(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The Sound of the Mountain narrates the events in the life of a certain elderly Japanese businessman, Shingo, and demonstrates the way these events impinge on and help shape his psychological states. Shingo, whose creeping senility is counterpoised by an ever more vivid memory of the past, seems to desire nothing more than to recede from the hubbub of daily life. Unfortunately, just as he might begin to indulge himself in idle philosophical contemplation, a pastime perhaps suited to one awaiting death, he finds himself embroiled in the most mundane of problems: the difficult and troubled marriages of his son and daughter.

Shuichi, Shingo’s son, is having an affair with a war widow and thus begins to neglect his wife, Kikuko. Since the young couple live in Kamakura with Shingo and his wife, Yasuko, the difficulties with the marriage are manifest and all the more disturbing to Shingo. He is distraught at what he regards as his son’s dissolute and immoral behavior, but of even greater concern to him is the health and well-being of his beautiful but delicate daughter-in-law. Meanwhile, Shingo’s daughter, Fusako, is also known to have marital problems; she may even have been beaten by her husband. After a period of some vacillation, she decides to move back to Kamakura to be with her parents, bringing her two young children with her. There, Fusako relinquishes her children to the care and supervision of Kikuko and appears to resign herself to a long and unhappy life. Shingo, troubled by his daughter’s bitterness and apathy, tries to...

(The entire section is 638 words.)