Top positive review
17 people found this helpful
on 20 September 2007
The game of Go is ancient and, although originating in China, may be said to have reached its zenith in Japan where it was further developed and its experts revered. You do not need to understand the intricacies of tactics and rituals, however, in order to fully appreciate this beautiful work.
Based on contemporary reports made by the author while he was working for the Mainichi newspapers, this 'chronicle-novel' (as Liza Dalby calls it in her succinct but informative introduction) relates the details of and events surrounding the last ever match played by the Master and his opponent Kitani Minoru (called Otake in the novel) in 1938.
Owing to the Master's illness, the match was prolonged by three months and thus lasted for six. Even the originally allotted time-span, however, was longer than most other comparable matches and was the result of accommodating the needs of the aging Master, who was used to the old ways where moves were not timed and sealed plays not permitted.
Although all that happens in this novel is this match and a description of Shusai's death (as detailed in the blurb), it held my attention throughout. It is beautifully written and is,indeed, as the Washington Post describes it, "one of modern literature's greatest, most poignant elegies". The prose is simple but beguiling and it is easy to see why Kawabata was a Nobel Prize winner. Treat yourself.