Read Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata Edward G. Seidensticker Online

snow-country

Nobel Prize-winner 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, despiteNobel Prize-winner 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....

Title : Snow Country
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780679761044
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 175 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Snow Country Reviews

  • Dolors
    2019-03-07 06:36

    Shimamura gets on a train to dreamland. He escapes from the urbanity of Tokyo, from the grayish routine, the dull marriage, the mediocre reality that leaves him numb and empty in search of the purest expression of his desires. He is a dilettante, an expert aesthetician who knows that beauty lingers in memory of times past, on the glint of two sad eyes sparkling in a pale face, in a head tilted at a certain angle, in fragrances and sounds and the noiseless rippling waves that assimilate a caress.Who hasn’t wanted to run away from daily life?Who hasn’t felt the exhilaration of being driven away into distant lands, to new beginnings and comfortable anonimity?In the rural areas of Japan, there is a place called Snow Country. A place where ancient tradition and sheer pleasure are bound together, taking the shape of a young geisha called Komako. No longer a girl but still not a woman, she loves with passionate abandon, making herself vulnerable to her own emotions.Who hasn’t loved someone knowing the story is over before it even started?Who hasn’t given free rein to imagination and switched the shipwreck of today for the groundless hope of a future with the person who consistently neglects us?Shimamura goes back to the Snow Country, to this world of fantasy, expecting to be reunited with young Komako, whose inexperience attracts and repulses him at once. What he can’t expect is that an enigmatic woman called Yoko will disturb the imperfect balance of his universe and create silent havoc without uttering a word. Her silent presence, the contour of her features and the ominous aura that shrouds her; she presents a gateway to the pinnacle of artistic expression.Kawabata paints his story rather than writing it. He is an extremely punctilious imagist who uses his brush with ruthless suavity. Shorts sentences that never falter but flow in a torrent of the simple and the quotidian transformed into pearls of absolute beauty. The reflection of a graceful face on a train window that fuses with the one of the surreptitious voyeur in a backdrop varnished in white, the thunderous calm of a winter night that is as cold and detached as Shimamura’s disregard for Komako’s utter surrender of body and soul, a landscape covered in perennial snow that mimics the protagonist’s stagnation and the geisha’s “wasted efforts” to melt the frostiness with her ardent submission. There isn’t a single image that doesn’t evoke the evanescent nature of human feelings.This is the sort of quiet novella that grows on you. The characters appear withdrawn on the surface with unexpressive, porcelain countenances, but deep down, they burn inwardly, their hearts are ablaze with the ongoing progression of the many births and deaths inherent in the changing of the seasons, echoing the idea of eternity in ceaceless movement.Much is revelead in things left unsaid, lingering glances and bodies floating in limbo, halfway between heaven and earth. The rest is up to the imagination.Kawabata’s prose is as suggestive as it is devastating, it tantalizes, it provokes, it stings with painful lyricism. His voice is a whisper in a world that only shouts and replaces the background noise with words that contain it all, the gift of life, the tragedy of death and the interdependent wholeness of both.

  • Jim Fonseca
    2019-03-01 09:53

    If you like a “ski” read instead of a “beach” read, this is for you! The setting is the western mountain slopes of northern Japan, one of the snowiest regions of the world – up to 15 feet of winter snow is common. In the town, the overhangs of buildings over the sidewalks form a tunnel through the snow in winter.We are told in the translator’s Introduction that the snow country geisha catering to the ski lodge and hot spring clientele in winter are second class geisha compared to the urban geisha in Japan. In fact they are considered almost social outcasts and come close to being just prostitutes -- at least that was the case in the 1930’s, the time of this story. The setting is one of cold loneliness. The literary style matches the setting. It is written in prose but using the haiku style, terse and austere, due to the limitation of words and the use of opposites and contrasts. You quickly see all the references to black hair against the white snow and darkness against sunlight, distant music against stillness -- darkness and wasted beauty as the main character says in regard to his favorite geisha. There isn’t a lot of plot. Our main character is a middle-aged man who is independently wealthy; just a dilettante who piddles around and yet a recurring theme is that he comments on the geisha’s “wasted efforts” in reading and learning or practicing her music as she tries to improve herself. The other main character is the geisha who has more or less fallen in love with this man. Of course he is married with kids in Tokyo but he can still be her sugar-daddy, so to speak. As she gets on in years, her goal is to find a man who will set her up in a business when she is no longer a geisha in demand. She has had two other older men in her life; the first was an old man who paid off all her debts and then died. The way the geisha system works is that she signs a contract for a set amount with the ski lodge for a period of years and pays the lodge back out of her earnings. She is selective in offering herself to men and much of her earnings come from entertaining groups of men at parties by serving tea, playing music and dancing. The second man is also an old man who is still around and the main character wonders what her relationship is to him. A passage I liked: “The man was clearly ill, however, and illness shortens the distance between a man and a woman.”There is a lot in the book about the coolness of the special Japanese fabric called chijimi, and how it is laboriously made. It’s a white fabric that is dyed by exposure to the sun on top of the snow. (This is still true - here is a short National Geographic video about it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qa1t7...)The book is a pretty good read but slow. I liked his novel First Snow on Fuji better. The author was the first Japanese winner of the Nobel Prize for literature (1968). Photos from top to bottom:japantimes.co.jpsnowbrains.commaisondexceptions.com

  • Seemita
    2019-03-20 10:48

    I am white, mostly. And cold. And occasionally, weeping. But you don’t see my tears, for they run down the stream and lose their essence at the prolonged kiss of the first sun. But I do not mind. I come alive to die; I bulk up to surrender; I appear to vanish. But I, too, have admirers. Admirers, who eye ephemeral beauty with a stinging lacquer of depleting life, colluding their vision with a bagful of clouded vignettes stroking the air that arises after all is consumed and lost. Visiting Japan in 1935, I met Kawabata-san. He whispered in my drifter ears that he wished to nestle a story under my frosty silhouette. I cast a doubtful glance at him and asked: ‘Are you sure? I am no spring and I am no sun. In my lap, tears appear more tenacious than smiles. And in my heart, I imprison love stories that untangle into laborious passion, reverberating in their incomplete destinies of intertwined desires but scattered existences. Your decision to drop your child in my tutelage may mar its chances of gaining an empathetic visitor.’ But he ran his hand on my granular head and said: ‘Be assured; wasted love is still love, after all.’ I eventually agreed to take his characters in my country. So came, Shimamura and Komako, Yoko and Yukio. You don’t need to know who they are since all lovers in my country appear the same. And this Japan was still under the wreck of unequal rights of labour and dignity. But if you insist, I will oblige. Shimamura was groping for new vistas after a regular life had clutched him tight and Komako was a young geisha who equated new horizons to the skyline that inebriated my edges. When I saw them the first time, they were well-equipped to escape my mirthful sorrow. Shimamura was indulgent without emotion and Komako was wishful without goals. But alas! I am such a wretched stage; people step on me and forget the rest. I kept telling them I am the soft soil that sinks with repeated stamping but the duo, perplexed under the hypnotic rhythm of my robust sheets, dripping body and glistening air paid no heed to my cries. Intoxicated, they spent nights under my shadows and burnt lamps to spring reflections in my eyes; they held their rage and admiration under the chilling blanket I sent their way; they fought their jealousies when I subdued to let the sun cast a scarlet veil on Yoko, the lovely girl who never got bewitched under my spell and they darted viscous glances through my flakes at each pondering pause, rippled from Yukio’s disintegration. Both returned at my every appearance like faithful regulars but the unfulfilled rooms of their lives refused to open to a common hall. Whether other people tricked them into acts they did not intend to commit? I am afraid not. I suspect when I melt, I steal a part of those who hold me in their eyes; and at each return, I bind the stolen things in threads of melancholy despite my intention to dye them in colors of happiness. I can’t help it; my whiteness, under nature’s exponents of aggravation, assimilates all spunk and disperses a reeling blankness unmatched by any buoyant avalanche.But Kawabata-san was a mature man; for when he placed his characters in my world, he also slipped many lyrical skates bearing the mark of mono no aware, handing a robust sailing to his creations and effectively annulling the threats posed by the steep boulders of unrequited love, unfathomable concern, unstoppable heartbeats and unmanageable bonds, compounded further under the burden of my heavy, stoic breathing. He won my heart by comprehending the little corners of my country with a sagacity comparable to someone born in my womb and chiseled them gently to accentuate their hidden beauties. So, the next time someone alights from a rickety train on a faint evening into a land bearing my stamp for as far as the eyes go, he will extend his arms in anticipation of an embrace that will not congeal his thoughts but would set them in riveting motion, softly swaying them in the gust of impermanent realities and navigating them into the warm kotatsu of permanent memoirs.

  • Garima
    2019-03-01 13:40

    turn this way!I too feel lonelylate in autumn~ Basho's Haiku As if on a winter’s night a traveler, travels to a distant land, where the snow falls even on the maple leaves. Where lovers part to meet and meet to part. Where love is nothing but a mirrored reality or a fogged illusion. Where one heart has room only for the pleasure of regaining what had been lost and another voice is so beautiful that it’s almost lonely and sad. Where some deaths are tiny but invoke immense poetry and several lives struggle to find meaning between the lines of a haiku. Where eyes reflect the desperation of an intermittent wait and doors are opened for expected/unexpected arrivals. Where powdered face of a Geisha has a ruddy complexion underneath and hair is sometimes let loose to free oneself. Where questions are difficult and answers are complicated. Where fire is both a saint and a sinner. Where stars are burned and the beauty of Milky Way comes alive in its entire splendor. Where Hellos and Goodbyes arrive like the seasons of a year. Where nature sings and humans dance. Where it’s easy to find oneself and easier to lost oneself. For a little less and a lot more, Snow Country is where one needs to visit.

