Thursday, January 27, 2011

First Snow on Fuji
Mysterious Mountain
First Snow on Fuji by Yasunari Kawabata

"Wait - you can't tell whether it's the first snow or not, can you? It's the first time you and I have seen snow on Mount Fuji this year, but it might have snowed before."

The beauty of spare prose combined with the complications of conflicted emotions is the way I would describe the titular story in this collection. Yasunari Kawabata, whose novel Thousand Cranes moved me some years ago, manages to convey the sorrows of Japan through a chance meeting between two former lovers in the short story "First Snow on Fuji".  In this spare story, as with much of the prose this very modern author, the chance meeting leads to a planned encounter. A trip to the country yields much about the lives of the two lovers, Jiro and Utake, but leaves even more unsaid, hidden between the lines. The conflicted emotions of each of them yield to the pain of war and the even more personal pain of grief and loss, yet this is not a tragedy, at least not in the classic sense. Both detachment and an inability to communicate seem to lead each of the two players closer together only to also underline unsurmountable differences - perhaps. 
Ultimately Kawabata, the first Japanese writer to win the Nobel Prize for literature, demonstrates his genius in creating an amazing mosaic of interlocked events, feelings, and meanings - all rich with metaphor and allusion. These are stories worth reading and rereading for their depth defies damoclean certitude. Mysterious as a mount - the stories remain in your memory as clouded as the brow of the thoughtful man Jiro.

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