There's no country like Snow Country

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I promised a review of Yasunari Kawabata's novel Snow Country and I'm a lady of my word, so here goes. It should be noted that it was originally published as periodicals between 1935 and 1937 in Japan but wasn't translated into English until 1957 - and hadn't been on my shelf until last week.


If I'm to be honest, I struggled at first with its circular narrative and its unpredictable nature as it turns sharp bends through time and you are suddenly confronted with a memory or an afterthought. However as I read on, it was this unpredictability that I grew accustomed to and I admired how it reflected the unstable nature of the female protagonist, a geisha called Komako who struggles with her feelings for the emotionally distant lead, Shimamura. The Tokyo based dominant male comes across as a cold character who belongs neither to the urban landscape of Tokyo or the beautiful mountains that surround Komako's hot springs. Periodically Shimamura boards trains, leaving his wife and children to take trips into the snow country where he visits his unstable and questionably alcohol dependent mistress, the beautiful geisha.


I was astounded by the brutal light Kawabata shines on the opportunities, or I should say lack of opportunities available for the rural geisha, as he portrays young girls wrapped up in an insular society without the same level of social respect as their urban sisters.


Although he died in suspicious circumstances in 1972, Yasunari Kawabata's literature has made him immortal, and respected as a classic author across the globe. In 1968 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, which after reading just a small slice of his work, is of absolutely no surprise. I will definitely be reading more of his fiction, perhaps another of his novels, entitled The Lake. But for now I am going to pop this book in the post because I think there is someone in Birmingham who will enjoy it.





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