Book Review: Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

“The sound of the freezing of snow over the land seemed to roar deep into the earth. There was no moon. The stars, almost too many of them to be true, came forward so brightly that it was as if they were falling with the swiftness of the void.” 

10571801Read: 11th February 2018

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes 35 seconds. Contains 719 words.

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My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: Shimamura is tired of the bustling city. He takes the train through the snow to the mountains of the west coast of Japan to meet with a geisha he believes he loves. Beautiful and innocent, Komako is tightly bound by the rules of a rural geisha and lives a life of servitude and seclusion that is alien to Shimamura – their love offers no freedom to either of them.

Snow Country is both delicate and subtle, reflecting in Kawabata’s exact, lyrical writing the unspoken love and the understated passion of the young Japanese couple.

What a day it was to read this book, it started with gray undertone in the sky to a storm accompanied by strong winds and hail. As I’m writing this I can still feel the cold damp air coming in through the window and I wonder what destruction it must have caused to those crop laden fields. Now there is silence all around and I can see only one person walking on the street in the dark of the night and as creepy as it may sound I’m sitting beside the window of my room watching him.

Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata is a lyrical prose, and as what I have read in the introduction by Edward G Seidensticker, this book is an attempt to infuse poetic form haiku with a novel.

Kawabata in this book beautiful described the nature and landscape of the Snow Country and I think this is the most descriptive book that I have ever read. The theme of this book and the description of the landscape complements each other very well. As far as the story is concerned I thought it was less of a plot-driven story but the story focused more on expressing human emotions and a slice of life that these characters were leading incorporated with nature, I also believe that setting of Snow Country was an integral part that worked well with the theme of the story and also helped the writer to fuse the poetic form with a novel.

The reason I said that this story focus on “slice of life that these characters were leading” is because we don’t get to know the complete story about these characters, we only get to know a part of their life, the one they are sharing with each other.

To be true when I started reading this book, I was confused, it’s only when the writer started dropping names I figured it out. So, in the beginning, I was confused and a little frustrated but then after a while, things started making sense. So, I guess this book needs patience.

I loved the opening scene, but with time I realized there are so many of them and I just enjoyed it as a whole and I must say that the writer never missed a chance to bring out the beauty of the surrounding.

“In the depths of the mirror the evening landscape moved by, the mirror and the reflected figures like motion pictures superimposed one on the other. The figures and the background were unrelated, and yet the figures, transparent and intangible, and the background, dim in the gathering darkness, melted into a sort of symbolic world, not of this world. Particularly when a light out in the mountains shone in the centre of the girl’s face, Shimamura felt his chest rise at the inexpressible beauty of it.” 

The book revolves around isolation and loneliness, around decaying love and separation. There were several plot developments throughout the book and so many things were left unanswered. Kawabata didn’t really talk a lot about the background stories of these characters neither do I know what kind of relationship was shared by Yoko, Komako and the music teacher’s son nor do I know anything about Shimamura’s family back in Tokyo and what kind relationship does he have with his wife and children. On one hand, I’m not very clear about Shimamura’s character, I found him cold, unemotional and impotent while, on the other hand, I found the character of Komako very interesting and at times I was worried about her for all the possibilities and impossibilities that lies ahead of her to face.

Even if I let alone the story, this book is still worth reading for all the beauty that is contained in it and the imagery that the writer has created.