Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata is the latest pick for the International Reads group, and we'll be discussing it on Goodreads and BookTube in December.
Kawabata's reputation precedes him as he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968 and was the first Japanese author to do so. I was really excited to jump into Snow Country, and I was hopeful that this little volume (175 pages) would pack a huge punch.
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. (from Goodreads)
Sadly, this one did not have quite the desired effect on me. Kawabata is undoubtedly a talented writer. His prose is spare and concise. The words are beautiful and carefully chosen. However, I just couldn't connect with the characters on a meaningful emotional or intellectual level. All of the characters seemed disengaged from each other even though Komako and Shimamura were supposed to have this passionate, enduring love.
There were also some peripheral characters that baffled me right up until the ending of the book. While I can't really tell you how it all plays out, because I certainly don't want to ruin it for you if you're planning to try, the ending was strong and probably my favorite part of the novel as it was one of the only parts that elicited an emotional reaction.
As much as I love Japanese literature at times, this one just wasn't a home run.
Pub. Date: 1956 (my edition, 1969)
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf