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Lake [Paperback]

Yasunari Kawabata
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: 9.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

28 July 2004
The Lake is the history of an obsession. It traces a man's sad pursuit of an unattainable perfection, a beauty out of reach, admired from a distance, unconsummated. Homeless, a fugitive from an ambiguous crime, his is an incurable longing that drives him to shadow nameless women in the street and hide in ditches as they pass above him, beautiful and aloof. For their beauty is not of this world, but of a dream-the voice of a girl he meets in a Turkish bath is "an angel's," the figures of two students he follows seem to "glide over the green grass that hid their knees." Reality is the durable ugliness that is his constant companion and is symbolized in the grotesque deformity of the hero's feet. And it is the irreconcilable nature of these worlds that explains the strangely dehumanized, shadowy quality of the eroticism that pervades this novel.
In a sense The Lake is a formless novel, a "happening," making it one of the most modern of all Kawabata's works. Just as the hero's interest might be caught by some passing stranger, so the course of the novel swerves abruptly from present to past, memory shades into hallucination, dreams break suddenly into daylight. It is an extraordinary performance of free association, made all the more astonishing for the skill with which these fragments are resolved within the completed tapestry.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha International Ltd; New edition edition (28 July 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 4770030010
  • ISBN-13: 978-4770030016
  • Product Dimensions: 19.5 x 13.1 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 911,233 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


Seizes the reader's imagination from the first page...." -Village Voice

"Compact and immense ... hypnotic and shocking." -The New York Times Book Review

"A work of so unusual a nature as to throw new light on the whole of Kawabata's distinguished career." -Donald Keene

"This unusual and striking story probes the mysterious relation between beauty and evil." -Publishers Weekly

.".. one senses here the presence of an intensely Japanese, yet universal, master of the erotic."-SR/World --SR World

About the Author

YASUKUNI KAWABATA was born in 1899. He described himself as a child "without home or family" and became, in the novelist Mishima's words, "a perpetual traveler." He lost his parents in infancy, his grandmother and only sister died shortly afterward, and he was fourteen when his grandfather died. From the following year he lived in a middle-school dormitory, and in 1917 he left his native Osaka to join the First High School in Tokyo.
His earliest known work, a diary he kept at the age of fourteen about the last few weeks before his grandfather's death, is disturbing for someone so young and reflects the same cold pathos that marks his later fiction. His reputation, however, was not really made until the publication of a short novel in 1927, The Izu Dancer, which describes a brief encounter between a high-school student and the child dancer of the title.
Probably his best-known work, Snow Country, was completed in 1947 and deals with an affair between a Tokyo dilettante and a hotspring geisha; its evocation of the loneliness and sadness of life has served, more than any other of his novels, to establish the Kawabata image. The Lake itself belongs to his most productive decade following the end of World War II and was first serialized in 1954, along with two other major works, The Master of Go and The Sound of the Mountain. His last two novels, House of the Sleeping Beauties and The Old Capital, were both published in the early sixties, the former being a memorable story of an old man who spends four nights in a brothel with young girls drugged into a sleep from which they cannot be awakened. Kawabata was made the first Japanese Nobel laureate for literature in 1968, and committed suicide alone in his apartment near the sea in 1972.
The Translator: REIKO TSUKIMURA, Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto, was born in Tokyo and studied at Japan Women's University. She received a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Indiana University and has held academic positions at the University of British Columbia, Harvard University, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Toronto, where she taught for twenty-one years. Now retired, she continues to conduct research on Japanese literature and Buddhism, and to lecture on haiku in the Continuing Studies Program, University of Victoria, while enjoying her hobbies of year-round gardening, hiking, and painting.
Her many articles in English and Japanese deal with the dynamic interplay between Japanese and Western culture and between tradition and modernity. She has translated, among other works, I Am Alive: The Tanka Poems of Goto Miyoko, 1898-1978 (1988) and Sengai: Master Zen Painter. She also edited, and wrote the introduction for, Life, Death and Age in Modern Japanese Fiction (1978).

