A dear friend of mine gave it to me as a birthday gift, a nice addition to my “Read all Nobel prize for literature” project. The book has also a beautiful cover and precious sketches on the first pages of each chapter. This friend of mine is a great artist in all her choices.
Kawabata got the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968 and he is the first Japanese author to receive the award.
The novel is a perfect reminder of that fine line between love and hate, regret and gratitude, beauty and beast, revenge and peace, friends and enemies, guilt and harmony, death and life, danger and safety.
A young man, Kikuji, finds himself unwillingly, as the author wants us to believe, caught in a power game of two former mistresses of his father. My take is that he wanted to know, to taste it and immerse into past to come to peace with his father and his own masculinity. A young lady whom he meets at a tea ceremony, orchestrated by his father’s mistress, and the daughter of the other mistress, Fumiko, appear to me as symbols of life choices. In any tea ceremony ever gesture has a meaning, meanings Kikuji will embrace latter on. His urge to understand his father’s choices and his own masculinity guides him to a relationship with one of his father’s former lovers, Mrs Ota. A sensitive nature, she commits suicide, leaving her daughter on the edge of insanity. Kikuji is also marked by her choice to end her life and is left wondering “Had Mrs. Ota died unable to escape the pursuing guilt? Or, pursued by love, had she found herself unable to control it? Was it love or guilt that had killed her?”
My favorite part is the description of Kikuji paying respect to a soul who loved him: “as he knelt with closed eyes before the ashes, her image failed to come to him;but the warmth o her touch enfolded him, making him drunk with its smell. A strange fact, but, because of the woman, a fact that seemed in no way unnatural. And although the touch was upon him, the sensation was less tactile than auditory, m u s i c a l.