  • Ian
    2019-03-16 10:54

    Shimamura’s Tale Part IThe Milky WaySits high aboveMountain country,IlluminatingVillages below.Stardust falls Earthbound, Until, frozen,It becomesWhite snowflakesThat shroud the ground,Two meters deep.My hands reach outTowards the winter sky,Hoping I might catch A star in each hand.For a moment,They’re in my grasp.I adore themLike they’re loversThat I can keep.My desire doesn't Require thatI make a choice.Sometimes, it’s true, You can have both.But the angry fire In my selfish heartMelts my loving flakes,The one a sacrificeThat I must make,The other myPunishment.Fate slices through meLike a knife,Deservedly,And leaves meTo returnTo my wife,And little childIn Tokyo,Empty-handedly,With only this my taleBetween my legs.Shimamura’s Tale Part II[Apologies to Shakespeare]With thine eyes and mind,Thou hast committed fornication, But that was in the snow country,And besides, the girl is dead.Komako's CounselWatch out for the beauWho'll approach you in the snow.He makes l'amour faux.PartitionWe must learn how toPartition self-pity fromSensitivity.In This Time of Dying[For, Because Inspired by, Clive James]Poet, write not of"Existential Crisis":Treasure life itself.Japanese Maple[By Clive James]http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/201..."The Old Capital" by Yasunari Kawabata[First Lines of the Novel]"Chieko discovered the violets Flowering on the trunk of the old maple tree. 'Ah. They've bloomed again this year,' she said As she encountered the gentleness of spring."https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1..."Life's Great Choices Series: Sometimes You Can Have Both" by Noela HillsThis pencil drawing was a gift from my friend, the artist Noela Hills, in 1985. She tried to have both, but unfortunately she died later that year of breast cancer. I read yesterday that they are close to finding a prevention and a cure for breast cancer. It said that, one day soon, nobody need die of breast cancer. There was one less star in the Milky Way the day Noela died. "Untitled" by Noela HillsThere is such a Japanese feel to both of these artworks. I always loved both the gown, the blade and the mask in this second work. I wanted to pay Noela for it, but she made me accept it as a gift. This review is my opportunity to return her favour and honour her memory.OTHER KAWABATA REVIEWS:I read "Thousand Cranes" straight after reading and reviewing "Snow Country":https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  • Jenn(ifer)
    2019-02-28 09:45

    New love is as delicate as the wings of a moth. I try to write but the words disintegrate between my fingertips. They melt like snow on my tongue. Maybe a light breeze could carry them across the ocean and drop them at your feet. They will slip through your fingers like sand. They will drift through the air like dandelion wishes.New love is as fleeting as the blossoms of an almond tree.The words might cut you like the sharp edge of this paper. The tiny cuts will sting. They buzz around your ear but you won’t hear what they are saying. They fall into your lap and you brush them away with a shrug.New love floats on water. New love sinks like a stone.

  • Jr Bacdayan
    2019-03-08 09:57

    Never have I had such intense desire to prolong a novel, not until I read this. I am a man of literature. It is in my blood to have the highest respect for the writer and to consider the work sacred, thus I never impose my will on the material even if the end is left open for the imagination to play upon. I purposely hold myself back and stop where the cliff ends, I do not take the leap into the unknown abyss. However today I find the exception. Today I jumped. Forgive me. I am a weak man, a man now consumed by such glaring passion that even the very fabric of my nature trembles. This refined suit of silly intellectualism that I have carefully cultivated through the years is now reduced to ashes after being engulfed by the flames of clear brilliance, so clear that I mistook it for reality. I was so enamored by the flames of desire I found in the pages of this small novel that step by step I drew closer to it until I realized that I had ventured too near, like a moth drawn to the candlelight, consumed by the searing fire. Do not let the title of this work confuse you, this is not a story of icy temperament. This is a tale of such intensely burning passion that no other work I have read comes close to matching, and it makes it all the more astounding when you consider the restraint that is displayed by the very actions of the two people who breathe life into this book.Shimamura is a Tokyo man of weak passion, a connoisseur of desultoriness and lethargy yet when he meets the naïve and transparent country girl named Komako something inside him is stirred. A curious relationship blossoms between them. It is the type of connection rekindled only every few months, grounded on change, one that developed in spurts, but one that ingrained itself into the core of both their beings. As I said, there lingered a very Japanese restraint between them that disabled any directness to shed light to their sentiments. But despite this handicap, the clarity of their emotions is so radiantly felt. Kawabata masterfully brushes the non-verbal strokes of the romantic. The controlled intimacy between the two is so delicious to watch, each one trying to keep their feelings in check, like a chess match, both trying to win but forever stuck in impasse. But what of the girl who comes between them? What role does this Yoko play? I believe that Kawabata used her as the intermediary. She was the reflection of their union, explaining why both are attracted to her yet neither had the power to confront her. She served as the whipping boy between the two lovers. The things that cannot be said to each other they said to her. Taking up residence in Tokyo, being good to the other, to being insane, these were not words directed at her, these were words directed at themselves, at each other. And in the end her very life was the symbol for their bond, when they thought all was lost, a spasm of life renewed them and it was Komako who willed and saved them and finally made the life inside Shimamura feel the gravity of his emotion. I know a lot of people view this tale a tragedy but I beg to differ. I wholeheartedly believe it is the kind where the love stands the test of time. From the wordless i-love-yous, the touchless caresses, the undone kisses, everything is insinuated and nothing is said nor done. And yet love, no matter how repressed or covered, breaks out and consumes like a flame that burns steadily, strongly, through the years. Like the iridescent balls of fire in the Milky Way reminding us of the beautiful past that burns vividly in our memories. Oh how beautiful are the stars!

  • StevenGodin
    2019-03-20 10:54

    Steeped in Japanese tradition Nobel prize winner Yasunari Kawabata has created something almost otherworldly, like it belongs in a completely different time and place. Shimamura travels from the city to a village in the snowy mountains, and while in the company of a young rural geisha called Komako a strange love blossoms, but bound to the rules of the geisha Komako struggles with her emotions towards him and there is always a sense that sadness lingers . The snowy setting really captures the imagination especially at night where there are moments described so heavenly it goes beyond words. Delicate and tranquil in nature with a precise lyrical style it has the feeling of a butterfly being caressed by a gentle breeze. A work of rare and subtle beauty.

  • Richard Derus
    2019-02-26 11:53

    Rating: 3.5* of fiveThe Publisher Says: Nobel Prize winner 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.My Review: Married, bored (but I repeat myself) aesthete, philanderer, and flâneur Shimamura, an aficionado of Western ballet (although he's never seen one), takes a solo trip into Japan's Snow Country. While there in the wildest of boondocks Japan possesses, he meets Komako, probably the world's worst geisha, but apparently a fascinating contrast to all other women for Shimamura. They meet a total of three times in two years. Another woman, Yoko, hovers purposelessly around the narrative until, for no apparent reason, Komako and Shimamura have a fight over his feelings (?) for Yoko, who for some reason nursed Komako's not-quite-fiance Yukio while he died, despite the fact that Komako indentured herself to the (apparently quite unsuitable) career of geisha to pay for his death expenses.Then a fire breaks out and Komako runs into the burning building and saves Yoko while Shimamura stands there and looks up at the sky. Fin. No, seriously.I spent the entire month I was reading this book, all 175pp of it, alternately claustrophobic and bemused. WTF, I kept thinking, why am I still at this rock-pile, trying to winkle out some small purpose to the narrative; then along would come a gem, eg: It was a stern night landscape. The sound of the freezing of snow over the land seemed to roar deep into the earth. There was no moon. The stars, almost too many of them to be true, came forward so brightly that it was as if they were falling with the swiftness of the void.p44, Vintage ed., trans. SeidenstickerOh wow, I thought, and plowed on. And on. And on. Every damn time Komako exhibits what today we'd call a bipolar break exacerbated by alcohol abuse, I'd find myself thinking, "This damned book is Come Back, Little Sheba directed by Kurosawa." Seriously. Shirley Booth did the same bloody role in that movie, only Burt Lancaster (whose role as her husband bewitched by a younger woman was pretty much exactly like Shimamura) is the one who drank.I drank a good bit myself, trudging ever onward, marching off to war with the cross of Jesus going on before; okay, I'm a piss-poor Christian soldier, but you get the sense of futility I was experiencing. Then, it happened.He had stayed so long that one might wonder whether he had forgotten his wife and children. He stayed not because he could not leave Komako nor because he did not want to. He had simply fallen into the habit of waiting for those frequent visits. And the more continuous the assault became, the more he began to wonder what was lacking in him, what kept him from living as completely...All of Komako came to him, but it seemed that nothing went out from him to her. He heard in his chest, like snow piling up, the sound of Komako, an echo beating against empty walls. And he knew he could not go on pampering himself forever. pp154-155So there *is* a point to this hike! And a profound one: The sudden awakening of human feeling in an otherwise dead heart. It was a payoff, and a major one. But did it have to be such a Bataan Death March of a journey to get here? And the stupid-ass last line of the book, which made me so bloody angry that I began raining curses on the lady whose idea it was our book circle read the book...! INFURIATINGLY SOPHOMORICALLY PORTENTOUS, I shrieked. The dog ran away from me. The same dog who, at an earlier moment in my tossing about of the book, expressed her opinion of it by fanging the corner. She calmed down after I did, but really...does one *want* to read this book? I won't do it again. But, on balance and after sleeping on it, I'm glad that I did.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

  • B0nnie
    2019-02-27 07:59

    An image of a young woman reflected in the window of a train. A man watches her. Snow Country opens with a strange, beautiful scene which sets up the story, and leaves hints at what is to follow, A woman’s eye floated up before him. He almost called out in his astonishment. But he had been dreaming, and when he came to himself he saw that it was only the reflection in the window of the girl opposite. Outside it was growing dark, and the lights had been turned on in the train, transforming the window into a mirror. The mirror had been clouded over with steam until he drew that line across it.The story is impressionistic, revealed through glimpses and reflections. To see through a glass darkly: that is how the Kawabata displays this world. The glass is particularly dark for non-Japanese. We obviously miss some nuances in the translation and we are outsiders to the culture. But even in shadow, Snow Country shines brilliantly.In the depths of the mirror the evening landscape moved by, the mirror and the reflected figures like motion pictures superimposed one on the other. The figures and the background were unrelated, and yet the figures, transparent and intangible, and the background, dim in the gathering darkness, melted together into a sort of symbolic world not of this world. Particularly when a light out in the mountains shone in the center of the girl’s face, Shimamura felt his chest rise at the inexpressible beauty of it. Shimamura is the character around which everything happens. Like the eye of a storm, he is more about what is not there. His heart is cold. He sees surfaces, he admires beauty, but he lets nothing in.Let this be his song: http://youtu.be/MCCPRy2pHzYThe plot is simple: Shimamura, a weathy married man, goes three times to a hot springs in the snow country of Japan and has an affair with a geisha named Komako. He is attracted to another woman, Yoko. There's a fire and he returns. No doubt the movie version follows the plot. Does it have the invisible power that circles this slim volume? I rather doubt it.Snow Country (雪国, Yukiguni) 1957. Directed by Shirō Toyoda.Komako is a tragic character, trapped in a life that she did not choose. She loves too strongly, and perhaps more than once.The woman in the reflection, Yoko, has a presence so ambiguous I'm not sure where her heart is. She might be Komako's rival for two different men; she might be the one that Komako loves! or hates!It's complicated. The style of writing in Spring Snow is sparse and startling like a haiku. I will force this metaphor by turning the last sentence into one. Forced and imperfect, all the power of Kawabata remains:his head fell back, and the Milky Way flowed down inside him with a roar

