Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata
original title 雪国
Translator – Edward G Seidensticker
Source personnel copy
Well It time for Tony’s Japanese lit month January in Japan and I’m kicking mine of with a short novella from the Poet and Novelist Yasunari Kawabata .Born in 1899 in the early to mid twentieth century he was one of the best known Japanese writers .Orphaned at two he start writing soon after he finished his studies ,this his best known work was published in 1937 and added to ten years later .He was also well-known for writing Haiku poem .He also won the Nobel prize for literature in 1968 .
A girl had been sitting on the other side of the carriage came over and opened the window in front of Shimamura .The snowy cold poured in .Leaning far out of the window , the girl called to the station master as though he were a great distance away .
Shimamura on the train meet ?
Well Snow country is a love story but it is very Japanese story .The book opens with a business man Shimamura on a train of to the Snow Country a mountain village that has a lot of snow in the winter .He gets off at the station and so do two women the first a traditional Geisha from the village called Komako and the second a younger women coming to car for a sick family member these three form the bases of the book .The Geisha Komako becomes the women that Shiamura seeks and wants to be with ,but as the story unfolds you see the gaping gap between the village and the way Komako grew up she is very traditional following the old ways and Shimamura has been in Tokyo is very into western things with an idealized view of traditional Japanese culture .So he starts to notice the younger women Yoko the daughter of an innkeeper when with Komako you see all this unfold from the winter through the spring and summer . This is how the story starts and to see how it goes on is up to you will need to read it .
See out at the back,
Three pears ,three cedars,
Six trees in all ,
Crows nest below ,
sparrows nest above
And what if they are singing ?
“harkarmairi itcho itcho ya ” *
*means a hundred yards ,a hundred yards again
A song sung later in the novella
The book was published initially as a short story and then as a number of extra stories / chapters afterwards, so you do get a somewhat episodic feel to the tale as we see the romance move on and the pair then … . The other big theme in this book is one of my favourite themes in literature and that is the clashing of changing cultures ,from the urbane Tokyo to the old Japanese values and customs of the village and the Geisha girls in the village .Kawabata language is sparse at times,he has honed his writing craft writing haiku’s so you feel that every word had been thought over and worked to the last drop thus produce something that just works perfectly on the page ,the scene is set but not over set and the character just sketched enough to make you know who they are .Komako is based on a real Geisha that Kawabata knew from the region the book is set .So he is a great new writer to me as this is the first book by him I have read .Many thanks for Tony as this may have sat on my shelf for a couple of years otherwise .
Have you read this book ?