Snow Country – Yasunari Kawabata

Snow Country is the second Yasunari Kawabata book I’ve read after The Sound of the Mountain. This book by the Nobel Prize-winning author is referred to as the author’s masterpiece by many readers. This short story, which takes place in a quiet village covered in snow, will make you dream with its beautiful descriptions and will make you miss the flaky snow in the winter months.


Snow Country - Yasunari Kawabata

Snow Country takes place in an isolated spa village covered with snow. Tired of the noise and stress of Tokyo, a wealthy man named Shimamura leaves his wife and children behind and comes to this hot spring village on the mountain. The story that starts with the train journey he made allows us to know Shimamura a little. On the one hand, while reading those beautiful descriptions of the author, on the other hand, expectations for what will happen increase. Then Shimamura meets Komako.

Komako is a very young geisha and cannot be described as a top-notch geisha due to her residence and training. However, the doomed relationship between Shimamura and Komako manages to flare up in the snow. There is a little sadness and a lot of beauty in every line ofSnow Country. Snow Country would make an excellent read in the winter months. Enjoy!

Snow Country - Yasunari Kawabata

Snow Country

Snow Country: Nobel Prize recipient Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country is widely considered to be the writer’s masterpiece, a powerful tale of wasted love set amid the desolate beauty of western Japan.

At an isolated mountain hot spring, with snow blanketing every surface, Shimamura, a wealthy dilettante meets Komako, a lowly geisha. She gives herself to him fully and without remorse, despite knowing that their passion cannot last and that the affair can have only one outcome. In chronicling the course of this doomed romance, Kawabata has created a story for the ages, a stunning novel dense in implication and exalting in its sadness. 

Yasunari Kawabata

Kawabata Yasunari, (born June 11, 1899, Ōsaka, Japan—died April 16, 1972, Zushi), Japanese novelist who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968. His melancholic lyricism echoes an ancient Japanese literary tradition in the modern idiom.

The sense of loneliness and preoccupation with death that permeates much of Kawabata’s mature writing possibly derives from the loneliness of his childhood (he was orphaned early and lost all near relatives while still in his youth). He graduated from Tokyo Imperial University in 1924 and made his entrance into the literary world with the semiautobiographical Izu no odoriko (1926; The Izu Dancer). It appeared in the journal Bungei jidai (“The Artistic Age”), which he founded with the writer Yokomitsu Riichi; this journal became the organ of the Neosensualist group with which Kawabata was early associated.

Snow Country - Yasunari Kawabata

This school is said to have derived much of its aesthetic from European literary currents such as Dadaism and Expressionism. Their influence on Kawabata’s novels may be seen in the abrupt transitions between separate brief, lyrical episodes; in imagery that is frequently startling in its mixture of incongruous impressions; and in his juxtaposition of the beautiful and the ugly. These same qualities, however, are present in Japanese prose of the 17th century and in the renga (linked verse) of the 15th century. It is to the latter that Kawabata’s fiction seemed to draw nearer in later years.

There is a seeming formlessness about much of Kawabata’s writing that is reminiscent of the fluid composition of renga. His best-known novel, Yukiguni (1948; Snow Country), the story of a forlorn country geisha, was begun in 1935. After several different endings were discarded, it was completed 12 years later, although the final version did not appear until 1948. Sembazuru (Thousand Cranes), a series of episodes centred on the tea ceremony, was begun in 1949 and never completed. These and Yama no oto (1949–54; The Sound of the Mountain) are considered to be his best novels. The later book focuses on the comfort an old man who cannot chide his own children gets from his daughter-in-law.

When Kawabata accepted the Nobel Prize, he said that in his work he tried to beautify death and to seek harmony among man, nature, and emptiness. He committed suicide after the death of his friend Mishima Yukio.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

Japanese Literature – A Literary Journey

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