Snow Country

雪国 [Yukiguni]

Edward G. Seidensticker
August 23, 2021 September 23, 2021

Nobel Prize recipient Yasunari Kawabata's Snow Country is widely considered to be the writer's masterpiece, a powerful tale of wasted love set amid the desolate beauty of western Japan.

At an isolated mountain hot spring, with snow blanketing every surface, Shimamura, a wealthy dilettante meets Komako, a lowly geisha. She gives herself to him fully and without remorse, despite knowing that their passion cannot last and that the affair can have only one outcome. In chronicling the course of this doomed romance, Kawabata has created a story for the ages, a stunning novel dense in implication and exalting in its sadness.

About the book

Snow Country is a novel set in Japan in 1930. The plot is not complicated, it is almost absent but what stands out in this story is the setting. We are in fact in the north of the largest island of Japan where it snows a lot during the winter and the style of the book, is a bit aseptic, like the environment.

The protagonist, Shimamura, is a man from Tokyo who often goes to these mountains and here he meets a geisha he is fond of. The local geisha are not like the geisha of the city, the book specifies it well. Shimamura is an aesthete, he escapes from Tokyo to leave the greyness of the city behind, in search of purity and knows that beauty must be sought in the past and in traditions. The book is a bit like a dream, a person who wants to escape from the monotony of life and searches for this ideal place in the snowy mountains where traditions are still alive.

What I think

The book is not for me, despite this I liked the various descriptions of Japan. But I’m not one to get lost in the immense descriptions if there isn’t an end to everything. I don’t think it’s a book for everyone, not for its contents but for the slowness of the narration that reflects the nature of the place.

Do I recommend the book? Only to those who like this style. Because even for a Japanese lover like me it was too “dreamy” or too idyllic.

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