  • Carol
    2019-03-17 12:54

    Snow Country is one exquisite read. It should be on every classics list, and bump a couple of dead Americans or Englishmen to make room near the top of the "top 100 books you must read to be deemed educated". Two tips. First, I recommend that you not do what I did, and read it over a period of 2 weeks - 20 pages here, 12 pages there. I didn't do service to it. And still. 5 stars. Second, I recommend that you read these two friends' reviews because they also are exquisite and tell you everything you need to know about Kawabata's masterpiece.https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  • Cheryl
    2019-03-03 08:45

    Gray, the color of loneliness and dissatisfaction, of a heart torn by guilt and shame. Long, gray winters and snow-covered mountains, snow as high as his knees, snow to bury his secret rendezvous. Gray, the color a person sees, when he thinks the grass is greener elsewhere. Black and white forms gray in Kawabata's fictional creation, where the mountains are "black," but "brilliant with the color of the snow." Perhaps gray is the color of unrequited love, or of "wasted effort."He was conscious of an emptiness that made him see Komako's life as beautiful but wasted, even though he himself was the object of her love; and yet the woman's existence, her straining to live, came touching him like naked skin. He pitied her, and he pitied himself. Dispirited and longing for something that is implied but not spoken, Shimamura courts this symbolic world of darkness and cold, where there is "drab poverty…and yet under it lay an urgent, powerful vitality," and in it he finds "inexpressible" beauty.Snow Country is where he goes to escape the wife and children; he seeks solitude in the land of the hot springs, where he becomes a different person with his hot-spring geisha:"The hot spring geisha must go on entertaining weekend guests, and the pretense that she is an artist and not a prostitute is often a thin one indeed."Komako sees her dreams and happiness within Shimamura, those dreams of the city and its cultured ways, and yet she knows that they can never be, that she can never be more than a geisha. Komako is not the typical geisha. She is educated and refined in her approach, Shimamura notices at first. She reads a lot, and writes reviews within her journal, yet he also notices that her attitude has been plagued by the geisha life. He doesn't want to insult her at first, this gesiha who seems so courtly, so he asks for another geisha, but that geisha only reminds him of all that Komako is not. Soon, he notices how damaged and fragile she really is. Yet Shimamura still has eyes for the stereotypical geisha: Yoko. As they say, there is something about the eyes that impress. I could feel the stillness of Kawabata's words, like the silence of the winter nights he portrays, but they also have sudden flashes of insight. This type of motion and fusion allures, but the dialogue is hollow and centers around random talk between these two characters, and yet the characters never get too close to be felt. I found myself waiting, waiting to be taken deeper into the soul of the story and characters, deeper into theme. Also, if one does not know about the geisha life, one should not expect to get backstory (except for what is in the introduction). Luckily, I've read Memoirs of a Geisha and its nonfiction counterpart, Geisha, a Life.Other readers may find that they enjoy the idea of much being imparted, and much being inferred. I only wish I'd been able to wrap myself within its embrace. Like a Haiku, figurative language and terse prose encapsulate love and desire, loneliness and angst, secrets and lies, tragedy and pain.Gray must be the color of dysphoria and anhedonia.

  • Praj
    2019-03-12 06:05

    Butterflies.....Amusing the lotus pondA child’s delight.Butterflies dab my tears and lotuses kiss my heart. As a child, I used to spend hours gazing the dainty beauties as they flirted with the boisterous flowers. Amid my hearty giggles, the soft buttery wings browsed my cheeks for a pink watermark. I sought to embrace these coquettish insects as I sat on the wet grass. As I lifted one from its flowering sojourn and laid it on my palms, my eyes lit like the time my mother cuddled me after a bad school day. The rosiness of the wings spread on to my palm as it lay there silently in all its glory. It did not fly as I wanted it to. I coaxed it, even twisted my palm, all it did was spiral down on the ground as a rocket descending to its earthly grave. That was the very first and the last day, I had ever caught a butterfly. I still cherish their fragile beauty but from afar; I do not touch their wings for I’m afraid that I might bring an everlasting emptiness in their lives. “Their beauty shines through death”, said the temple priest, as he immaculately entwined the bowed lotuses into a stiff pink garland. The lotus bud that braved the rambunctious dragonflies and thunderstorms only to bloom for a day and the butterfly after months of seclusion burst through the rigid cocoon only to be left as a crimson dust on a child’s palm , was it all a wasted effort? A wasted beauty? If only, the plucked lotuses could whimper and the butterfly could squeal. Does a heart shine brighter with the demise of love?“The train came out of the long tunnel into the snow country. The earth lay white under the night sky”.As the maple leaves bid adieu to the red carp in the lotus pond, the snow comes alive. The earth pristinely glistens underneath a vermillion sky. The snow-laden cedar fiercely guards the persimmon trees near the old moldering house. The chimney smoke twirls in a sensuous way with the steam from the nearby hot-springs. Chimerical decorated beauties parade on the floating world of nightfall. The days are filled with lonely beds and nights with lonely hearts. The melodious strings of a samisen appreciated among icy fingers. The clean air cluttered with translucent worthlessness. The insects wordlessly moan as a heart is cut into two. The secluded cocoon weaves its silken thread artistically, only to emerge in the spring metamorphosing into the finest Chijimi. The snow country is “a place where the maidens live”.Red lips, porcelain face,Songs of crimson snow,Lonely love.It is when the snow touches the earth, can she sense love, her lover’s warm breath, his arms around her trembling waist and his kiss on her blood-stained lips. When the world sleeps, the heart rouses. The footsteps that had been lost underneath the white expanse had resurfaced; the iciness of the winter had renewed the tenderness of love. In the intimacy of love, her heart was beating like couple moths on a lamp, once again fumbling into emptiness. After all, it was a lonely heart drowning in remote emotionalism.A heart is never lonely; a person is, when he stands at the crossroads where the perfect fantasy is blemished with candid realism. Akin to the glass window that bestows a lonesome traveler with the precious company of the moon, only to realize at the end of the journey, it was only solitude that alighted at the station. Shimamura found lonesomeness seductive. The “indefinable air of loneliness” that surrounded Komako, the loneliness that lingered in Yoko’s voice and her piercing eyes and the emptiness that came from Shimamura’s life itself; he stood on the edge of fantasy and reality. Shimamura was always fascinated with untainted mirror images or the illusions that were constructed within his thoughts. The phantasms of an impeccably choreographed ballet were lyrics from heaven, liberated from human errors and where imaginations were without boundaries.“It was like being in love with some he had never seen”.Shimamura treated his women in similar way as the chimerical ballet. He desired the romance of fiery red strokes on a geisha’s lips softening onto a snowy visage, but he sensed emptiness as the face was wiped cleaned. He sought after the call of the naked heart without having to shelter it from the frosty afflictions.“Was it sorrow at finding herself about to sink into deep a relationship with a traveler?”Komako as they call was a splendor of the floating world. Komako was as multifarious as her heart. She observed the bereavement of her heart, though she could never see a dying person. She loved Shimamura even though the latter being skeptical about having to build a liaison with a woman of an “ambiguous position”. Shimamura calls her a “clean beauty” and not a “real beauty”. Kawabata rightly asserts the position of a wholesome beauty. A woman looks utmost beautiful when her face is a melancholic riddle. The snow attains it grandeur when its smooth velvety carpet is tainted by footprints of skiing children. It is in sadness that a beauty luxuriously shines. The priest was right after all, the beauty of the lotuses was magnified in the garland. Kawabata further pushes this symbolic position solidifying its stance when Shimamura later, addresses Komako as “a good woman” correcting his former statement of her being “a good girl”. It is here that the reader views the metamorphosis of Komako’s ‘clean beauty’ into a ‘real one’.Nagauta on a samisenHearts still asleepWasted effort.The fair maidens who as children learn to weave the silken mesh of the exquisite Chijimi cloth, live in months of seclusion and monotony and labor their love into the product that needed months of washing in hot water, hours of massaging by feet and bleaching and when spring finally arrived the Chijimi was proudly displayed as a sweltering body’s ideal companion. The women immersed themselves in hard work at the risk of their fading beauty in the strenuous survival of the secluded snow bound months. Kawabata signifies the production of Chijimi cloth to rationalize the query of ‘a wasted effort’. The said terminology becomes the definite antagonist to the foundation of love and beauty. “A good piece of Chijimi, if it has been taken care of, can be worn quite unfaded a half- century and more after....”Unlike, the weavers whose undying love for the art of weaving leaves a gift of a Chijimi to be cherished for years, Shimamura ponders how his relationship with Komako would leave nothing as definite as Chijimi. Was then the love that harbored in the room where silkworms once bred, a wasted effort of two lonely hearts? Like peonies on a frosty river bank searching for happy puns, Kawabata equates the beauty of human intimacies as the ephemeral weave that do not even have half the shelf-life of an airy Chijimi cloth.“The labor into which a heart has poured its whole love…where will it have it say, to excite and inspire, and when?Only if one could have read Komako’s diary, the one that she had been writing since she was 16, it would have been known whether her loyal love to Shimamura, her skeptical emotions for Yoko, her collection of non-smoked cigarettes and her stance in Yukio’s life were a bunch of wasted efforts. If, Shimamura could have gained a little of his lost honesty in the snow country, only if one could read Yoko’s piercing moist eyes and if someone could have asked the Milky Way , if being outshined by the blazing fire made its brightening splendor a wasted effort. Only if one could? Kawabata in his usual sinister flair speaks about the idea of an exhausted beauty that would not have an unambiguous ending. Komako, going back to the hot-springs , dowsing her heart in sake , Shimamura once again losing his candor in an illusionary other world and the chrysanthemum withering on the snow-caped eaves. White peonies in moonlightEchoes of distilled loveSnow falls.Kawabata symbolizes the snow as the ultimate pictogram of a wasted beauty. The fragile beauty of a snowflake deteriorates at the slightest touch melting into the heat of the fingers. And as the snow accumulates on the ground its opulence is trampled by footprints, shoveled paths and at times the decay of bleeding hearts. Similar to the beauty of love, the exquisiteness of the pristine snow perishes in its own excessiveness.Snow on bald cedarsLetters to obscured leavesMelancholy writes....I have an aversion to happy endings. To me, happy endings are similar to feeding rainbows to Thomas More’s utopian unicorn. Label me weird or even call me absolute idiot, nevertheless it is in sadness, that I feel alive. It is in sadness that I think about the little girl that still resides within me. It is in sadness that I appreciate the rarity of a smile and it is sadness that helps me to value the true essence of happiness. One may never desire it, let alone embrace it, but sadness comes knocking back when one starts to dread happiness. And, when it does penetrate into our lives it brings along infinite silence; the most powerful resource of the mind. At this very moment, I earnestly realized that Kawabata has always been communicating about the silence that overwhelms human sentimentalities and life as we know it. And, I like an ignorant fool was unaware of the very institution that was assisting me not only to read Kawabata’s thoughts but script my own. A silence that can make or break a prosperous soul.The Milky Way, brightest starWhistles the mountain ghostDeparted soul.In his Nobel Prize winning speech, Kawabata emphasized on the works of Daigu Ryokan (1758-1831) and the subsequent source of inspiration for his works. Commenting on the premise of his nominated book, ‘Snow Country' he said, “Ryokan was born in the province of Echigo, the present Niigata Prefecture and the setting of my novel Snow Country, a northerly region on what is known as the reverse side of Japan, where cold winds come down across the Japan Sea from Siberia. He lived his whole life in the snow country and to his "eyes in their last extremity..."It is not surprising to find an ideal ode to Kawabata’s prose from one of Ryokan’s inscribed poems:-Where beauty is, then there is ugliness;where right is, also there is wrong.Knowledge and ignorance are interdependent;delusion and enlightenment condition each other.Since olden times it has been so.How could it be otherwise now?Wanting to get rid of one and grab the otheris merely realizing a scene of stupidity.Even if you speak of the wonder of it all,how do you deal with each thing changing?**(Japanese actors essaying Shimamura and Komako in Shirō Toyoda's 'Snow Country'(1957))

