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雪国 - Snow Country

by 川端 康成 (かわばたやすなり)

Summary

Japanese

雪国 』(ゆきぐに)は、川端康成の長編小説で、名作として国内外で名高い。雪国を訪れた男が、温泉町でひたむきに生きる女たちの諸相、ゆらめき、定めない命の各瞬間の純粋を見つめる物語。愛し生きる女の情熱の美しく哀しい徒労が、男の虚無に研ぎ澄まされた鏡のような心理の抒情に映されながら、美的に抽出されて描かれている。

English

Snow Country is a stark tale of a love affair between a Tokyo dilettante and a provincial geisha that takes place in the remote onsen town of Yuzawa.

Trivia:
“Snow country” is a literal translation of the Japanese title " Yukiguni ". The name comes from the place where the story takes place, where Shimamura arrives in a train coming through a long tunnel under the border mountains between the Gunma (Kozuke no kuni) and Niigata (Echigo no kuni) Prefectures. Sitting at the foot of mountains, on the north side, this region receives a huge amount of snow in winter because of the northern winds coming across the Sea of Japan. The winds accumulate moisture over the sea and deposit it as snow while running up against the mountains. The snow reaches four to five meters in depth, sometimes isolating the region’s towns and villages from others. The lonely atmosphere suggested by the title is infused throughout the book.

Availability

Amazon
Bookwalker

Personal Opinion

This book is a classic of Japanese literature. The author was the first Japanese person to receive the Noble prize for literature, and this book (together with two others) was mentioned by the committee.

Whenever I mentioned this book, (Japanese) people kept telling me that it is hard, so we might want to pick a slower pace. I don’t really know the exact reason for this, though, as the Japanese does not seem to be especially hard or old (where I looked at it).
Wikipedia might give a hint as why it has this reputation:
" Edward Seidensticker, noted scholar of Japanese literature whose English translation of the novel was published in 1956, described the work as “perhaps Kawabata’s masterpiece.” According to him, the novel reminds of haiku, both for its many delicate contrapuntal touches and its use of brief scenes to tell a larger story."
So probably it is more the contents that makes it hard to understand than the language.

Pros and Cons for the Book Club

Pros

  • Japanese classic
  • Not too long (224 pages) so we can take our time with it
  • Author received Noble price

Cons

  • Probably not much action
  • Probably very philosophical and therefore hard to digest

Pictures

Note: page numbers are from an ebook and do not correspond to the real pages.

First Three Pages of Chapter One


Additional Pages



Difficulty Poll

How much effort would you need to read this book?

  • No effort at all
  • Minimal effort
  • Moderate effort
  • Significant effort
  • So much effort my head might explode
  • I don’t know

0 voters

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