The Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

I couldn’t have been more disappointed with this. Of course I did that soul-searching where one’s own inadequacies are put forward as the reason for a failure to like something that Should Be Liked. New shelf idea. Should Have Been Liked But Wasn’t.

This is a very very VERY Japanese book and anything I say about it is merely the opinion of one who is ignorant of the culture which imbues it. Needless to say, the whole idea of the male-female relations, the ways in which the women have to live is repugnant. And the man with whom girls keep falling in love is short and fat, which is obviously supposed to be neither comical or offputting in the cultural context, though for the average Westerner reading, it is both of these. But beyond that, I found the ways in which things were expressed and described overly repetitive and the character of the main girl intolerable. Most unsympathetic of me, but there it is. I couldn’t sympathise and I most certainly couldn’t empathise. Tedious descriptions of the Snow Country did anything but make me visualise the gloriousness of the countryside, and yet I know from having been there that we are talking about stunning scenery such as I’ve never seen elsewhere.

I’m not prepared to blame the translator who is a genius.

I liked the other Kawabata I read very much – The Master of Go – but the balance is now firmly in favour of not trying him again.

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