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.