  • Algernon
    2019-03-08 07:39

    - The snow is that deep?- They say that in the next town up the line the schoolchildren jump naked from the second floor of the dormitory. They sink out of sight in the snow, and they move around under it as though they were swimming. A train rushes into the evening, away from the city, toward a distant country, over the mountains, where winter snows are so high people dig tunnels to move from one side of the street to the other and telegraph poles are buried right up to the wires. Here are hot springs where affluent gentlemen retreat for contemplation of the beauty of nature and maybe for a tryst away from family duties in the company of the local geishas. One such gentleman of leisure is Shimamura, a man of private means and artistic inclinations. As the lights in the train compartment are turned on in the evening, the windows become mirrors against the dark background, reflecting Shimamura placid face side by side with the beautiful and intriguing visage of the young girl sitting across from him. Such ordinary moments become, under the expert pen of Kawabata loaded with poetry and meaning, symbols of secret undercurrents of yearning and loneliness that require the rhythms and the conventions of classical haiku poetry to be captured when ordinary words prove themselves insufficient: In the depths of the mirror the evening landscape moved by, the mirror and the reflected figures like motion pictures superimposed one on the other. The figures and the background were unrelated, and yet the figures, transparent and intangible, and the background, dim in the gathering darkness, melted together into a sort of symbolic world not of this world. Particularly when a light out in the mountains shone in the center of the girl's face, Shimamura felt his chest rise at the inexpressible beauty of it. In coming to the snow country, Shimamura leaves his regular life behind, becomes a blank page, a tourist in a foreign land, a spectator of a voiceless Noh drama, absolved of responsibility and worry. The face of the young girl inspires flashbacks from his previous summer, when he became acquainted in one of the mountain villages with a local geisha. Memory and present are superimposed like the double exposure image in the train window, and come together when both Shimamura and the girl descend in the same village from last summer, now waiting for the first heavy snow of winter. Shimamura abandoned himself to the fancy that he had stepped into some unreal conveyance, that he was being borne away in emptiness, cut off from time and place. The monotonous sound of the wheels became the woman's voice. "Snow Country" is a love story of sorts, a melancholy one that transports the reader into the sort of surrealist landscape that mirrors the inner workings of the soul, something between "L'annee derniere a Marienbad" and "Lolita". The comparison to Nabokov may be a little forced, because, beside the surface similarities of a middle aged aestete fascinated by a young woman and a stylistic interest in the turn of a beautiful phrase, there is very little to recognize in the personalities of Shimamura and Humbert Humbert. I found the Japanese man to be cold-hearted and bland, his interest in beauty and in language a sterile and self-serving one. Komako is a mystery that can be unlocked by a reader familiar with the wealth of Japanese symbols and conventions, where the fold of an obi, the angle of the neck bowed in submission, the invitation to tea or to a hot bath tell us more about her life than a thousand words. Shimamura is most probably well equiped to read the signs of the woman's love, but he shies away from commitment, from real life, preferring instead his flights of fancy and his personal comfort.In order to give us a clue to Shimamura's personality, Kawabata explores the artistic interests of the man, a self-described specialist and researcher of western ballet, who has never watched an actual spectacle put on the stage: A ballet he had never seen was an art in another world. It was an unrivaled armchair reverie, a lyric from some paradise. He called his work research, but it was actually free, uncontrolled fantasy. He preferred not to savor the ballet in the flesh; rather he savored the phantasmes of his own dancing imagination, called up by Western books and pictures. It was like being in love with someone he had never seen. If the point was not clear enough, the author takes the reader to the next logical step:... it was also possible that, hardly knowing it, he was treating the woman exactly as he treated the western dance. The contrast between the two lovers could not be made clearer : the woman of the snow country is burning with passion (there are repeated references to her red blushing skin, something that Shimamura finds extremely appealing), while the big city man remains distant and cold hearted, like an enthomologist studying an insect under a magnifying glass. ( Like a warm light, Komako poured in on the empty wretchedness that had assailed Shimamura.as oppossed to:He spent much of his time watching insects in their death agonies. ) The clues to unlocking the secrets in the hearts of Shimamura and Komako are mostly unspoken, relying more on glances, body movements and remarks on the vagaries of the weather over the mountain ranges, nature expressing in its plays of light and shadow the inner turmoil of the actors. A triangle of sorts develops as Shimamura continues to be intrigued by the girl from the train, with the mysterious juxtaposition of Yoko's face over the blurring landscape. The window began to steam over. The landscape outside was dusky, and the figures of the passengers floated up half-transparent. It was the play of that evening mirror again. For a novel relying heavily on metaphor and contemplation, "Snow Country" does a surprisingly effective job of social criticism, revealing the subservient and abused situation of the women of pleasure traditionally welcoming visitors to the hot springs. Komako and Yoko see their youth wasted away in sterile drunken parties with guests from the big city, dreaming of escaping from the isolation of mountains and poverty, of saving money to buy a business or of finding a rich protector for their older years. Komako studies music, reads all the books and magazines she can find and dreams of moving to a high end Tokyo house where women are treated as artists instead of prostitutes. Yoko begs Shimamura to take her away from her village when he finally goes back to the city. As with other themes in the novel, Kawabata finds a metaphor in the traditions of the region to express the drama of the young women. The snow country is famous not only for its 15 feet thick winter blanket of snow or for its hot springs, but also for the rare and much appreciated Chijimi weaving. During the long winter months, young maidens make the whitest and coolest kimono fabric from a special grass growing in the valley. The weaving and the bleaching in the snow of the Chijimi fabric are painstakingly laborious and time consuming. In the old times, the girls proudly presented their cloth as their trusseau or their wedding dresses, but in recent times their wares go to wealthy buyers in the metropolis: The labor into which a heart has poured its whole love - where will it have its say, to excite and inspire, and when? Between Shimamura and Komako, all my sympathy went to the girl Komako, only nineteen years old, yet burdened with a sadness and despair wel beyond her age. At first glance, Komako is weak, easily tempted into drunkennes, inconsistent in her coy reticence to spent the night in a man's room. But all these exterior manifestations of her personality are the role of the geisha that the world has imposed on her. The true Komako is the passionate lover of a mystery man who is dying of consumption, the woman ready to give her heart to a stranger that can take her away from her current life, the singer who studies on her own ancient love ballads for samisen: The air was different. There were no theater walls, there was no audience, there was none of the city dust. The notes went out crystalline into the clean winter morning, to sound on the far, snowy peaks. There is a purity and an innocence in her dissolute existence that deserves better than the analytical and conservative Shimamura is ready to offer, and I for one hoped Komako will see behind the mask of the cosmopolite man and ultimately reject his attentions: She reads all books that travellers abandoned at the inn, fashion and women magazines, and everything else that fell into her hands, indiscriminately. There was something lonely, something sad in it, something that rather suggested a beggar who had lost all desire. It occured to Shimamura that his own distant fantasy on the western ballet, built up from words and photographs in foreign books, was not in its way dissimilar. All my previous remarks might explain why I intellectually appreciate the work of Kawabata, but it falls short of revealing the way some stories reach right into my inner core and take residence there among my personal friends and favorites. Some of the reasons are personal, and deal with my own past mistakes in regard to the women I loved and lost. Others are the echo of a line of poetry that brings together nature and soul, the same wizard's trick that pushed Tarjei Vesaas close to the top of my favorite authors list. Kawabata the poet is probably at his best in this present novel (at least according to other sources and reviewers, I haven't read all his books), and most of the remaining quotes that I have bookmarked in the text are examples of his traditional (haiku) approach to writing: The train moved off into the distance, its echo fading into a sound as of the night wind. Cold air flooded the room. <<<>>><<<>>> It was a stern night landscape. The sound of the freezing of snow over the land seemed to roar deep into the earth. There was no moon. The stars, almost too many of them to be true, came forward so brightly that it was as if they were falling with the swiftness of the void. As the stars came nearer, the sky retreated deeper and deeper into the night color. <<<>>><<<>>> "Here in our mountains,the snow fallseven on the maple leaves." <<<>>><<<>>> All of Komako came to him, but it seemed that nothing went out from him to her. He heard in his chest, like snow piling up, the sound of Komako, an echo beating against empty walls. <<<>>><<<>>>The final lines of the novel are the ones that made me draw a link to Nabokov and his closing lines for "Lolita". In the end, the universe is beauty and sadnes, rust and stardust, ice and fire, mountain and starlight, shining equally on the Japanese and the Russo-American landscapes: And the Milky Way, like a great aurora, flowed through his body to stand at the edge of the earth. There was a quiet, chilly loneliness in it, and a sort of voluptuous astonishment. [...] The Milky Way spread its skirts to be broken by the waves of the mountain, and, fanning out again in all its brilliant vastness high in the sky, it left the mountain in a deeper darkness.

