protagonist and his peculiar eroticism. In each, the author explores the interplay of fantasy and reality at work on a mind in solitude-in "House of the Sleeping Beauties," the elderly Eguchi and his clandestine trips to his club; in "One Arm," the bizarre dialogue of a man with the arm of a young girl; in "Of Birds and Beasts," a middle-aged man's memories of an affair with a dancer mingled with glimpses of his abnormal attachment to his pets.

All of these stories appear in English for the first time outside of Japan. "Of Birds and Beasts," written in the early 1930's, is one of Kawabata's earlier works, while "One Arm" and "House of the Sleeping Beauties," the latter hailed by novelist Yukio Mishima as the best of Kawabata's works, are among his later works.

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About the Author:


YASUNARI KAWABATA was born in 1899. He described himself as a child "without home or family" and became, in the novelist Mishima's words, "a perpetual traveler." He lost his parents in infancy, his grandmother and only sister died shortly afterward, and he was fourteen when his grandfather died. In 1917 he left his native Osaka to enter a school in Tokyo, and in 1927-three years after graduating from Tokyo Imperial University-he published a short novel, The Izu Dancer. Probably his best-known work, Snow Country, was completed in 1947 and has come to typify the sense of loneliness and chilly lyricism associated with the world of Kawabata. In his most fertile decade following the end of World War II he produced The Lake, first serialized in 1954, along with two major novels-The Master of Go and The Sound of the Mountain. House of the Sleeping Beauties was published in the early sixties, and Kawabata was made the first Japanese Nobel laureate for literature in 1968. He died in 1972.

EDWARD SEIDENSTICKER, the translator, was born in Colorado. He attended the University of Colorado, and at the outbreak of the Pacific War was assigned to the Navy Language School, where he studied Japanese. After further work at Columbia and Harvard, he settled in Japan in 1948, and spent over ten years there, the first two as a diplomat. After a spell of teaching at Stanford, in 1966 he became Professor of Japanese at the University of Michigan, and it was during the following years in Ann Arbor that most of The Tale of Genji was translated. He is currently Professor of Japanese at Columbia University, teaching for half the year, and living the remaining half in Tokyo.

Among his other translations are a number of works by Tanizaki Jun'ichiro, Kawabata Yasunari, and Mishima Yukio. In recognition of his role in the introduction of Japanese literature abroad, Professor Seidensticker was awarded the prestigious Kikuchi Kan Prize and the Order of the Rising Sun-one of the Japanese government's highest honors.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

He was not to do anything in bad taste, the woman of the inn warned old Eguchi. He was not to put his finger into the mouth of the sleeping girl, or try anything else of that sort.

There were this room, some four yards square, and the one next to it, but apparently no other rooms upstairs; and, since the downstairs seemed too restricted for guest rooms, the place could scarcely be called an inn at all. Probably because its secret allowed none, there was no sign at the gate. All was silence. Admitted through the locked gate, old Eguchi had seen only the woman to whom he was now talking. It was his first visit. He did not know whether she was the proprietress or a maid. It seemed best not to ask.

A small woman perhaps in her mid-forties, she had a youthful voice, and it was as if she had especially cultivated a calm, steady manner. The thin lips scarcely parted as she spoke. She did not often look at Eguchi. There was something in the dark eyes that lowered his defenses, and she seemed quite at ease herself. She made tea from the iron kettle on the bronze brazier. The tea leaves and the quality of the brewing were astonishingly good, for the place and the occasion--to put old Eguchi more at ease. In the alcove hung a painting by Kawai Gyokudo, probably a reproduction, of a mountain village warm with autumn leaves. Nothing suggested that the room had unusual secrets.

"And please don't try to wake her. Not that you could, whatever you did. She's sound asleep and knows nothing." The woman said it again: "She'll sleep on and on and know nothing at all, from start to finish. Not even who's been with her. You needn't worry."

Eguchi said nothing of the doubts that were coming over him.

"She's a very pretty girl. I only take guests I know I can trust."

As Eguchi looked away his eye fell to his wrist watch.

"What time is it?"

"A quarter to eleven."

"I should think so. Old gentlemen like to go to bed early and get up early. So whenever you're ready."

The woman got up and unlocked the door to the next room. She used her left hand. There was nothing remarkable about the act, but Eguchi held his breath as he watched her. She looked into the other room. She was no doubt used to looking through doorways, and there was nothing unusual about the back turned toward Eguchi. Yet it seemed strange. There was a large, strange bird on the knot of her obi. He did not know what species it might be. Why should such realistic eyes and feet have been put on a stylized bird? It was not that the bird was disquieting in itself, only that the design was bad; but if disquiet was to be tied to the woman's back, it was there in the bird. The ground was a pale yellow, almost white.

The next room seemed to be dimly lighted. The woman closed the door without locking it, and put the key on the table before Eguchi. There was nothing in her manner to suggest that she had inspected a secret room, nor was there in the tone of her voice.

"Here is the key. I hope you sleep well. If you have trouble getting to sleep, you will find some sleeping medicine by the pillow."

"Have you anything to drink?"

"I don't keep spirits."

"I can't even have a drink to put myself to sleep?"

"No."

"She's in the next room?"

"She's asleep, waiting for you."

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780870114267: House of the Sleeping Beauties and Other Stories

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