Book Review: Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

Oct 1, 2018

Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

At an isolated mountain hot spring, with snow blanketing every surface, Shinamura, a wealthy dilettante, meets Komako, a lowly geisha. She gives herself to him fully and without remorse, despite knowing that their passion cannot last and that the affair can have only one outcome. In chronicling the course of this doomed romance, Kawabata has created a story for the ages–a stunning novel dense in implication and exalting in its sadness.

The summary of this book captures the essence of Snow Country perfectly. This book is dripping in implication. The characters are never straightforward. They all keep secrets or they are just distant enough from each other that you know as much as the narrator knows. Even if the characters state their feelings clearly, there is some hidden layer beneath the words that you know to be true. Honestly, all the implications kills me.

The sadness kills me as well. I was so emotionally affected by Thousand Cranes that I immediately sought out another one of Kawabata’s novels. There is something addicting about how Kawabata portrays sadness. Kawabata is no stranger to sorrow and he conveys it so beautifully.

I remember reading about Kawabata a while ago before I read any of his works. For some reason, I was reading about seppuku (might have been because one of my friends told me that samurais used to drink tea beforehand so they could empty their bowels before committing seppuku, cool fact) and I was reading about the last recorded instance of seppuku. The accomplished poet, writer, actor, and director Yukio Mishima was the last and he was a friend of Kawabata’s. It is said that Kawabata was haunted by Mishima’s ghost so much so that he in turn also committed suicide (although not by seppuku).

After reading Snow Country I went ahead and read some more about Kawabata. One article talks about his first love and how it fell apart. It was tragic.

While it seems so simple, two people are caught in a passionate but illicit affair, there is tragedy seeping in every single word, gesture, and thought in this book. It’s hard for me to think about what even happens in this book because I was just so affected by it all.

Kawabata really knows how to write. I’m losing my ability to write because I just can’t come up with any words to describe it. I highly recommend it.