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Yasunari Kawabata


Yasunari Kawabata was another sad case in the Japanese literary scene in terms of how writers would end their lives by committing suicide. In 1972, Kawabata became despondent over the grotesque public suicide of his friend and portégé Mishima Yukio and, far more quietly and decorously, committed suicide himself.

When Kawabata was awarded the Nobel prize for Literature in 1968, the novel most often mentioned as his great work was Snow Country (which I have avoided for a long time), a tale of sexual obsession set in the snowy mountain vastness of northwestern Japan. But to my own taste Beauty and Sadness is a more subtle, and more moving, work. It tells of the reunion of an elderly man and a woman artist whom he loved long time ago, of the jealous rage the artist’s young portégé conceives on her behalf for having been jilted in that affair, and of the terrible revenge she wreaks on the old man’s family.

Kawabata is an author to read if you’re into obsessive qualities in writing style. Love, regret, obsession, eroticism, and evil blend in his slight, almost ephemeral prose, where more is implied than is ever made explicit.


One Response

  1. I love Japanese Literature, but tend to stick with the usual suspects – Yoko Ogawa, Banana Yoshimoto, and Haruki Murakami. I’m up for reading new-to-me authors. I’d heard of Yukio and Kawabata, but have yet to read any of their works. I must admit it saddened me to read about their suicides – that is just tragic. I’m definitely adding their names to my list of authors to read. Thanks!

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