on 7 February 2005
This is the third Kawabata that I have read, and I am still struggling to decide how I feel about him. His writing is undoubtedly beautiful in places, and his stories are wistful and poetic, painting ghostly pictures of his early years and the sense of loss that accompanies their passing. However, I have to confess that I have struggled with all three to understand the message behind his stories. Perhaps I just don't understand him, or maybe my ignorance of Japanese society means that I am missing something important.
'TDGOI' includes 5 short stories and a number of very short ('palm-of-the-hand') stories. They deal, on the whole, with loss and memory, especially as concerns death in his family when Kawabata was younger. As you may expect, they are fairly morose stories, largely dealing with Kawabata's awakening to the reality of loss in life. The sadness of growing up is admirably captured, and the prose style is well suited to these subjects. 'The Master of Funerals', about a man who is invited to funerals because he mourns so well, is an exemplary Kawabata short story, and a real moment of brilliance. The book as a whole is vaguely autobiographical and helped me to understand the later books that I had read, as well as understanding Kawabata as a man. However, I was frequently bewildered by what I had just read, and because of this the book failed to touch me as much as it might. It deserves four stars for the language and imagery alone, and I would recommend it, but much of it did go over my head.