The Nobel Prize-winning novelist Yasunari Kawabata (kah-wah-bah-tah) is probably Japan’s most sophisticated stylist and certainly its most celebrated author in the twentieth century. The son of a physician, Kawabata as a boy acquired the nickname “master of funerals” as a result of losing many near relatives at an early age. His father died when he was two years old, his mother the next year, his grandmother when he was seven years old, his elder sister when he was ten, and his grandfather six years later. He attended various private schools but did not go to college, and in 1921 his first story was published, the style of which was distinctly modernist and would gain for Kawabata entry into the ranks of the Japanese Shinkankakuha (neoperceptionist) school of writing that was then current in Japan. In the same year his fiancée rejected him, a shock that stayed with him for years.
Kawabata experimented and composed works in the modernist vein of the neoperceptionists throughout the 1920’s and early 1930’s, although his allegiance to this school was not absolute. In fact, his most well-known novel, The Izu Dancer (which also appeared in an abridged form), was written in a very traditional style. Thoroughly modernist in tone were Asakusa kurenaidan and stories that employed a stream-of-consciousness technique that Kawabata had learned from reading James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) in translation. Kawabata had always been a very private person, but by 1933 he had begun to participate more actively in the Japanese literary world and had joined the staffs of a number of literary magazines. He gained national prominence as a novelist with the publication of Snow Country, a novel that marked his return to Japanese tradition and beauty and his renewed interest in the Japanese woman.
After Snow Country he no longer...
(The entire section is 770 words.)