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Beauty and Sadness Paperback – January 30, 1996


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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Japanese

About the Author

Yasunari Kawabata was born near Osaka in 1899 and was orphaned at the age of two. His first stories were published while he was still in high school and he decided to become a writer. He graduated from Tokyo Imperial University in 1924 and a year later made his first impact on Japanese letters with Izu Dancer. He soon became a leading figure the lyrical school that offered the chief challenge to the proletarian literature of the late 1920s. His writings combine the two forms of the novel and the haiku poems, which within restrictions of a rigid metre achieves a startling beauty by its juxtaposition of opposite and incongruous terms. Snow Country (1956) and Thousand Cranes (1959) brought him international recognition. Kawabata died by his own hand, on April 16 1972. Beauty and Sadness is translated from the Japanese by Edward G. Seidensticker (1921-2007), who was a prominent scholar of Japanese literature. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage International ed edition (January 30, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679761055
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679761051
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #469,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Maybe it was because the translator was not Seidensticker that the words seemed kind of dull, I dunno.
A H Booches
Much like a composer of music, attentive to each note and the silence in between, Kawabata's prose is highly musical and amazingly crafted.
Gregory W. Fulghum
In spite of his love, Oki has to leave Otaka after the death of their premature child and her breakdown.
Joyce Åkesson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Gregory W. Fulghum on August 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
This little novel, though economical in size and language, is a monument to the Japanese ideal of <<less is more>>. Kawabata's economical use of words by no means undercuts the concise imagery of his prose. At times, it is NOT what he has said or implied, but the empty spaces between his words that completely round out his thoughts. Much like a composer of music, attentive to each note and the silence in between, Kawabata's prose is highly musical and amazingly crafted. His eloquent, often delightful truths seem to bring the reader's attention to the essence of life, nature, and human nature. Though Kawabata won the Nobel prize for his literature, by no means would I consider his work pretentious, overly erudite, affected, or vain.... his writing exemplifies the clearest thoughts, the well turned phrase, a simplicity of characters and objectives but with the ease and elegance of learned man... a gentleman. This novel reminds me of an oriental landscape painting, some images are veiled in a mist, some easily discernable, some merely suggestive, all essential to the whole. It is beauty in the purest sense of the word... the only sadness was how quickly I devoured this short work and was hungry for more. So I read as many other of his works that I could.... you would not be displeased with this or any other of his works.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Michael Khan on June 29, 1999
Format: Paperback
Kawabata's masterpiece. A story inexorably moving towards the tragic end, yet taking its time in doing so, exploring several side-issues and developing the protagonists' characters such that the outcome appears inevitable. Magically and poetically interwoven with Japanese literature, history and art, human psychology, longing, desire and ultimate betrayal, this is a one-of-a-kind novel that defies all attempts at categorization and in a manner true to all classics, effortlessly transcends the boundaries of time and space in which it was created.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Zack Davisson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 23, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Art needs fuel. Something does not come from nothing, and novelists and painters often draw from the wellspring of their own misery to create magnificence. Kawabata's final book, "Beauty and Sadness" explores these themes, of the interlinking of creativity and pain, and how artists use their own lives to make something grander.

Oki and Otoko are such artists, creating beauty from sadness. Their illicit and doomed love affair deeply wounded their souls, with the despair of their lost child lasting far longer than the brief time they spent together. Oki chronicles their story in his novel "A Sixteen Year Old Girl," and Otoko paints, continually seeking to exorcise her feelings and expressing them on canvas.

Alternately, Keiko and Taichiro create sadness from beauty. Oki's child, Taichiro, is drawn into a web of revenge woven by Otoko's lesbian lover and protege Keiko. Whereas Oki and Otoko have made an uneasy peace, Keiko refuses to let it rest, and wants to punish Oki by taking his child in the same way he took Otoko's.

Kawabata's skill at language portraiture is what makes this such a fine book, drawing the reader into the downward spiral of the character's lives. Anyone familiar with his writing knows where the path is going, but the skill of his craft tenders the sadness with beauty. It is a soulful journey, leaving one with a bitter taste and the reality of lost love.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 12, 1998
Format: Paperback
Human relationships are anything but predictable. In 'Beauty and Sadness' Kawabata melds scenes of ardent love and revenge with subtle grace. He writes a story of love which is unpredictable and believable. The sound of the New Year bells chime with a mans longing to relive a part of his past. In his journey to do so he finds that the past cannot be revived. Instead he is thrown into a new episode which is completely out of his control. Written with the poetic beauty Kawabata is famous for 'Beauty and Sadness' is indeed the theme of love. A woderful read for people interested in the complexity of the human relationship.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 11, 1999
Format: Paperback
I did not really know what to expect when I purchased this book. What I received was a piece of intense literature expressing the very agony one can experience when placed in extreme circumstances. Such experiences were a test, in particular, of the main character's wife's endurance. Because I study the Japanese language and lived in Japan, I had the opportunity, during that time, to observe how people interact within that society. This book truly shows how, whether American or Japanese, we are so much alike when our endurance is tested by circumstances. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. yonde kudasai! :)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 18, 1998
Format: Paperback
Sadness & Beauty is I believe the last work Kawabatta completed. In it, he creates a world where everything is found to filled either w/ beauty or sadness, and towards the end, it seems that nothing can be beautiful without being sad, and that all the sad things in the world take on a beauty of their own. It's worth reading definitely, if there is a flaw, it's that the writing isn't as subtle, or implicit as some of his other works (but the comparison may be unfair, as his works are excellent).
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 10, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Beauty and Sadness" by Nobel Laureate Yasunari Kawabata and translated by Howard Hibbett is a slightly disappointing book after having just read "Snow Country" by the same writer, but a different translator.

I mention the translator because a non-Japanese speaker is totally dependent on the skill of the translator to capture the atmosphere, the nuances and the unspoken cultural aspects of the original Japanese. A literary work is as much about the imagery and musicality of the words and textural cadences as it is about immediate dictionary meanings.

It goes without saying that a straightforward translation of words and grammar would most likely give a very inadequate impression of the writer's intentions. This is true of any translation of fiction, not only this book.

"Beauty and Sadness" is a study of intertwined sexual relationships, all of them pathological to a greater or lesser degree. The central relationship is the 53 year-old Oki's renewed relationship (after 20 years) with Otoko whom he seduced and impregnated as a child of 16 and who still "loves" him. There is Otoko's lesbian relationship with Keiko - a very strange and disturbed young girl out for revenge against Oki - whom Oki also slept with. There is Keiko's relationship with Oki's son which leads to the climax of the book. Finally there is Oki's relationship with his wife who knows about all these goings on. The reader never knows who is using who and to what end. Got all that?

The relationships are only superficially about "love" - "hatred" would be a more apt word. Oki himself is a particularly distasteful character. He treats both Otoko and Keiko as objects and one wonders if he got any pleasure from either relationship.
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