Beauty and Sadness – by Yasunari Kawabata

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Kawabata usually chose one aspect of Japanese culture to feature in his novels: traditional tea ceremony in The Thousand Cranes, No mask in The Sound of the Mountain, onsen geisha and snow country textile in Snow Country. In Beauty and Sadness, Kawabata showcased paintings, artists, novelists, and a few Japanese historical figures. It seems like not only international readers but also the Japanese themselves can learn a bit of Japanese history and culture from this novel.

Beauty and Sadness was my 5th book by Kawabata and I have to say I’ve rather grown weary of the way he portrayed his female characters. They were either submissive and inferior to men, or worse were victims of men; and their loss, their tribulation, or their tragedy was used as a plot device to bring the story forward. It seems like this is not unusual in novels written by white male authors, too, doesn’t it?

Nevertheless I must say I was mesmerized by his beautiful writing!

“Time passed. But time flows in many streams. Like a river, an inner stream of time will flow rapidly at some places and sluggishly at others, or perhaps even stand hopelessly stagnant. Cosmic time is the same for everyone, but human time differs with each person. Time flows in the same way for all human beings; every human being flows through time in a different way.”

Snow Country was serialized from 1935 to 1937 in Japan.
Translated from the Japanese by Edward Seidensticker, and published in English in 1956.

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