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The Dancing Girl of Izu and Other Stories Paperback – August 29, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Included in this selection of short stories are two of the author's more successful pieces. Both were first published in Japan, in 1925. The title story is about a university student's travels though Tokyo. During his trip, he meets a group of traveling entertainers and falls in love with a dancing girl. Later, he discovers that she is a child, which alters his feelings for her. "The Diary of My Sixteenth Year" details the painful relationship between a boy and his dying grandfather. An overwhelming sense of sadness and isolation permeates both these stories; at the end of each, the main character feels completely alone and unloved. The remaining stories are characterized by melancholy. The Japanese social and family relationships depicted are often vague and difficult for Westerners to understand, and much is lost in translation. For larger collections?Janis Williams, Shaker Heights P.L., Ohio
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Kawabata lusted for purity; his characters live the contradiction." -- Boston Globe

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; First Paperback Edition edition (August 29, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1887178945
  • ISBN-13: 978-1887178945
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #991,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"The Dancing Girl of Izu and Other Stories" is an odd collection of sorts, mixing an elegant, straight-forward short story together with some autobiography and a fluttering of palm-of-the-hand tales. Each element contributes a unique flavor, and a different facet of Kawabata's style.
J. Martin Holman proves himself again a master translator of Kawabata, retaining the flow and most importantly the feeling of the originals, far more than other translators I have read. The only flaw I found was that he splits the book into two sections, which I personally found a bit jarring. I think it more naturally flows into three distinct chapters.
"The Dancing Girl of Izu" is as fine a short story as you are likely to read anywhere. Every necessary element is contained, with no superfluous decoration. It is heartbreaking in its subtlety, and masterful in its craft. Everything important is unsaid. Kawabata can manipulate emotions so deeply using so little, leaving the reader with an aching emptiness as great as that of the narrator. Beautiful, and fully worth the cost of the collection alone.
"Diary of my Sixteenth Year," "Oil," "The Master of Funerals" and "Gathering Ashes" are four short autobiographical sketches of Kawabata's relationship with his only relative, a blind grandfather who would figure into several tales. Not factual per se, but true impressions. They present an intimate portrait of youth trying to understand the aged, of responsibility and resentment of responsibility, and of the numbness of death. The stories are presented as recovered diary accounts Kawabata wrote when he was 16, and they may be so. I believe the feelings, and that is enough.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Nathan on December 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
Although Kawabata is most often associated with his better than good Palm-of-the-hand stories, I don't view them as my favorate Kawabata work. The Dancing Girl of Izu (mandatory reading for Japanese Junior High School Students) is a sort of coming of age story that made me step back and reflect. The semi-autobiographical work is tender, heart warming, and a keen glimpse into Japanese life. If you have read and enjoyed earlier works of this author I would strongly suggest this collection to you. If you have yet to discover Kawabata, I say there's no better place to start!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By M. J. Smith VINE VOICE on July 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
The first section of this book is autobiographical - the author's fictionalization of his own tragic childhoon. The diary of the period just before his grandfather's death is moving but I am uncertain that his appended notes add anything.
Of the autobiographical section, Oil is the best piece. In his learning that his hatred for oil had its origins in his father's funeral - a father of whom he had no memories - is a telling piece about the human mind in general. This piece alone is worth the cost of the book.
The second section has a variety of his early short-short stories bounded together, seemingly, only by when they were written and when they were published. The most interesting of these are the retelling of folktales - either directly or by writting a story that plays off one. The two tales I find most satisfying in this section are The Princess of Dragon Palace which is straight myth and The Money Road which is a setting of a folktale in contemporary times.
A number of other stories are very well done and could easily be the one that speaks best to you.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By therosen VINE VOICE on May 9, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an interesting mix of Yasunari Kawabata's early work, well before he was Japan's literary superstar, and well before the works that would ultimately win him the Nobel prize. The title story (I can't say titular, can I?) is of a college student's crush on the youngest member of a dancing troup. Most likely autobiographical, it leaves the reader sharing Kawabata's youthful loneliness. The second larger short story (there's no better way to describe it) is Diary of My Sixteenth Year, which covers the disappating love of a youth and his dying grandfather.

The remaining stories are much shorter, ranging from 3 to 10 pages each. Birthplace is an interesting story of abandonment and leaving one's home behind. Burning the Pine Boughs is as much about reading between the lines as reading what's on the page. Oil is a deep work of overcoming childhood loss.

Three common themes permeate these stories. First is the idea of an imperfect, sour or unatainable love. Second is the idea that at least somehow many of them are autobiographical. Third is that much is left unsaid in the stories. In a sense they are a prose form of Zen art, where what is unsaid can be more important than what is put to paper. Despite being distinct, one can read inferences between the stories (the hands for prayer in both Master of Funerals and Hands, for example) and perhaps that is enough to tie them all together.

Although Snow Country is commonly referred to as Kawabata's greatest accomplishment, these stories were more accessible and emotionally powerful.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mostly Mozart VINE VOICE on July 18, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When Yasunari Kawabata won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968, the three works cited were his novels Thousand Cranes, The Old Capital, and Snow Country. His story "The Dancing Girl of Izu" is, in my opinion, the equal of any of his novels. Kawabata published the story in 1926, when he was twenty-six or twenty-seven years old, and there are autobiographical elements in it.

The story itself is superb, a coming of age story every bit as great as Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, although it couldn't be more different in tone. The rest of the book consists of other stories written between 1923 and 1929, and "Diary of My Sixteenth Year", an account of the time when Kawabata was caring for his dying grandfather, who had taken him in when Kawabata's parents died when he was three. "Diary of My Sixteenth Year" is of primarily historical interest. The remaining twenty-one stories, all of them quite short, are quite good, as well.

I know no Japanese, so I cannot comment on the accuracy of J. Martin Holman's translation, but I can definitely say that he and Kawabata have together produced a work of great literature here.
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