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Beauty and Sadness (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 6 Jan 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (6 Jan. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141192615
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141192611
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 0.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 136,547 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

About the Author

Yasunari Kawabata was born near Osaka in 1899 and was orphaned at the age of two. His first stories were published while he was still in high school and he decided to become a writer. He graduated from Tokyo Imperial University in 1924 and a year later made his first impact on Japanese letters with Izu Dancer. He soon became a leading figure the lyrical school that offered the chief challenge to the proletarian literature of the late 1920s. His writings combine the two forms of the novel and the haiku poems, which within restrictions of a rigid metre achieves a startling beauty by its juxtaposition of opposite and incongruous terms. Snow Country (1956) and Thousand Cranes (1959) brought him international recognition. Kawabata died by his own hand, on April 16 1972. Beauty and Sadness is translated from the Japanese by Edward G. Seidensticker (1921-2007), who was a prominent scholar of Japanese literature.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Mr. D. Woods VINE VOICE on 8 Oct. 2007
Format: Paperback
Penned by the great Yasunari Kawabata, 'Beauty and Sadness' possesses all the familiar characteristics of his novels: repressed emotion, love, lust, pain and the delicate painting of Japanese manners and expression. The story concerns Oki, a middle-aged writer, whose passionate and torrid affair with the naive Ueno colours both their lives decades later. His published account of their time together has caused tensions in his own family, as well as haunting Ueno. And when Ueno's unstable and seductive pupil vows a campaign of revenge against Oki, things spiral rapidly out of control.

It probably goes without saying that 'Beauty and Sadness' is far from an upbeat novel but don't let that discourage you from indulging in what proves to be a satisfying and essential read. Kawabata's precise symbolism, particularly employed through Ueno's paintings and descriptions Japanese of society, hints at the brooding turmoil of emotion that beautifully captures the complexity of human expression. The book is the more potent for withholding access into the character's lives and, though they are often hard to like, you never fail to feel empathy with their conflicts. As we are all too aware, confessing emotion is not something that people find easy and Kawabata's powers of observation are startlingly accurate, perhaps even more relevant today than ever.

A great novel by a great author and one of those rare, important works that live with the reader long after they've turned the final page. Gripping in its clarity, it deserves far more recognition from the literary establishment than it currently has and I think, in today's uncertain times, Kawabata's account of alienation and internecine relationships is ripe for re-discovery.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mike Andrew Dawson on 3 Oct. 2011
Format: Paperback
After my foray into the work of Murakami it was nice to try another Japanese novelist. This entertaining psycho thriller has some interesting ideas at its core. An incident between two characters years earlier sets a series of other characters into action, the central couple only share two scenes in the book which helps with sadness that drips over every page. Never has a title been so perfect for summarising the tone of a book. It's refreshingly short at 120 odd pages and would have made a great Mikio Naruse film!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Joyce Åkesson on 13 July 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a fascinating and poignant novel about a doomed love affair between two characters, Oki and Otoko, that triggers fatal consequences for them both. In spite of his love, Oki has to leave Otaka after the death of their premature child and her breakdown. Twenty years after this event, he decides to meet her again, but this time, he has to meet Keiko too, Otoko's lover, who wants to seek revenge against him for having treated Otoko so badly many years ago.
This is a beautiful poetic story about passion and revenge and the complexity of human characters and relations.
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Format: Paperback
As a Westerner, coming to great Japanese literature (I was introduced to this corp of work through the living works of Murakami and the classical pen of tenth century Sei Shonagon) means not only savouring and understanding the story, but accepting the culture that drives the precise narrative, the delicate tones, the meticulous imagery. With Kawabata, as with Murakami and Shonagon, I put aside 'Beauty and Sadness' replete with exquisite prose, yet only permitted a tantalising glimpse of Japanese culture.
The theme of Kawabata's 1964 novel would sit uncomfortably today in a Western culture that pretty much permits everything, save the exploitation of children. Whilst the act itself sits in the protagonist's - Oki Toshio - past, the casual acceptance of impregnating a child of fifteen by the male and female individuals in the novel and the tacit agreement of the social mores, displayed through the lack of any civic comment in Kawabata's tale, is something that - back in mid-twentieth century Japan - was permissible. It would be easy to judge the content of this story through western society's mores but to do so would result in reading this novel through a dirty and cracked lense.
Acceptance is a strong cultural part of this novel. It is a concept that strikes the Western reader perhaps more acutely than those from Asia given our refusal to accept most things. We are well aware of the Asian belief in honour, in saving face...which tends to manifest in either individual or social passivity and all its associated behaviours, depending on the society.
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