Monday, January 12, 2015

Book Review - Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata

I am like a sponge when it comes to anything that interests me. Japan, for example, is one such area in which I try to learn and read as much as I can about such a rich country. I enjoy watching Kurosawa films, am a somewhat part of a tea ceremony group at the Memphis Botanic Gardens, have read books about Shinto and Bushido, can speak rusty basic Japanese, and even have plans to write a book that takes place in Japan with a longing desire to visit the country for "research purposes". So it came as no surprise to me that I would enjoy the book Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata.

(Yasunari Kawabata)

My love of Japanese literature began years ago when I discovered the author Yukio Mishima. His books were the gateway into a world I knew very little about, yet once I arrived there, I did not want to leave. So it was that years later, while reading Thousand Cranes, that I feel as though I have returned to that world that smells of matcha tea powder. Thousand Cranes is a sparsely written yet beautiful story of a young man named Kikuji and his involvement with two mistresses of his dead father as well as the daughter of one of the mistresses. Each person plays their part as though they were in a Greek Tragedy, as they are the symbols of Life and Death to those who are witnesses. Surrounding the story is Chado, or the Way of Tea, and the ceremony that brings these people together under such bleak circumstances. The women see Kikuji as a new beacon of a old light that was once shown through his father, yet it is not enough as two of them fail to grasp it.

Kawabata's simple writing gives the characters layers, allowing no need to overpower the book with flowery and overly descriptive phrases. The characters literally speak for themselves. In now having a great appreciation for Kawabata, I know that I want to read more Japanese works, along with a return to Mishima. It has been too long.

(Yukio Mishima)


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