Yasunari Kawabata (1899-1972)

“Japanese novelist and literary critic, winner of the Nobel Prize in 1968. Although selected for the prize on the basis of the traditional values his work was perceived to embrace, Kawabata was recognized in Japan as an innovative and experimental writer of the most modern sensibilities. His works are pervaded by a sense of alienation and loss, and by a longing for pure, unearthly beauty often found in a maiden or maidenly person. Izu no odoriko (1925; tr The Izu Dancer, 1964), Yukiguni (1948; tr Snow Country, 1957), Sembazaru (1952; tr A Thousand Cranes, 1959), Yama no oto (1952; tr The Sound of the Mountain, 1970), Nemureru bijo (1961; tr. The House of the Sleeping Beauties, 1969), and Utsukushisa to kanashimi to (1965; tr Beauty and Sadness, 1975), all present a lonely man trying to find solace in the innate beauty and goodness of a young woman, though each story shows different thematic variations. Influenced by both Japanese and Western varieties of symbolist poetry, Kawabata’s novels make their statement through sign and image as much as through plot and characterization. Kawabata was president of the Japanese PEN club and active promoter of fledgling writers. He committed suicide in 1972.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

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