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First Snow on Fuji Paperback – November 10, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; Reprint edition (November 10, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582431051
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582431055
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #937,881 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Although he was the first Japanese writer to win the Nobel Prize, Yasunari Kawabata (1899-1972) remains much more obscure in the West than his high-profile protégé Yukio Mishima. Yet he's a writer of formidable talents. For one thing, Kawabata recognized early on the affinity between Japanese poetry--with its abrupt transition from image to image--and the jump-cut flavor of modernist prose. He also explored erotic life at a truly microcosmic level. Some may find a novel like The Mole--which revolves around a woman's habit of fiddling with her eponymous birthmark--a little too molecular in its approach. But sex, like God, is in the details, and throughout his career Kawabata has unearthed some surprising truths about our most urgent appetites.

First Snow on Fuji, a collection of stories originally published in 1958, is a fairly representative slice of the author's oeuvre. In "Her Husband Didn't" (a classic Kawabata title, by the way), a woman's earlobe becomes the discreet object of desire:

The earlobe was just as round and plump as an earlobe ought to be--it was small enough that Junji could squeeze it between the tips of his thumb and forefinger, no bigger than that--yet it filled him with a sense of the beauty of life. The smooth skin, the gentle swelling--the woman's earlobe was like a mysterious jewel.... He had never known anything with a texture like this. It was like touching the lovely girl's soul.
For Kawabata's characters, the physical usually leads straight to the metaphysical, which is what prevents him from deteriorating into a soft-core thrill merchant. And in several of the other stories here, he proceeds directly to the weightier issues. "Silence," for example, is at once a study in failing inspiration and a gloss on Kawabata's own career (the latter argument is made very effectively by translator Michael Emmerich in his introduction). And the title story offers an intriguing take on memory, which Kawabata seems to regard as a distinctly feminine operation: it's "the docility of women that makes it possible for them to return to the past."

What we love most in a writer--the idiosyncratic music of his or her prose--is the hardest thing for a translator to capture. There are times, alas, when Emmerich's ear seems inadequate to the task. His rendering never falls beneath a certain literate level--but for a writer of Kawabata's minimalistic delicacy, a clunky transition or flatfooted phrase can sink the whole enterprise. Readers might prefer to start, then, with Thousand Cranes or Snow Country. But for all its linguistic flaws, First Snow on Fuji reminds us that in literature most of all, less can be more--much more. --James Marcus --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Marking the 100th anniversary of Nobel Prize-winning Japanese novelist Kawabata's (Thousand Cranes) birth, this is the first English edition of these eight stories and one play, originally published in Japan in 1958. All are accomplished pieces written late in the author's career. In "This Country, That Country," a housewife named Takako hides a newspaper story on spouse-swapping, a subject of her fantasies, from her husband. The bond between desire and the act of hiding, the existential side of perversion, fascinates Kawabata. He composes his short fictions of seemingly disparate elements, leaving it to the reader to find the organic connection. On the way to visit a colleague and friend who can neither move nor speak after a stroke, the writer who narrates "Silence" hears from his taxi driver that the ghost of a beautiful woman has been appearing in cabs in the area. At the house of his friend, Omiya Akifusa, the narrator observes the strange attitude that Akifusa's daughter Tomiko has toward her bedridden fatherAa mixture of love and spite. With "the voice of a woman in hell," Tomiko reveals that she may write about her father's many affairs, and the appalled narrator, who feels that Akifusa is now "a sort of living ghost," believes that Tomiko may have been "possessed by something in him." The cab driver on the way back tells the narrator that he is sitting next to the female ghost, although he doesn't see her. This Jamesian interplay between the limits of perception and the insufficiency of action is further explored in "Her Husband Didn't." Outside the bounds of decorum, the story's adulterous lovers are still baffled by the incommunicability of desire. Junji's fetish for earlobes and his disappointment with Kiriko's ears throw the couple's entire relationship off balance. For readers who have never read Kawabata, these short stories are an excellent place to start. First serial ("Her Husband Didn't") to Tin House. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By "prismfae" on November 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This volume should be in every library. Elegant and subtle language weave each tale that are delicately, and often painfully, human. The conclusions, abrupt and ambiguous, are haunting and thought provoking. This is a collection of stories that moves you and speaks to you long after you've finished.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book, without a doubt, was the most elegant I have ever read. The langage is so beautiful that one reads it the same way one might poetry. Though the language alone could have made the book worthwhile, the stories are also haunting, like a painting that slowly reveals its secrets and hidden meanings. My favorite was the first story, "This Country That Country," but all of them are extraordinary.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By C. B Collins Jr. on September 22, 2012
Format: Paperback
Kawabata is a master storyteller. His descriptions of nature are precise and moving. He is able to create a world in each story that is easily visualized by the reader, though he uses minimal description, just enough to evoke the image. However, it is the manner in which we human beings misunderstand and miscommunicate with our fellows that is the theme for many of his stories. Human language runs up against the barrier of multiple meanings and hidden meanings and thus is far from a perfect transmitter of truth or reality. Kawabata plays with this limitation of the spoken and written word in most all of his stories. For Kawabata, this is probably most evident in the communication between men and women. In "This Country, That Country" a young woman is scandalized by a news article about two married couples who swap partners and re-marry together. Yet, a subtle version of this story happens to she and her husband and their next door neighbors. In "A Row of Trees", Kawabata's skills are fully demonstrated as a couple discusses the dropping of autumn leaves while thinking parallel narratives that are subtly reflected in their casual comments regarding the trees. His story "Nature" seemed like an actual life incident whereby Kawabata meets a beautiful actor who draft dodged in World War II acting as a female. "Silence" is about a visit by one famous author to another famous author after the second author has had a stroke depriving him of speech and the ability to write. "Her Husband Didn't" is an excellent example of the story of miscommunication as a young male art student around 21 years old has an affair with a woman of around 39. Here people connect sexually but each party has completely different expectations and meaning for the encounter.Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Crazy Fox on March 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a fine collection of short stories by Kawabata. These are longer than his "Palm of the Hand" stories but still display to the full his incredible talent to suggest a whole large-scale novel with the barest minimum of words and phrases. The deep suggestiveness and resonance typical of Kawabata is present in these brief works, though somewhat more flat-footed than elsewhere--one wonders if this is an effect of translation or whether Kawabata was a just a wee bit off his game here.

This collection also includes a rarity, a drama by Kawabata, which comes across as incredibly flat, wooden, and dull. It seems that drama was not a medium suited to him, although perhaps the play works well when actually performed--many a Kabuki play looks lame on paper but comes alive on the stage. But as it stands it seems an awkward ending to an otherwise fine collection of stories. This is not Kawabata at his best, but quite good still.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Abheek Saha on March 28, 2008
Format: Paperback
Having read and loved all of Kawabata's long stories and none of his short ones, I approached this book with considerable trepidation. There are some authors like Camus who are equally good in both forms and some others (to remain nameless) who I find are good in one style, but not the other.

However, 'First Snow on Fuji' turned out to be from the classic Kawabata mold. I liked Silence, but I liked the 'boat-women' better (I have always been drawn to the story of the battle of Danno Ura, since I heard it originally from Carl Sagan's Cosmos at the age of ten) and 'Seamless stupas' and the Row of trees. The themes are surprisingly modern (this country, that country), given from Kawabata's unique insight into human consciousness. Definitely a book for the aficionado.
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