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Thread: Kawabata Yasunari: A Thousand Cranes

  1. #1
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    Japan Kawabata Yasunari: A Thousand Cranes

    Kawabata has a peculiar characteristic in his novels that not many authors share. All of them seem to be so subtle, so smooth as they advance, but in the end they enclose a philosophy of life and all that it concers altogether.
    This happens in this novel called A Thousand Cranes. It tells a story of a young man named Kikuji, who comes back to the house of his death father to attend the tea ceremony invited by one of her father mistresses, Chikako. She is a middle aged woman, with the peculiarity to have a large mole in her chest, between her breasts. In a strange association, Kikuji can't stop thinking about the love affair between his father and Chikako, and how he had to be involved in a sexual contact with that mole that for him, in that moment, personifies evil.
    In that tea ceremony, Chikako introduces Kikuji to Ms Inamura in order to get them together. However, Mrs. Ota, another of his father lovers arrives to the ceremony and this entry changes all the circumstances. Kikuji and Mrs. Ota get into an affair, and from that point, he gets so confused for what destiny is about to bring to his life.
    The rivalry between Chikako and Mrs. Ota goes to the point where Chikako wants to dictate Kijuki who he has to marry. This triangle, involving the two former lovers, and Kikuji, go along the whole novel with a death dictating the fate of Kikuji and who will he choose at the end.

    This novel gets into you slowly, without ever noticing it. When you finish it, it doesn't seem to be the an awesome work, but with his calm style and his short sentences Kawabata has the magical formula to get into your mind and keep you thinking about it days after you have finish the novel.

    Not the best Kawabata novel I've read but for sure an author who keeps a great quality in all of her works he has. Novels where you might think nothing happens but eveything is intended to happen in your mind after you finish.


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    Default Re: Kawabata Yasunari: A Thousand Cranes

    It tells a story of a young man named Kikuji, who comes back to the house of his death father to attend the tea ceremony invited by one of her father mistresses, Chikako.
    In that tea ceremony, Chikako introduces Kikuji to Ms Inamura in order to get them together. However, Mrs. Ota, another of his father lovers arrives to the ceremony and this entry changes all the circumstances. Kikuji and Mrs. Ota get into an affair, and from that point, he gets so confused for what destiny is about to bring to his life.
    I just read a book of short stories by a Japanese writer named Kuniko Mukoda - The Name of the Flower (1994) in which the theme of the father or husband taking a mistress is repeated several times. Much is made of their feelings of shame but also the pleasure they enjoyed away from their families. Middle-class marriages are viewed with a lot of skepticism here. I wonder if this is a recurrent theme in Japanese fiction generally? Are Forum readers of Japanese literature familiar with her work?

    Mukoda's stories are very short (no more than about 12 pages, most 6 or 8), concise, with short sentences; a style I thought at first, prejudicially, was related to a cultural taste for small, neatly designed things like haiku, ikebana, origami, etc., (the first story involves ikebana - flower arranging). That may play a role, but the translator, Tomone Matsumoto, suggests in an afterword, that she tended to write quickly because she earned a living first as a magazine editor and later as a radio and TV script writer working quickly to tight deadlines.

    I admired Mukoda's quick delineation of characters, settings, family histories, and emotional tensions; despite some repetition of subject matter, each character is fully realised and completely individual. Men, women and children are all treated with an even hand and fine understanding. She likes "twist" endings that sometimes seem tacked on, unbelievable or just too easy but, given the sense of dangerously repressed emotions or neurosis in these lives, it's hard to say what might be apt endings. Makudo examines Japanese middle-class urban society with an eye for the grotesque combined with compassion for the human struggle to conform at the cost of individual sensibility.

    Mukoda died in a plane crash in 1981 at the age of 52. She had been famous in Japan as a scriptwriter. I suppose she would have been called, in the West, a "media personality." Her death (as usually happens) caused a boom in sales for her work at the time.

