Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata



I have just finished this novel. Somebody, maybe Kuzuo Ishiguro, advised in one of the introductions, to read it slowly, so I have. It has taken me two days to read just over 100 pages. I have read like a snail over gravel, trying to take it all in, and I think I have got more out of it as a result.

I think I now have more appreciation of the descriptions of nature and the function of the Haiku. I would say it serves to startle and make the reader pause and think - and then lends emphasis. I suppose, in a way, Kawabata forces the reader to take it slowly.

In the introduction it said there was not much plot, and thinking back I realise that is true. There were no twists, no devices, and was all the more satisfying for that. Just like 'Thousand Cranes' it was intense and absorbing, but I have to confess I preferred 'Snow Country' because of the characters. They were less passive and therefore more interesting, and I loved the way the setting of this place isolated for so many months of the year by snow, became part of the story.

Again, it was the subtlety which I think is one of the main reasons that I agree that it is a masterpiece. I realise now that other writers, who are also heavily influenced by Japanese writing, have used this technique in their work. For instance, one of the most striking features of Kazuo Ishiguro's 'The Remains of the Day' (for me) was my realisation of the butler's love only after I had finished the book. Maybe other readers knew about this all along, but for me it was only something that struck me long after I'd finished. Similarly, I now realise the significance of David Mitchell's asides in his dialogue at the beginning of 'The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet'. It is the introduction of haiku into prose. It is clever, and a powerful device.

6 Comments:

Blogger Kay McKenzie Cooke said...

Hi Clare! I too am reading Japanese literature - or literature about Japan. Some of it pretty light, but I love the way it brings the memories and flavours of Japan back to me ... am enjoying Ellis Avery's 'The Teahouse Fire' at the moment.

Sat Apr 02, 03:41:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Hi Kay! Nice to hear from you again. I do think reading Japanese literature has actually been life-changing for me, well in the way I write, or at least it has the potential. I love it! 'The Tea House Fire' sounds interesting - 'Thousand Swans' by Kawabata was based around the tea ceremony too. It sounds like it is very important over there.

Sat Apr 02, 11:25:00 am  
Blogger Neil said...

Clare, I've just bought Snow Country on your recommendation. Looking forward to reading it.

Mon Apr 04, 10:12:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Excellent! Thanks for letting me know. I'll be really interested to hear what you make of it.

Mon Apr 04, 10:56:00 am  
Anonymous marly youmans said...

I like very much the way you think about how an unfamiliar form might seep in and affect how you think about your own work, Clare. An interesting post.

Wed Apr 06, 01:51:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thanks, Marly. Yes, I certainly hope that it does.

Wed Apr 06, 11:27:00 am  

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