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First Sentence
Gimpei Momoi arrived in Karuizawa at the end of the summer season, although up there it seemed more like autumn. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perverse Beauty 15 Dec 2005
By hj
Japanese masters grow old disgracefully – no cosy respectable pearls of aged wisdom – just an unflinching stare into life’s abyss of abjection & perversity! This late novella from Kawabata is even more perverse than Tanizaki’s late novels like “Diary of a Mad Old Man” & “The Key” (also from the 1950s). If you like those you’ll love this.
“The Lake” begins with a woman bashing a man on the head with her bag. She runs off and he picks up the bag and finds it full of money. He was following her – or was she leading him on? Is he guilty of theft & stalking or is he basically an innocent whose behaviour is misinterpreted as criminal? Most of the ensuing narrative consists of the man’s delirious interior monologue, going over (in obsessive fetishistic detail) a series of memories concerning earlier pursuits of (female) objects of desire and the guilt/anxiety that always resulted. We also get the woman’s (only slightly less disturbed) memories & thoughts, mostly about how she is wasting her youth & beauty as mistress to a 70-year-old rich man (the money in the bag was from him). Characters and sub-plots from the various memory-scenes (of both man & woman) begin to link up as the narrative, very skilfully, switches back and forth between these various episodes and the present. How far the man’s projections of love and lust are real or imagined, genuinely reciprocated or a stalker’s fantasy, remains ambiguous. Although the novel is a black comedy, it is not safely ironic like McEwan’s “Enduring Love” but closer to Duras’ “Ravishing of Lol V.Stein” in drawing the reader into complicity with the perversity of the “mad love” reverie.
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Tangled Web 15 May 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Another of Kawabata's masterpieces, The Lake is even less structured than his other work. Told through a series of shifting narrators, the story mainly concerns Gimpei, on the run from the law for an unknown crime. We become intimately acquainted with Gimpei, who turns out to be a real creep: he spends most of his time following beautiful women. Though flashbacks that are carefully woven in to the narrative, we learn Gimpei past: his unrequited love for his cousin Yayori, his destructive affair with his student Hisako, and his possessive madness - he would rather have the objects of his affection dead than with another. The books shifts it's focus slightly at times, turning to the people who come into contact with Gimpei, and revealing how closely connected they all are without even realizing it. It is this tangled web of relationships, both direct and indirect, that make this work so enjoyable. A wonderful book, although some readers may find the character of Gimpei so repugnant that they may abandon the book before it's finish.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A voyage into the mind of a stalker of young girls 15 Nov 2004
By Zack Davisson - Published on Amazon.com
Lakes are mysteries, dark bodies of water that swallow secrets and hide those parts of ourselves better left submerged. Bodies are dumped in lakes, along with stolen cars and used weapons of violence. In "The Lake," Kawabata has used this metaphor for his protagonist, the unsettled and possibly psychotic Gimpei Momoi, who's mind swirls past and present and make-believe into one massive body of water, under which the corpse of his father lies sleeping.

It is hard to spend 160-odd pages in the mind of Gimpei, stalker and luster of young girls. His story fluxuates constantly, changing in an instant from his childhood desire for his cousin Yayoi, to his disastrous affair with his High School student Hisako, to his pursuit of the pure 15-year old Machie, or the bath house girl with the voice of an angel. Interspersed roughly with this mix is the tale of Miyako, a sad beauty who sold her youth to an old man for money. Gimpei's thoughts are those of his nature, a dark and lonely pursuer navigating the unlit corners and ditches of other's worlds, a dangerous and haggard animal prowling the fence.

Kawabata's technique used in "The Lake" is quite experimental, and different from his more-famous works. Aside from the dark story, elements of which can be found in most Kawabata, the shifting narrative and abrupt transitions and endings can be off-putting to those expecting a more naturally flowing story. Personally, I found the jump-cuts and unresolved nature of the writing to be complementary to the tale of Gimpei, with the overall effect leaving me uncomfortable and uneasy with the world, which is the stories goal.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Chasing real life. 10 Dec 2002
By Luc REYNAERT - Published on Amazon.com
The main character of this novel, Gimpei, chases unsuccessfully young girls with eyes like a lake. His father also drowned in a lake.
The lake is a symbol for life. Gimpei is chasing real life, but can't conquer it. His deformed feet, soiled by all possible infamies of the world, are a symbol of his Sisyphus run.
He abandons a prostitute with a child.
This novel with an unsympathetic protagonist is captivating because of its poetic vigour.
A minor work.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It Stays With You 17 Oct 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I have read other books by Kawabata and "The Lake" is generally not considered one of his best works but this was the one that had the most effect on me. It stayed with me like a pleasant sunny afternoon that suddenly erupts into rain or an acquaintance that reveals a disturbing side to their personality. Make no mistake. This is a shocking book made even more so by the relaxed Knut Hamsun-style narrative tone and the sensuality of the natural world surrounding the characters (more on display in "Snow Country"). Like Henry Miller with a conscience, Kawabata tells the story of sad, perverse, complex schoolteacher Gimpei with a tone that most reminds me of "Victoria" by Hamsun. The relationship between him and his female student Hisako is memorable. What I most liked is the author's refusal to cop out and produce a neat, conventional ending. Nothing is resolved (as it should be).
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Portrait of a Stalker 9 Aug 2008
By Jason T. Fetters - Published on Amazon.com
According to Donald Keene, The Lake (Mizuumi), and The House of Sleeping Beauties, represent Kawabata Yasunari at his most mature. It is not as well known as Snow Country but it is revelant today. Especially with the news showing countless stories of young girls being abducted by creepy looking pedohilies who become registered sex offenders. The Lake is a novel about the middle aged former school teacher named Gimpei, who spends his days stalking various women. Kawabata could judge his character but he shows a great deal of tact by painting a human portrait that allows the reader to make up their own mind. I like the fact that he's not preaching morals in this book.
The novel's strength is the way inwhich Kawabata uses time to move between periods of Gimpei's past. Kawabata does this so subtle and skillfully that, as a reader, you aren't really aware of it but you know that you have left the present for the moment. It is also interesting how Kawabata uses different colors through the text to create visuals that you can picture as you read along. I like the associations that exist in Gimpei's mind that show how far from reality he really is. For instance, a baby is crawling near him and he thinks its a dead baby that he abandoned years ago. This shows Kawabata's skill in writing psychological fiction. There are others examples of how Gimpei thinks he sees something that in reality turns out to be nothing to him but it causes Gimpei's mind to relate to objects and surroundings and regress into his past. In fact the whole novel is a regression into a happier time for Gimpei when he first fell in love at the lake.
Overall this is an entertaining and quick read that shows how one character decides to view his own reality which lead to his reaction to it. Gimpei is strange when you get inside his head to see what's clicking.
This is my first time reading Kawabata and next up for me is The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa.
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