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    Default Re: Kawabata Yasunari: A Thousand Cranes

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel del Real View Post
    Kawabata has a peculiar characteristic in his novels that not many authors share. All of them seem to be so subtle, so smooth as they advance, but in the end they enclose a philosophy of life and all that it concers altogether.
    This happens in this novel called A Thousand Cranes. It tells a story of a young man named Kikuji, who comes back to the house of his death father to attend the tea ceremony invited by one of her father mistresses, Chikako. She is a middle aged woman, with the peculiarity to have a large mole in her chest, between her breasts. In a strange association, Kikuji can't stop thinking about the love affair between his father and Chikako, and how he had to be involved in a sexual contact with that mole that for him, in that moment, personifies evil.
    In that tea ceremony, Chikako introduces Kikuji to Ms Inamura in order to get them together. However, Mrs. Ota, another of his father lovers arrives to the ceremony and this entry changes all the circumstances. Kikuji and Mrs. Ota get into an affair, and from that point, he gets so confused for what destiny is about to bring to his life.
    The rivalry between Chikako and Mrs. Ota goes to the point where Chikako wants to dictate Kijuki who he has to marry. This triangle, involving the two former lovers, and Kikuji, go along the whole novel with a death dictating the fate of Kikuji and who will he choose at the end.

    This novel gets into you slowly, without ever noticing it. When you finish it, it doesn't seem to be the an awesome work, but with his calm style and his short sentences Kawabata has the magical formula to get into your mind and keep you thinking about it days after you have finish the novel.

    Not the best Kawabata novel I've read but for sure an author who keeps a great quality in all of her works he has. Novels where you might think nothing happens but eveything is intended to happen in your mind after you finish.

    Did you read this in Spanish or in English? Unfortunatelly, the Spanish version (EMEC?) is twice removed from the original Japanese, as it is translated from the English version (by Edward Seidensticker). This makes for a sometimes awkward reading of this and other novels by Kawabata in Spanish.

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    Default Re: Kawabata Yasunari: A Thousand Cranes

    Quote Originally Posted by Stiffelio View Post
    Did you read this in Spanish or in English? Unfortunatelly, the Spanish version (EMEC?) is twice removed from the original Japanese, as it is translated from the English version (by Edward Seidensticker). This makes for a sometimes awkward reading of this and other novels by Kawabata in Spanish.
    Oh here we go again! Yeah I'm guilty, I read it on Emec?, but it was so cheap. It's the last Kawabata I read in Spanish, I promise

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    Default Re: Kawabata Yasunari: A Thousand Cranes

    I have Palm-of-the-Hand Stories sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. The collection looks pretty interesting, but for some reason it's not jumping out at me. Any thoughts on that one?
    My Website - book reviews and literary essays.

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    Default Re: Kawabata Yasunari: A Thousand Cranes

    Daniel -
    I've only read one other work by Yasunari Kawabata, but I can't imagine this being one of his lesser works. I read Snow Country, and I enjoyed Thousand Cranes more - and this is in no way meant to disparage Snow Country. I was hooked from the get-go and impressed throughout. A great great work.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Kawabata Yasunari: A Thousand Cranes

    Yes, it's absolutely perfect, isn't it? I believe it's considered one of Kawabata's masterpieces. I should re-read this.

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    Default Re: Kawabata Yasunari: A Thousand Cranes

    Both it and Snow Country were perfect (or durn close to it) I thought. The Sound of the Mountain is sitting on my shelf for not too distant consumption.

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    Default Re: Kawabata Yasunari: A Thousand Cranes

    Quote Originally Posted by e joseph View Post
    Both it and Snow Country were perfect (or durn close to it) I thought. The Sound of the Mountain is sitting on my shelf for not too distant consumption.
    I read The Sound of the Mountain as it's my less favorite of Kawabata's works. I'd recommend you Beauty and Sadness, probably my favorite along with Snow Country.

