Yasunari Kawabata Additional Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

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...

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(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Orphaned at the age of four, Yasunari Kawabata was reared by his grandparents and later by an uncle. Originally attracted by painting, he later decided to follow writing as a career, and at the age of sixteen he published in a little magazine an account of carrying his teacher’s coffin. Two years earlier, he had written reminiscences of his grandfather, which he later published under the title “Jrokusai no nikki” (“Diary of a Sixteen-Year-Old”). In 1921, he received his first payment for a literary work, a review, and published in a student literary magazine an account of a memorial day commemoration that drew the favorable attention of a prolific novelist, Kikuchi Kan, a dominating force in Japanese literary circles of the time. The themes of death and loneliness of Kawabata’s mature years appeared early in his career and may have been influenced by the loss of his parents and grandparents. During his youth, he came briefly under the influence of a Japanese avant-garde clique that advocated the adoption of novel Western movements such as Dadaism, Futurism, and Surrealism. These tendencies were wrapped up in the term Shinkankakuha, which embraces neoperceptionism or neosensualism, but Kawabata’s allegiance to this extremely many-sided coterie was only temporary and irresolute. His major work in the experimental mode, “Suish gens” (“Crystal Fantasy”), utilizes the stream-of-consciousness technique.

Kawabata established his...

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(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Yasunari Kawabata’s childhood was dogged by sadness and loneliness. Born the son of a doctor in saka, he was only two years old when his father died and three when his mother died. He went to live with his maternal grandparents but lost his only sibling, a sister, a few years later. When he was only seven, his grandmother died, and he was left virtually alone, at age sixteen, by the death of his grandfather. The latter’s death became the subject of Jrokusai no nikki, a reminiscence of his sorrow-filled childhood and the affection he felt for his grandfather. In primary school, Kawabata was first interested in painting, but as he entered puberty, he became more interested in literature, especially the Buddhist writings...

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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Yasunari Kawabata (kah-wah-bah-tah) was born in Osaka, Japan, on June 11, 1899. When Kawabata was two years old, his father died. His mother died the following year, and Kawabata and his sister went to live with his maternal grandparents. Kawabata’s grandmother’s death in 1906 was followed two years later by the death of his sister, his only sibling, leaving him alone with his grandfather. Following his grandfather’s death in 1914, Kawabata moved into a middle-school dormitory in Osaka, where he stayed until moving in with relatives to attend high school in Tokyo.

In 1920, Kawabata entered Tokyo Imperial University to study English literature. In his second year, however, he decided to major in Japanese...

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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Yasunari Kawabata’s true gift as a writer, the gift recognized and cited by the Nobel Prize Committee, was his appreciation of Japanese traditions and his ability to explore the interrelationships between the past, present, and future through the language and literary traditions of the twentieth century. While similar themes ran through much of Kawabata’s works, each piece of his fiction has its own unique character and style, be it the attention paid to a physical description of a black water lily or a psychological study of human indifference.