  • Raeleen Lemay
    2019-03-10 08:04

    Not my cup of tea!

  • Mariel
    2019-03-11 13:52

    I read the other reviews of Snow Country before I read the book. I'm nervous to look at any more right now, before I begin writing my own review (erm technically I'm writing it right now). It's like when you mishear lyrics in a song and find out the line that killed you wasn't what they were singing at all. Lights turned on and it's not as beautiful when it's the real world in day time? So the introductions I've read... I didn't read Snow Country as a love triangle. I don't want to. Yukio Mishima's introduction of The House of the Sleeping beauties says this: "There would seem to be, among the works of great writers, those that might be called of the obverse or the exterior, their meaning on the surface, and those of the reverse or interior, the meaning hidden behind; or we might liken them to exoteric and esoteric Buddhism. In the case of Mr. Kawabata, Snow Country falls in the former category, while "House of the Sleeping Beauties" is most certainly an esoteric masterpiece. In an esoteric masterpiece, a writer's most secret, deeply hidden themes make their appearance. Such a work is dominated not by openness and clarity but by a strangling tightness. In place of limpidness and purity we have density; rather than the broad open world we have a closed room. The spirit of the author, flinging away all inhibitions, shows itself in its boldest forms." He sure sounds smart and shit. But fuck that. (Sorry to keep picking on you Mishima! I'm going to read two more of your books soon.) I say that Snow Country is attaching oneself to a significant expression in life or death desperate hopes that it is going to light up the unreal times. I really, really wish I could be poetic about this. I can't hold it in my hands. The most is maybe holding onto the burned on images on the backs of my eyeballs. Soaring (with will or no) on the images/ideas/brain waves and the tops of the life, your house, everyone you know and don't know, everything is seen all down below. It all looks small as shit too. Floating, or swimming, against the tide. Going to where you've already been? What's exterior about that? Only the need for it... I don't know how to connect the unreal times that feel realer than most else to things that I CAN see in my life. Leave Mishima alone, Mariel! (I'd post a photo of him looking sad if I were the Mariel reviewer of two months ago.) Shimamura came into money. He doesn't really have to do anything like work, or think about his wife and kids. I see him as a guy who lives for those eyelid image times. He wouldn't want them to be burned on. If anything, he is a tight rope walker of avoiding anything burned in favor of, say, a haunting melody that would bring forth vague nostalgia for times past. Enough to hurt just a little. (I like it when it's a little cold because I feel more alive being concious of my skin. To myself I call it the slightly cold feeling. Mariel circa age 15!) Yoko is uncomplicated (to Shimamura!) eyelid image with a promise of more gravity. She could possibly pull to something. When Shimamura first sees her she is taking care of a dying man on a train. It's only a moment, a fleeting idea, in his mind. Nothing to him but that moment (and everything to Yoko. Probably the foundation of everything to Komako the geisha, as well. With this man, at least, they are not observers). Yoko appears in moments tied to nothing but more weightier ways of floating (a mother's embrace, not dying alone...). Shimamura and the geisha Komako have a relationship like I feel I have with my stories, songs, a walk through the rain after a storm (my absolute favorite times ever). Shimamura feels about everything that is Komako's life is a "wasted effort". These are not heavy floating times, yet feel more dangerous all the same for being less able to pin down to a single idea. Shimamura has difficulty recalling Komako when they are apart. Her wasted efforts are mine. Lots and lots of staying up all night scribbling impressions on something like Snow Country that touched me. No, it isn't going to change anything. The point is the effort. I wonder if Yoko made an effort... I feel more wonder about Komako's dreaming because there is potential in not knowing what it will look like down at the bottom. Komako feels about Yoko that she is the weight on her chest. I know the weight on the chest. It's the miscommunication. Guilt for maybe owing each other something more than moments. Shimamura is afraid of being tied and Komako is very much tied to the other woman because of a mutual past they share with the dying man from the train (the past isn't clear). I'd call it the fear of looking down if you're afraid of heights. That fear is probably why they live so much in wasted efforts/unreal times... The wasted effort isn't too long. But what about the time inbetween? I don't know if it is knocked wind out of me that Komako was really in love with Shimamura. He's the wasted effort, right? The unreal life of travel (as he's a tourist). The rules and regulations that come with the territory of being a geisha. It's a stage play, right? And the stage lights are the strange twilights casting all kinds of shadows of ideals to become wasted efforts in the morning. Yeah, I can see a lot from up here and I did fall to my death when the morning came. Maybe they shouldn't have tried to ride that too high... (Poetical people are so lucky. They can make these wasted efforts for themselves whenever they want.) I've been craving more Kawabata.

  • Florencia
    2019-03-06 06:59

    [ ▷ ◻ ] Bashō's evocative haiku is referenced by the end of the book, as one of the characters contemplates small drops of fire that, in contrast to the quiet atmosphere of a country made of snow, were floating in the air, ablaze with fury and disenchantment, sheltered by the absolute splendour of the Milky Way. The sublimeness of a firmament under which existence manifests itself in the shape of beauty and sadness. As always, Bashō depicted an entire universe in three lines. Trifling matters and existential crisis coexist under the breathtaking vastness of a starry night. They live, they breathe; quietly, in raptures. They are likely to sink in the rough, turbulent sea. Tolerating the company of others or facing a self-imposed solitude, like the disgraced inhabitants of Sado Island. Above all these relevant and mundane issues of ours, one finds the Heaven’s River. The Milky Way. Where everything is silence. A distant blanket with scintillating pearls scattered all over it. An ethereal image replete with possibility; with hope. Nature's attempt at pacifying our tantrums and mitigating our misery.That is how I feel about Kawabata's prose. His minimalistic and poignant style. His sincere and nostalgic voice. A unique melody on a quiet night amid a stream of twinkling stars. His words are my night sky, my via lactea.It is rather strange to look at this book and see something I hold dear since it has some condiments I dislike (hence, the absence of a perfect rating). Primarily, a love story. A romanticized love affair. An apparently cold married man with a couple of women in his head. Women giving everything they have, obviously. A dramatic display of each emotion. An abyss of vulnerability. An obstinate behaviour that doesn't even consider relinquishing everything that is destined to failure. A relationship that was meant to perish in front of the whitened mountains, before it even started.Snow Country is ready to obliterate any vestige of passion that may disturb its gelid landscape. That is where she belongs. He looks at her from another side of the country. And thus they will remain, concealing any stubborn tear that may wish to appear.That being said, this novel also brims over nostalgia. The delights of nature. A simple kind of beauty. A Japanese kind of beauty, pure, unadulterated; one that refuses to fall under the spell of Western modernity; desperately trying to preserve its traditions and values. The world of a geisha. Lesson after lesson on how to entertain others with a broken heart. Seemingly incidental elements that become substantial meditations on the world around us when touched by Kawabata's majestic pen. An avalanche of introspection roaring down a mountainside, seeking for one's attention. Or complete annihilation. Couples and every unexpressed emotion that abided by fear's wishes and satiated their pride. Everywhere.In any case, this writer's deeply poetic language was fundamental for me to actually enjoy this book. It saved this story from being trite and overly sentimental. There is an imaginative use of the word to convey widely known sentiments. The air was pervaded by the scent of vivid reminiscences; words uttered in an elegiac tone that never felt so alive.Paraphrasing Byron, the characters of this novel were two parallel lines prolonged to infinity side by side but never to meet, but that could not refrain from trying. One can't help wondering if it is worth letting someone in when parting is already on the horizon; latent, existing......after all, the Milky Way illuminating an entire world made of snow might be the only thing some people have in common. Or, perhaps, the reason of it all might rely on the fact that, despite any complication or obstacle that these characters encountered, they were able to elude – for a season, for an instant – Dostoyevsky's idea of hell. That may also happen under the comforting light of the sun.April 18, 16* Also on my blog.** Photo credit: Milky Way Panorama and Longs Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado / Glenn Randall via this blog.Maiko Snow Resort looking towards Yuzawa town via Snow Japan.

