The Sound of the Mountain – by Yasunari Kawabata

The Sound of the Mountain is a novel set in post war Japan. Shingo Ogata is a 59 year old businessman living with his wife, son and daughter in law in Kamakura, and commutes to Tokyo every day. His son is having an affair, his daughter in law secretly got an abortion, and his own daughter is going thru a troubled marriage  and returns to her parent’s house with her two small daughters. All these headaches are happening in his life while a few of his classmates died and his memories are falling apart.

At the time Western influences had started widespread in the country defeated in the war, so you’ll see war widows suffering along with the arrival of electronics in the household, and women  starting to gain financial independence and wanting to be independent and more respectfully treated.

Kawabata’s prose is lyrical and elegant. His description of trees and flowers shows the quiet beauty of nature. His telling of his feelings for his daughter in law and the special connection between them is delicate and subtle. His narrative of No masks brings the ancient masks to life and presents them in a shockingly beautiful way.

Like a few of his other works that I’ve read, The Sound of the Mountain has recurring themes of nature loving, memory failing, impending death, and impossible love. His prose is spare and oblique and usually likened to haiku poems.

The Sound of the Mountain was serialized between 1949 and 1954. The English translation was first published in 1970.

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