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    Default Re: Kawabata Yasunari: A Thousand Cranes

    Too late, The Sound of the Mountain's already on the shelf. I'll be slowly working my way through his works though, so I'll definitely get around to Beauty and Sadness sooner or later.

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    Default Re: Kawabata Yasunari: A Thousand Cranes

    Quote Originally Posted by Damian Kelleher View Post
    but for some reason it's not jumping out at me. Any thoughts?
    no legs, hence no strength to perform a reasonable jump. especially if you're too far from the shelf. I recommend close distance and encouraging words.

    always glad to be of help

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    Default Re: Kawabata Yasunari: A Thousand Cranes

    When I read Snow Country in Spanish I complained that part of the reason I didn't enjoy it all that much was the fact that I was reading a twice removed translation, from Japanese into English and then into Spanish. Now I read Thousand Cranes in the direct English translation by Edward Seidensticker and I found it as awkward as the other novel. Maybe it has to do with Mr Kawabata's haiku style which must be awfully difficult to translate or, more probably, it's my own fault in not being able to 'connect' with his style. The prose is supposed to be lyrical, taut and understated but the flow come across as stilted. The confusing plot presented as a series of brush-stroke scenes, loaded with Zen-ish symbolism, verges on the silly. Ok, I can see the metaphor involving the tea ceremony, where Chikako is the Tea Master/manipulator of the rest of the passive, conflicted characters, or the ancient tea bowls being passed on as carriers of their owners' guilt and shame and death wishes, or the influence of the past/the dead on the living. There are many such minutely hinted symbols throughout the novel. But the story as such failed to hook me; I missed much of its point. I thought I'd read this 147 page novel in a sitting but I found myself wading through it like in quicksand. So, should I read another Kawabata novel any time soon? If he's the kind of writer that grows into you by repetition maybe I should.

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    Default Re: Kawabata Yasunari: A Thousand Cranes

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel del Real View Post
    Kawabata has a peculiar characteristic in his novels that not many authors share. All of them seem to be so subtle, so smooth as they advance, but in the end they enclose a philosophy of life and all that it concers altogether.
    This happens in this novel called A Thousand Cranes. It tells a story of a young man named Kikuji, who comes back to the house of his death father to attend the tea ceremony invited by one of her father mistresses, Chikako. She is a middle aged woman, with the peculiarity to have a large mole in her chest, between her breasts. In a strange association, Kikuji can't stop thinking about the love affair between his father and Chikako, and how he had to be involved in a sexual contact with that mole that for him, in that moment, personifies evil.
    In that tea ceremony, Chikako introduces Kikuji to Ms Inamura in order to get them together. However, Mrs. Ota, another of his father lovers arrives to the ceremony and this entry changes all the circumstances. Kikuji and Mrs. Ota get into an affair, and from that point, he gets so confused for what destiny is about to bring to his life.
    The rivalry between Chikako and Mrs. Ota goes to the point where Chikako wants to dictate Kijuki who he has to marry. This triangle, involving the two former lovers, and Kikuji, go along the whole novel with a death dictating the fate of Kikuji and who will he choose at the end.

    This novel gets into you slowly, without ever noticing it. When you finish it, it doesn't seem to be the an awesome work, but with his calm style and his short sentences Kawabata has the magical formula to get into your mind and keep you thinking about it days after you have finish the novel.

    Not the best Kawabata novel I've read but for sure an author who keeps a great quality in all of her works he has. Novels where you might think nothing happens but eveything is intended to happen in your mind after you finish.

    They're certainly beautifully written stories.
    I'd also recommend A Thousand Cranes.

    Also see the other Penguin translations in English:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Thousand-Cra.../dp/0141192607
    Last edited by Hamlet; 18-Feb-2013 at 19:37.
    "In fact nothing is said that that has not been said before." -Terence


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    Default Re: Kawabata Yasunari: A Thousand Cranes

    K A W A B A T A

    I recommend The Master of Go. A major fave <3

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