  • Tony
    2019-03-20 12:38

    I view Asian Art through Western eyes. Not that I have a choice, I guess. That process enhances, even as it limits.I love the beauty, the intricacy of Japanese woodblock prints, but I fear I’m seeing them superficially. Am I missing something, I wonder, if only a nuance? And Murakami. Even though his works owe much to Bulgakov and The Beatles, there is a descent from Japanese forerunners and the history and culture of those islands that probably – okay, certainly - eludes me.Once an artist hits ‘send’ though, his work is no longer his own. Nor his culture’s own. And if a work is great enough, then it crosses divides, regardless of the creator’s intentions. It becomes a living thing. And fair game.So I started Snow Country. I understood it to be a seminal Japanese work, and perhaps a partial answer to the question, “Whither Murakami?” A man, Shimamura, a dilettante, goes to an isolated mountain hotspring in the snow country. His companion there is the Geisha Komako. Shimamura returns again and again, but we learn little if anything about his feelings for Komako. Not a word, either, about his wife and children home in Tokyo. No existential torture for him. It is hard to see what Komako sees in him. But her anguish is palpable. A third character, Yoko, has a beautiful voice, and beautiful eyes. She is often seen in reflection, in a mirror, a window. And light reflects off the mountain and across her face. It is a triumvirate that will not end well, this much we know.This seemed minimalist to me. Like those woodblock prints. But I don’t like all woodblock prints. Perhaps I was not meant to get this.Then I read it through my Western eyes. How like Hans Castorp Shimamura seemed, climbing to that mountain resort to escape the questions below. As he picked up a dead insect to throw it out, he sometimes thought for an instant of the children he had left in Tokyo.Like Magic Mountain, Snow Country was written between the World Wars (written between 1934 and 1937 with a final installment added in 1947). Like Mann, did Kawabata have his artist’s antennae up?The symbolism certainly seems so. But it was only apparent to me at the ending. Hopefully without spoiling such plot as there is, let me say that there is a massive cocoon-warehouse fire. There are withering chrysanthemums and Shimamura could feel the red over the starlit snow.But we don’t like Shimamura, who lets things happen. We like Komako and her tortured soul. And, Komako struggled forward as if she bore her sacrifice, or her punishment. Her sacrifice, her punishment, is Yoko.------- ------- -------One delightful little thing. Komako keeps a diary, several volumes deep by the time of our story. But it’s not a diary as we might understand the word. Komako is a reader, and she uses her diary to write reviews of the books.”You write down your criticisms, do you?”“I could never do anything like that. I just write down the author and the characters and how they are related to each other. That is about all.”“But what good does it do?”“None at all.”“A waste of effort.”“A complete waste of effort,” she answered brightly.Indeed.

  • Jibran
    2019-02-27 13:46

    A metaphor of rotting and unappreciated beauty. Deep in the frozen reaches of the Snow Country a Geisha waits out her days for a man who would give her a life of love and dignity that she believes is her right.Geishas in the Japanese society were connoisseurs of culture and art; they exerted political influence through their patrons; they decided the fates of people who desired their services; they made and broke marriages – they were a soft power centre in the Japanese society.But in the backwater of the Snow Country only a perception of this power remains. The Geishas there live under crushing poverty and hopeless surrender, maintaining a façade of self-importance but in reality are no more than prostitutes offering affordable services to travelling men.This novel is a heart-rending portrayal of that life, told through the story of a Snow Country Geisha, Komako, who meets a rich idler from Tokyo, Shimamura, who comes to the town to enjoy the hot springs the area is famous for. Shimamura knows immediately when he sees Komako that she is unlike other Geishas of the town. They develop a relationship but it never goes anywhere. The rich city idler is as though unable to reciprocate the love of Komako who, despite something special in her, is only a hot spring Geisha in his ignoble eyes. He tries to involve himself emotionally but can’t stop himself from looking down upon her.It reads like a dream with disjointed and abruptly changing scenes fusing into one another. The writer's stylistic method is to juxtapose two opposing and contrasting elements: light against dark, sound against silence, being a sex selling Geisha who has a clean and fresh countenance, the whistle of the teapot against the continuous sound of the silence, the shine of the snowy peaks against the darkness of the room....and there are beautiful evocations of the stark beauty of the Snow Country and the frugality of its people, their lifestyle, travails and their aspirations. I loved the way the story builds up into high emotion in so imperceptible a way, without any loud noise-making plot twists. All in all a terrible and disheartening story which is so beautiful that it is almost lonely and sad.--Originally posted 03/01/15

  • Eddie Watkins
    2019-03-16 09:41

    This is the story of three different trips by Shimamura up into the Snow Country of Japan. Each trip occurs in a different season, and each in turn reflects his deepening involvement with a country geisha in a small village. While journeying by train there for his second visit he is struck by the beauty of a fellow passenger who by chance is traveling to the same village. As Shimamura gets more deeply involved, at least physically, with the geisha, he remains deeply intrigued by the other woman. Her distance from him, and his lack of knowledge of her, deepens his attraction; yet all the while he remains detached from both, appraising them remotely through a scrim of intellectual aestheticism, even as the depths of the geisha’s world are irrevocably being changed by him. The second woman remains on the fringe of the narrative, though her involvement in the geisha’s life is slowly revealed. In the end, inevitably, as he’s a family man and had no intention of forging a permanent relationship, he leaves the village for the last time. His leaving coincides with the apparent death by fire of the other woman, and the revelation of how deeply the geisha was attached to her. Shimamura drifts through the narrative safely ensconced within his own fantasies and projections, yet nevertheless he manages to grasp the trailing fringe of fleeting authentic love and beauty; human love and beauty. If he doesn’t actually cross the abyss from pure abstracted aesthetic appreciation to an appreciation of the raw human fires at the heart of aesthetics, from a contemplation of distant stars to the reflective gleam in the eye of the woman before him, he does hear the cries of life’s entangled souls traversing that abyss. But do those cries only serve to deepen (by saddening with subtle tragedy) his solipsistic aestheticism? Only Shimamura knows in the end, and isn’t that how it must be? doesn’t that only serve to make more profound the intensity of encountering the sublime, the fact that we can’t fully grasp it, that we can’t even understand it?One summer when I was nine I developed a deep attachment to a girl who was about my age. Even then I couldn’t specify why I was so attracted to her. Her exoticism helped, as she was from California, and California was as exotic as it got for a young small town Delawarian. She was living with her aunt for the summer, so consequently she knew no one, had no friends; not that she showed any signs of loneliness. I spent all my childhood summers at the pool – the mornings at swim team practice, the afternoons playing in the water and eating Nekot crackers and lemon ice. What a lovely carefree time it was. The summers felt endless, not that I even bothered to feel that they were endless, let alone think it. Thoughtlessly they were so.The diving boards were a big attraction for kids, but while I was a very good swimmer the boards terrified me. On a good day I had the courage to walk very carefully out to the end of the board, and then without disturbing the board too much I would jump (never dive!) into the deep end. One of the reasons I admired this girl was her fearless diving ability. Ever the voyeur I would swim to the edge of the deep end and pretend to play with the strand of plastic floats separating it from the rest of the pool while she dove. And when she hit the water I would mirror her by going under myself where I watched her blurry form trailing bubbles.She was blonde, slender, tan, and very cute; but my attraction wasn’t physical in that way. Even now I can’t say what attracted me to her. Maybe it was her solitary grace, her silent solitary grace and confidence, as I was a terribly shy and socially awkward child. While she exuded confidence, I don’t ever remember hearing her talk. All I remember is her body arcing off the board and into the water, and her wet walk back to the ladder and back up on the board, and diving again. An eternal cycle. I could’ve watched her all summer, and in my memory it’s as if I did, as if I spent all summer with my head just above water level watching her. She totally consumed me, but as summer neared the end she left town; went back to California.I must’ve told my mom about my attraction to this girl. At the time I rarely spoke myself, even to my family, so even if I only mentioned her once my mom’s curiosity would’ve been piqued. My mom must’ve known of my attraction to this girl because that fall, just a couple months beyond the end of summer, she told me that soon after returning to California this girl died in a house fire. I was devastated, shocked really, shocked by how the intensity of my memory of her contrasted with the fact that she no longer existed. Even now, as I think of her, my memory touches on the eternal; I see her bright and dripping body in an endless dive, lit by a sun that never sets.I can’t remember her name. I never even spoke to her. Yet she’ll inhabit my mind until I die. Am I now and was I then living only in my own fantasies and projections? Most certainly. But that in no way detracts from the profundity of my love for her, from my apprehension of her grace and beauty. My solipsism most definitely crossed the abyss and contacted authentic, even eternal, love and beauty.

  • Paquita Maria Sanchez
    2019-03-16 12:53

    In slow motion until the point of contact, this novella quite simply and mercilessly spends its energy reserves back-handing you with the its last few pages. I am getting ahead of myself, but it is important that you know this fact. I hear a lot of trash talked on Japanese novels and films from time to time (excluding those centering on martial arts, of course), of how they are slow, simple, boring, plotless, and where are the explosions, anyway? Well...First off, I think that's a lot of hooey. Doesn't life consist of an exorbitant amount of mundanities sprinkled with an occasional bit of the bizarre? Don't you want your art to simulate, illuminate and comment upon reality, at least every once in a while? Second, there are thrills to be had in this slow-burning, somber story if you could just hold your freaking horses for a minute, cowboy. Regardless, the Action is reserved for the finale; it's the sword in the guts of the story's body, the last touches on what is otherwise a, yes, simple, honest portrayal of human desire. The majority of the text illustrates the untethered relationship that develops over a series of years--depicted through seasonally-themed vignettes--between a Geisha and a married vacationer. As with any other entanglement (to those who aren't fooling themselves), once intimacy is established, emotions begin to steep and complicate what should be, in theory, a simple exchange of, hrrrrm, cash for services. In short, just because a relationship is stated as following such and such rules ( you know, "casual," "open," "sexwork," etc), that does not mean that human nature won't eventually rear its many ugly Hydra heads. Regarding the conflicting urges to possess and set free a loved one, Kawabata manages to be poignant without beating you over the head with oversimplified bits of obvious, sappy nonsense. In fact, it is downright uncomfortable at times. To portray the growing complexity of the relationship, Kawabata moves from calm, serene daytime exchanges between the Geisha and her client to 4 a.m. verbal wrestling matches where said Geisha is sauced to the nines and expressing her real emotions via standard drunken repetition before catching and attempting to correct her grievous error in the power struggle that is romance. Back and forth between these poles she moves, and the client's lust and disgust for her shift accordingly. If you know anything about that (I personally have no idea, and am definitely not guilty of telling someone they are the best and they completely suck in practically the same breath three days ago), then you will find some catharsis in this narrative. In short, if you are human, you will find some catharsis in this narrative. Or anyway, it will at least have to do until Angelina Jolie shows up at your door to inform you that you are the child of a professional killer, and it is your destiny to suddenly become a Matrix-worthy assassin and live a life of action-adventure and excessive ass-getting. You know, reality.

