Book: Snow Country
Author: Yasunari Kawabata
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Born in 1899, Osaka Yasunari Kawabata was the first Japanese writer to receive the Nobel Prize in literature. He lost his parents when he was two. He is famous for his novels as well as his short stories. His writing career first emerged being a short story writer.
His well-known novels are:
Snow Country (1956)
Thousand Cranes ( 1959)
The Sound of the Mountain ( 1970)
The Master of Go (1972)
Beauty and Sadness ( 1975)
In 1959 he was lauded with the Goethe medal in Frankfurt. Snow Country was his masterpiece. It was also adapted into a movie.
He began writing Snow Country in 1934 and in 1947 a final instalment was added.
The Plot of the Novel Snow Country by Osaka Yasunari Kawabata
The novel begins with a beautiful topographical sketch. The character Shimamura is travelling to a hot spring resort to meet a geisha. A geisha is a professional class of women in Japan whose main occupation is to entertain men with music, dance, singing, and talking. And in this novel, Kawabata Yasunari has chosen a geisha girl for his character.
Shimamura met Komako, a geisha girl in a hot spring resort. And they grew a special connection. Though Shimamura came back to his home town time to time he travelled back to that land. Earlier Komako and Shimamura got entangled in emotional bondage which was not in the code of Geisha tradition.
Komako became restless in this new relationship with Shimamura. On the one hand, she felt an emotional attachment to Shimamura..she loved Shimamura but at the same time, she felt that any day Shimamura would leave her. She had been torn apart in contradictory conflicts. Shimamura also loved Komako but he knew in his heart that he had to go back to his family.
The novel opens with such travel on the part of Shimamura. He was travelling back through the snow Country to meet Komako. There in the compartment, his attention was captivated by the voice of a young woman Yoko. Yoko was nursing an aged ailing person named Yukio.
Now Shimamura discovered that Yukio’s mother and Komako shared the same house. It was rumoured that Yukio was the would-be husband of Komako and for his medical expenditure Komako had to join the job of Geisha. But later Yukio started a relationship with Yoko that made these two girls antagonistic to each other. Yukio died a few years after and his father also died soon after.
Ending of the Novel Snow Country by Osaka Yasunari Kawabata:
The novel ends with a horrible fire, breaking out in a cocoon warehouse. Shimamura was leaving the resort for his next travel when Komako stopped his car and entered. Then suddenly within their tense conversation, Komako found the fire. She became panic-stricken and started running towards the blazing warehouse along with Shimamura. The warehouse was often used as a matinee show. That day a movie was going on there. The film caught fire and it spread through the warehouse.
Even in that deadly situation, Komako exclaimed, looking towards the sky, before leaving Shimamura behind her at the step safe from fire,
” The Milky Way. Beautiful. Is not it?”
Then she ran off telling him to stay and wait for her as people won’t like it if a Ghesia takes a man to a fire. But then she abruptly retracted her words and hysterically told him to go away. She knew that he was preparing to leave her. And this fear of losing him and the hatred for this constant haunting fear was making her mad. It was better to let him go away than to live in this constant fear.
” You said I was a good woman, didn’t you? You’re going away. Why did you have to say that to me?”
Even in that nagging tragic set-up, they went on watching the Milky way from time to time.
Then they noticed Yoko, fallen face up… unconscious…Komako ram frantically ignores everything amidst the devouring fire. She took Yoko at her breast.
It is not spoken whether Yoko was dead or not but from certain phrases it was clearly stated that she was about to die.
” Yoko’s face hung vacantly as at the moment of the soul’s fight.”
When one s soul started flying from the body it indicates death.
Shimamura already got absorbed in the mysterious beauty of the milky way and started on his own way. And the story ends here…. leaving the readers to contemplate and ruminate.
There is a certain sweetness and languid melancholy in this novel along with the beautiful descriptions of nature that when one reads the novel he or she gets engrossed in that surreality of existence. Love, death, catastrophe, and estrangement all are natural…inevitable…yet so tangible like the Milky Way.
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