Yasunari Kawabata won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968. I read his book, Thousand Cranes, as my final book for Dolce Bellezza’s Japanese Literature challenge. The writing was indeed beautiful, and I could see why he was a Nobel Prize winning author. However, I found the story to be cold and disturbing, and I can’t say I liked the book very much because of that. When I run into a book I don’t care for, I always worry that it is my “fault.” In this case, especially because the writing was so beautiful, I really stewed about whether I just didn’t understand the culture well enough, or if I was missing something important. But after thinking about it for awhile, I decided that what really bothered me is that this story focused on relationships, and is described as “a story of ill-fated love,” but I saw no evidence of love between any of the characters, past or present. There were tears and anguish, but no love, and that left me feeling chilled to the bone.
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This same thing bugged me about about Kawabata’s short stories in First Snow on Fuji. His portrayal of relationships are very negative, like you said..no love there. I guess that it’s just the type of relationship that he chooses to focus on in his writing, but it’s not necessarily the type of relationship that I enjoy reading about. Not my thing either.
I also always wonder if there are cultural issues involved in the way we react to books from different cultures. You made me curious about this one. It sounds interesting, even if not exactly enjoyable.
PS: I tagged you for a reading meme! You can skip it if you want to, of course, but I’d love to read your replies 🙂
It’s interesting you say you wonder if it’s your “fault” when something doesn’t strike you; I do the same. I wonder if the difference, the coldness as you wrote, is in part due to culture. I have never been to Japan, but certainly I’ve read that they are more reserved than us Americans. (Hey, anyone’s more reserved than most of us!)
I’m so glad you’ve completed the Challenge. Thanks for participating in it, and sharing with us your thoughts on Japanese literature. It’s been really enriching for me.
That’s interesting, Chris. Since you had the same feeling about his other book, I’m wondering if it has mostly to do with his own life…orphaned at a young age; then lived with grandparents but lost his grandmother when he was seven and grandfather when he was 15; the war and all those losses. Perhaps love was something that was tragically missing from his life.
I’d be very interested in your view of this book, Nymeth, if or when you read it. Even though my husband is 1/2 Japanese, and I’ve read quite a few Japanese authors, I still felt there were cultural things that I didn’t understand deeply enough with this book.
Thanks, Bellezza, for hosting a very enjoyable reading challenge. I’m enjoying reading everyone’s reviews of the books they’ve read for it.