  • Jenny
    2019-02-28 06:02

    Ένα βιβλίο που μαγεύει,όχι με την υπόθεση αλλά με τη γραφή!Υπόθεση:Ο Σιμαμούρα πηγαινοέρχεται από την πόλη(όπου είναι η μόνιμη κατοικία του κι η βαρετή ζωή του) στο βουνό,σ'ένα χωριό στη "χώρα του χιονιού",όπου τον περιμένει υπομονετικά κάθε φορά η Κομάκο.Κάθε φορά που βρίσκουν ο΄ένας τον άλλον παρατηρούν τί έχει αλλάξει και τί έχει μείνει ίδιο στη ζωή τους,στο περιβάλλον τους,στα συναισθήματά τους.Ο τρόπος που γράφει ο Καβαμπάτα είναι υπέροχος.Μου άρεσε ιδιαίτερα η ενσωμάτωση των εποχών,και της φύσης γενικότερα,στα γεγονότα και οι περιγραφές (πράγμα που πάντα εκτιμώ,γιατί συνήθως με κουράζουν).Οι χαρακτήρες είναι άνθρωποι που δεν είναι εύκολο να καταλάβει κανείς,αν και χαρακτηρίζονται από αναπάντεχη ειλικρίνεια-ειδικά η Κομάκο!Θα βρείτε αρκετά διάσπαρτα "διαμαντάκια" ποιητικών εκφράσεων-είτε του ίδιου του Καβαμπάτα,που βγάζει έναν λυρισμό υπέροχο σε ορισμένα σημεία,είτε αποσπάσματα κάποιων γιαπωνέζικων ποιημάτων,που διάβασα με μεγάλη χαρά.Το βιβλίο είναι ό,τι πρέπει για όσους θέλουν να έρθουν σε επαφή με την ιαπωνική κουλτούρα και ζωή του περασμένου αιώνα,αλλά και για όσους εκτιμούν ένα βιβλίο χωρίς δράση και ιδιαίτερη πλοκή,που εμβαθύνει όμως σε συναισθήματα και κρατάει αμείωτο το ενδιαφέρον με μοναδικό όπλο τις λέξεις.Αφαιρώ ένα αστεράκι,γιατί στην αρχή με κούρασε λίγο μέχρι να συνηθίσω τους ρυθμούς του.[Προτείνω να διαβάσετε και το [book:Το σπίτι των κοιμισμένων κοριτσιών|16122259] του Καβαμπάτα,που προσωπικά μου άρεσε περισσότερο!]

  • RK-ique
    2019-03-19 05:46

    "In the depths of the mirror the evening landscape moved by, the mirror and the reflected figures like motion pictures superimposed one on the other. The figures and the background were unrelated, and yet the figures, transparent and intangible, and the background, dim in the gathering darkness, melted together into a sort of symbolic world not of this world. Particularly when a light out in the mountains shone in the center of the girl’s face, Shimamura felt his chest rise at the inexpressible beauty of it."An issue I have with writing a review of 'Snow Country" is that Yasunari Kawabata's writing is so full of luscious images that I fear that my own words will seem both empty or, worse, acts of despoilment. To reduce the book to a mere story is to rob it of it's richness. To try to put the book into an idiom closer to Kawabata's would seem to push me towards nothing but quotes. In that case, the reader of my review would do better to read the book.Indeed, I do not generally write summaries of books I read in my reviews. Nor do I put in a great many quotes (unless, of course, the quotes serve to make a point, but in this case, as noted above, I should have nothing but quotes). Besides, there are some excellent reviews of the book on GR. (You can stop here and read some of them if you like.)What I shall try to do is, without using a myriad of quotes (just a few), give my reader should there be one, a sense of what I see as one of the most moving touches Kawabata has given to the reader. It is a lesson in subtlety, the kind of thing any aspiring writer would be pleased to have in their tool bag. For within his great scene building, where Kawabata, in lieu if wasting words describing what is said and done by his characters, gives us a picture in words which, as a picture is wont to do in the common lore, "is worth a thousand words." So Kawabata uses words to draw incredible pictures which, in turn, give motion, emotion, and, perhaps even, a sense of intimacy with the reader which carries us to some deeper understanding of ourselves. Perhaps.So, to set the stage: we have a man, Shimamura, who travels to 'snow country' on vacation (it being taken for granted in Japan that men's vacations in snow country often involve tristes of sorts with; Komaka, a 'mountain geisha', a lower standard of geisha who can be found at snow country resorts. This particular young woman, much younger than the man, is both, inexplicably attracted to the man and on a path of self destruction. The man cares for the woman but is, as we are told, a rich 'dilettante'. He really has know idea as to how to engage with anyone or anything in a meaningful way."He was conscious of an emptiness that made him see Komako's life as beautiful but wasted, even though he himself was the object of her love; and yet the woman's existence, her straining to live, came touching him like naked skin. He pitied her, and he pitied himself."They are locked into a vehicle which can only end in disaster because neither has the means to take any action.Here I want to go off on my tangential look at the story main point. We know, without being told much, that, Shimamura, who makes more than one trip to see Komaka, is married with children. It is clear that the family does not enter into the relationship between Shimamura and Komaka. They simply do not exist in this scenario. So, one may ask, why do they exist at all?Kawabata does a strange thing at the beginning of Part Two of the book, the beginning of another of Shimamura's trips to the resort. He starts the first paragraph by briefly introducing the wife:"It was the egg-laying season for moths, Shimamura's wife told him as he left Tokyo, and he was not to leave his clothes hanging in the open."Do we then continue into a conversation between husband and wife? Perhaps some discussion of who she is or what else she is doing .. Perhaps packing his clothes? Not at all. The paragraph continues,"There were indeed moths at the inn. Five or six large corn-colored moths clung to the decorative lantern under the eaves, and in the little dressing-room was a moth whose body was large out of all proportion to its wings."And in the next paragraph the wife is completely forgotten."The windows were still screened from the summer. A moth so still that it might have been glued there clung to one of the screens. Its feelers stood out like delicate wool, the color of cedar bark, and its wings, the length of a woman's finger, were a pale, almost diaphanous green. The ranges of mountains beyond were already autumn-red in the evening sun. That one spot of pale green struck him as oddly like the color of death. The fore and the after wings overlapped to make a deeper green, and the wings fluttered like thin pieces of paper in the autumn wind."And so it continues, the focus has shifted to the moth, who proves to be dead, "and it fell like a leaf from a tree". What I believe that Kawabata has done here is to show us, first the uncaring nature of Shimamura. He manages to make no connection back to his wife through her words of warning. Her caring has not touched him. Secondly, while the reader, at least I, is still looking for more on the wife, we are transported immediately to the inn and all it entails. In the paragraph above there is a certain foreboding. The words are of an impending end: autumn, evening, pale, the color of death. I am certain that it is no accident that Kawabata has introduced the wife only to immediately forget her. The suddenness of her appearance and disappearance can only be intended to point to Shimamura's dissolution. Indeed, as we already know, trips of this sort seem to be common in Kawabata's Japan. As in Kawabata's book "A Thousand Cranes", husbands having affairs is put forward as destructive to individuals, wives and children, and to society. Kawabata is here associating the whole 'custom' of 'snow country' vacations with impending destruction. He never says anything directly critical. He only leaves us with images._______________________________Have fallen into a hole. Will write review when I find my way out. Good book.

  • João Fernandes
    2019-03-16 10:52

    (Mt. Fuji, Japan)"It was a stern night landscape. The sound of the freezing of snow over the land seemed to roar deep into the earth. There was no moon. The stars, almost too many to be true, came forward so brightly that it was as if they were falling with the swiftness of the void."'Snow Country' has one of the most beautifully descriptive proses I've read. It is a lot like the snow it spends so much time on: an intrinsic feeling of purity and truth runs in Kawabata's words, and the picture the Nobel winner paints is almost surreal.The tale of a love triangle in the snowy Japanese mountainside, Snow Country tells of Shimamura, a married man involved in a long term relationship with an alcoholic geisha in a rural area of Japan, bearing the craziness of his lover and what he calls her 'wasted effort', in him and in her passions. In contrast, the mysterious Yoko appears to him a calm and peaceful figure in the midst of this unusual situation. It's a wonderful short book, filled with beauty in almost its every sentence, and as a nugget I'll throw in what is the most empathetic line a college student can read in the month of October:"I'm not drunk. Who says I'm drunk? Ah, it hurts, it hurts. It's just that it hurts. I know exactly what I'm doing. Give me water, I want water. I mixed my drinks, that was my mistake. That's what goes to your head. It hurts."

  • Nelson Zagalo
    2019-02-26 05:51

    Primeiro fui atraído pela capa, depois pelo autor e o seu nobel. As primeiras páginas não me inspiraram, passei para outros livros, entretanto o local e o ambiente, a terra de neve, não se descolavam da minha ideia, por isso resolvi voltar a ele. A "Terra de Neve" não é um livro fácil, porque não é muito acessível a ocidentais. O livro relata uma realidade muito própria do Japão e nos anos 1940. De modo que temos de aceitar que a nossa leitura dificilmente poderá assimilar todos, ou uma grande parte, dos sentidos. A cultura japonesa é muito forte e densa, de modo que conseguir captar os vários níveis de leitura que Kawabata cria é bastante complicado.Ainda assim, e como dizia acima, o mundo de Kawabata impressiona, cola-se a nós, sente-se a melancolia ali e dá-se-lhe as mãos. Os personagens agem em consonância, já que raramente estão certos do que pretendem ou como pretendem. Uma irregularidade que funciona na mistificação do universo do livro, que por meio do estranhamento intensifica a nossa melancolia. Terra de Neve fala-nos assim do isolamento, do amor e do outro, do dever e do respeito. A vida do homem que sai para enganar a mulher e família, e a vida da Geisha que não tem essa família. Uma relação que assenta na incerteza de possibilidade, e um relato que se agarra aos sentires esparsos que daí emanam.

  • Nandakishore Varma
    2019-02-27 14:05

    Most of my friends from Kerala would be familiar with the film Thoovanathumbikal by the famous Malayalam writer and director P. Padmarajan. The film narrates the story of the love of a young-man-about-town, Jayakrishnan, for two girls: Radha, a prim-and-proper Indian miss and Clara, a prostitute. Padmarajan uses the two women as symbols for two facets of femininity (and therefore, of life) - one light and chaste and the other dark and mysterious. I was reminded of this movie all the time while reading The Snow Country. Of course, apart from the basic similarity in theme, the stories have no relation. Kawabata's protagonist, the idler Shimamura, is a dilettante who dabbles in occidental dance without actually having watched a single performance. He approaches women with the same superficial attitude. In Japan's snow country, the part of the island which falls west of the central mountain range and is caressed by the winds from Siberia, Shimamura has an affair with a geisha named Komako. For him, it's just a way to pass time - but she is in right earnest.One can see it is doomed from the start.Shimamura's attraction towards Komako is in some way intrinsically tied up with his obsession for Yoko, the nurse attending the terminally ill son of the music teacher Komako is living with. However, it is hinted that she is much more than a nurse: in fact, her attachment to this sick boy leads to the formation of a love-hate bond between Yoko and Komako, as the latter was also enamoured of him once and embraced the profession of geisha to support him. In another fashion, Shimamura is also tied to the two women - one physically, and the other in the realm of imagination.What raises this novel above the humdrum level of the run-of-the-mill romance is Kawabata's use of metaphor and the way the novel is structured. There is very little philosophising. The language is very pictorial, and in some places, one can easily make a movie in one's own mind. I was especially entranced by the description of the reflection of Yoko's eyes in the train window; and the juxtaposition of the same scene with Komako's reflection in the misted mirror in Shimamura's hotel room. Also, the descriptions reminded me of Japanese prints of the Japan Sea and Fujiyama with their spare lines and evocative visual impact.The "snow country" here is very real; and Komako, the "hot spring geisha" (considered little more than a prostitute by other geisha, if one is to believe Wikipedia), an expression of it. She is alternatively hot and cold, and red and white - drunk and wanton in the night, cold and aloof during daytime - the symbol of a landscape enticing and forbidden at the same time. This is the threshold of the Goddess where man must stand as an outsider forever. She is as unattainable as Yoko, yet somehow interlinked (view spoiler)[(a link finally sealed symbolically with fire, as Komakao carries Yoko from the burning movie house) (hide spoiler)].But the story somehow did not speak to me. I think it's entirely personal, an no reflection on the quality of the novel - however, as rankings are personal, I can give this only three stars.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

  • brian
    2019-03-05 11:53

    at tosh's prodding i'd been on something of a japanese kick in '07, burned through mishima, dazai, tanizaki, murakami, etc. -- when deciding which kawabata to tackle, charles forwarded an interview in which vollmann mentioned snow country as in his all-time top ten. well, i read it on the flight from florida to california and stumbled off that plane utterly & totally flattened. snow country. whew. snow country. sad and enigmatic and spare and packed with some of the most odd & lyrical images i've ever read... i've gotta re-read this book. soon. gotta chase that tremendous feeling. i see that kawabata's got a book called beauty and sadness... could've been the alternate title to snow country. or mebbe the alternate title of my memoirs...?

  • Tsung
    2019-03-09 11:00

    But even more than at the diary, Shimamura was surprised at her statement that she had carefully catalogued every novel and short story she had read since she was fifteen or sixteen. The record already filled ten notebooks."You write down your criticisms, do you?""I could never do anything like that. I just write down the author and the characters and how they are related to each other. That is about all.""But what good does it do?""None at all.""A waste of effort."Wait a minute! That can’t be true about Goodreads eh?He knew well enough that for her it was in fact no waste of effort, but somehow the final determination that it was had the effect of distilling and purifying the woman's existence.Ok. That sounds a bit better. But what if one day the Goodreads server crashed, everything was lost and no backup. After “Snow Country”, am I distilled and purified?(As an aside, I could not bring myself to finish the deviant “House of the Sleeping Beauties”, which incidentally has a relevant comment from Shimamura in “Snow Country”, "You were staring at me, then? I'm not sure I like having people stare at me when I'm asleep.")“Snow Country” is exquisitely written. The prose is beautiful and enthralling. The story is ripe in metaphors and imagery: the mountain snow scenery, the train journeys, the images both through and reflected in the windows, the Chijimi. All the senses are titillated: colours (white, black, blue, green, red, yellow), songs (voice, samisen), touch (women), taste and smell.There is not much going on plot wise, but the characters are deep and intriguing.Shimamura is searching for the perfect composite woman, not a whole woman who is perfect. I’m reminded a little bit of Spike Jonze’s movie “Her”. He has a real world or social wife in Tokyo, a companion in Komako and an attraction for Yoko. But his love for either of the latter two can never materialise. He may take a train out to the Snow Country to find love, but he is never going to reach his destination. The Snow Country is cold, but the heart is even colder.And the more continuous the assault became, the more he began to wonder what was lacking in him, what kept him from living as completely. He stood gazing at his own coldness, so to speak. He could not understand how she had so lost herself. All of Komako came to him, but it seemed that nothing went out from him to her.The geisha culture is not easy to understand or to embrace. I think Komako wants nothing more than to not be a geisha. She is trapped, conflicted and confused, beautiful but wasted. She knows that she can never have a relationship with Shimamura, and I am not convinced that she truly loved him either.Then there is Yoko who is a pair of piercing eyes and a dulcet voice.She darted a glance at him with those beautiful eyes, so bright that he felt impaled on them.That voice, so beautiful it was almost lonely, lingered in Shimamura's ears as if it were echoing back from somewhere in the snowy mountains.If the relationship between Shimamura and Komako was complicated, the relationship between Komako and Yoko was impenetrable. While there was clear competition between the two women, the rest of it was nuanced.And finally some other quotes:“The guest who doesn't say he's fond of you, and yet you somehow know is-he's the one you have pleasant memories of. You don't forget him, even long after he's left you, they say. And he's the one you get letters from."The labor into which a heart has poured its whole love-where will it have its say, to excite and inspire, and when?Three stars because the story seems empty and incomplete. But still worth admiring it as a work of art.

  • Stephen P
    2019-02-26 09:52

    The impending and daunting snow to come (Kavan?) hovers as a dark and bleak foreshadowing. The vital girl he sees as unmarried but with the train moving now appears only as a reflection in the window across. She is tending to an ashen man. Drifting into sleep the woman he is traveling to visit is hardly seen at all. She is reduced to a view of an eye on the misted window. Everything is remarking a distance he experiences the world from, and a creeping shadow of death?My initial impressions of what is referred to as Kawabata’s masterpiece stood as daunting shadows unfolding. What followed were his masterpieces. It felt as a number of set pieces each brushed to a perfection that if taken by themselves deserved museum visitors to line up to view under the clarity of a clear glass case. However, collected as a novel I could feel, hear, the stretch of sinew as Kawabata reached to attach surgically one body part to the next. Cohesion never adhered from the rising blend of writing organically growing to the length of a narrative form. Two stars lost. I know, this is painful and difficult to do to one of my favorite writers. Anguish, I think is the word. I read the introduction after I finished the novel. In its original form Snow Country was submitted piecemeal in episodes. It was a number of years later that it was sewed together into a novel. Ah, a star has been returned. I love to hold them in my hand and watch their glow light my palm and spread through the room. Then let it slip onto the review page taking its place. There, four stars. But if taken piece by piece there are probably twenty five separate star pieces. The story takes place in Japan’s snow country, dark, somber, reverential in the bleakness of its foreshadowing. It centers and swivels upon a man from Tokyo who has inherited enough money to be an idler, as he refers to himself. There are layers he has conjured to wall himself from experiencing the force and brunt of reality. Comforting himself through involvement with the appreciation and writing about western dance, the fact that he has never witnessed western dance has not interfered with his solipsistic peace, as he resides within his own projections. This is the crux of the story where he leaves his wife and children in Tokyo to visit a hot springs spa in the snow country of the north. He meets a Geisha who he visits three times in two years. She is only nineteen and falls ardently in love. As his opposite she loves completely with no particles of opposition. Her simplicity and purity of being does not allow societies or her own conflicts and conventions to intercede. The expression of her feelings travel a clear path including at times the incoherent rantings of a genuine confusion, the fear of abandonment precipitated by the knowledge that he will return to his Tokyo wife and family. What she feels she expresses. What he sees are the curls and swerves of his projections.A fine story. Not new but to in Kawabatan language of simple singular sentences that tightly packs meaning, creates a different telling. So, due to its episodic nature I ranked it a three, admiring the writing but not feeling the passion I felt from reading two of his other books. One star was returned taking into account how the book was originally written for and submitted in episodes. A fifth star found its way into my small library room and onto this page for many of the exquisite set pieces. Not being good in math I asked my coyote-dog. She got down off the couch and walked into another room. From past experience I believe this meant a four. She expects to be fed before any other opinions are to be rendered.

  • Mizuki
    2019-03-07 12:02

    At first I found it difficult to know where to put this book and what to expect from it. We have three main characters: a well off, cultured, married middle age man who travels from Tokyo to the 'Snow Country' (a remote hot springs village in the far North and its surrounding); the man then meets a young woman (who later becomes a geisha due to livelihood problems) and the two of them develop a relationship almost instantly. As time pasts and seasons change, the middle age man travels to the 'Snow Country' to visit his lover/mistress now and then, their relationship.......to be frank is going nowhere. Later the man becomes attracted to another young woman in the village and in the end, a freak accident takes place, breaking off this love triangle. The plot sounds nothing special (love triangle again!) and at the beginning of the story I struggled to understand what is going on between this man and the geisha: "what does she see in this man who asked her to find him some hooker to sleep with?" But by the ending part of the story, my sympathy to the geisha grows, through the skillfully written interaction between this couple, the geisha's hopeless love toward the man, the argument they have, her struggle for survival, her loneliness (her mentor and family are all dead), her sadness and jealousy toward this other younger woman all start to make sense to me. And the sadder thing probably is, in the end every character's love and obsession has come to nothing. As mentioned above, there is a younger woman who drifts into the love relationship between the couple, but to me this younger woman (with clear eyes and voice so beautiful that it is close to sadness itself) is more like a faerie-like representative of fragile beauty than an actual character.'Nothingness' and 'in vain' most likely is the lurking main theme of Snow Country: it is a story about the quiet, breathtaking beauty of the Japanese landscapes and the four seasons; a story about how love doesn't save anyone from their fates and from themselves in the end.I guess it isn't uncommon for us to be visited by this feeling/insight: life is fragile, beauty never last long, love is fleeing and ever-changing. Perhaps that's what the author tried to say about life, love, nature and beauty?PS: I plan to visit Japan later this year, and that's the main reason why I picked up this book, despite the few problems I have with the story, this book still motivates me into reading more of Yasunari Kawabata's novels. So, 3.75 stars.PSS: And Then by Natsume Sōseki (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...) is another masterfully written story about flawed characters and their doomed love, and how love actually doesn't save anyone from themselves.