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The Master of Go (Vintage International) [Kindle Edition]

Yasunari Kawabata , Edward G. Seidensticker
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.95
Kindle Price: $9.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Go is a game of strategy in which two players attempt to surround each other’s black or white stones. Simple in its fundamentals, infinitely complex in its execution, Go is an essential expression of the Japanese spirit. And in his fictional chronicle of a match played between a revered and heretofore invincible Master and a younger, more modern challenger, Yasunari Kawabata captured the moment in which the immutable traditions of imperial Japan met the onslaught of the twentieth century.

The competition between the Master of Go and his opponent, Otaké, is waged over several months and layered in ceremony. But beneath the game’s decorum lie tensions that consume not only the players themselves but their families and retainers—tensions that turn this particular contest into a duel that can only end in death. Luminous in its detail, both suspenseful and serene, The Master of Go is an elegy for an entire society, written with the poetic economy and psychological acumen that brought Kawabata the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Translated from the Japanese by Edward G. Seidensticker

Editorial Reviews


"This novel is one of modern literature's greatest, most poignant elegies" Washington Post "Kawabata's narrative spirals through the book's events in ruminative glides and turns... There is a kind of low-key daring, an austere, autumnal nobility, in Kawabata's tale" Time "An archetypal saga... there are storms and landscapes as cool, as luminous, as any in Japanese paintings and woodcuts" The New Yorker

Language Notes

Text: English, Japanese (translation)

Product Details

  • File Size: 2357 KB
  • Print Length: 209 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0425026450
  • Publisher: Vintage (February 13, 2013)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00B3GMN2I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #163,622 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
63 of 65 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Japanese Culture à Go-go July 10, 2000
In 1938, a go match was played over six months in 14 sessions at several different locations in Japan. The opponents were the grand master, Shusai, and Otake, a younger professional challenger. Kawabata, then 39 years old, was the newspaper reporter who covered the match for Tokyo and Osaka newspapers. After the war, he turned his reportage into a novel which still retains much of the feeling of reports. If you don't know the game of `go', played with white and black stones on a board, or if you are not at all familiar with Japanese culture, then this book is probably not a good place to begin. However, if that is not the case, then Kawabata's subtle depiction of many themes in Japanese culture and in human life, may give you pleasure. The sick old man versus the young one. Life versus death, even. The author wrote"From the way of Go, the beauty of Japan and the Orient had fled. Everything had become science and regulation." (p.52) Players worried about points, not elegance or dignity. Otake represents the new, the ambitious, the unrefined; the old master all that was vanishing, all that Kawabata mourned. As a novel about an arcane contest which still can bring out all these important, even universal, themes, THE MASTER OF GO is an amazing feat. If this sounds interesting, give it a try. You definitely won't find another novel like it ! Kawabata certainly deserved the Nobel Prize.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Record of a single game of Go April 17, 2004
If another writer has written "The Master of Go", a true story about the competition between the "invincible" Master of Go and a much-younger opponent in the Master's retirement match, and intense single game that lasted for more than six-months, perhaps they could have used the game to launch a sweeping metaphor of the fading Meji-era of Japan giving way to the modern era, or a struggle of youth and age or something of the sort. The game itself might have taken second seat to whatever greater picture the author painted.
Instead, because this is Kawabata, we have an intimate portrait of three people, the two players and the author himself, basic and alive and honest human beings. Of course, there is a bit of metaphor and conclusions can be drawn, but ultimately the three people do not require any grandeur beyond there immediate status as human beings. It is enough.
The Master of Go himself, the highest available rank in the official Go association, is a portrait of obsession and dedication. He is only comfortable playing games, and even amidst his failing health and the demands of his retirement challenge, he ensnares anyone around him in any game possible, be in Mah Jong or Billiards. His opponent, a young yet high ranking challenger, has fought his way through a year-long tournament for the honor of being the opponent in the Master's final match. High strung, and with health issues of his own, he brings everything he has to defeat the Master in his last game. The author, a newspaper reporter assigned to cover the match which is being sponsored by his paper, unable to penetrate the minds of the two players, lays open his own feelings and interpretations while retaining a newspaperman's eye for reporting facts rather than speculation.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sense of reality July 30, 2001
Kawabata is more difficult to translate into english than say someone like Mishima. He lets us view a pre-war Japan mind set that can sometimes seem a little alien to the westerner. This is his difficulty and his genius. The courtly aristocratic Go master playing against the much younger more modern challenger lets us see in microcosm the change in Japan from the pre-war aristocracy to a more egalitarian society. Kawabata is careful to show good and bad sides of both these individual Go players. Much is lost and a little is gained in this transistion for Japan. That is the impression Kawabata gives in this narrative of a late 1930s Go championship game. This novel is mostly non fiction and is told in a light aesthetic style. In reading this I am reminded a little of the 1972 Fischer vs Spassky Chess match in Iceland. The disagreements in this Go match of course were nothing to compare to that famous Chess match. The author was covering this Go match for a newspaper and he was on the scene as an eye-witness, because of this the narrative carries a sense of reality not often found in fiction. Quite simply a mesmerizing read.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story that transcend cultures, and culture itself March 28, 1999
Kawabata's beautiful narrative mirrors the direction of east asian culture, and perhaps world culture at large, where the refinements and subtle ways of the fallen aristocracy is giving way to mean, crude, egalitarian rules and regulations designed for modern day mass production and consumption.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite book of all time... May 15, 1999
By A Customer
I've read many books in my life, but none of them surpass the beauty, elegance, and creativity embodied in "The Master of Go." I believe this book is one of the best-written of the 20th century! I also believe the game of Go is the best game ever invented! It's unfortunate that so few Westerners have been exposed to them both.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Butterfly in an Early Snow June 4, 2009
Your 'humble reviewer' is subject to impulsive reading. I've been feasting on the strong flavors of novels by Kenzaburo Ooe and Robert Bolaño - tough fibers of frenzy and obsession - and I suddenly found myself remembering Kawabata. I first read The Master of Go in the early 1970s, after I'd begun playing Go myself. One thing led to another; I started practicing the Japanese flute, the shakuhachi. Then I began learning Japanese, and then Japanese styles of brush calligraphy. Finally, in the 1980s, I went to Japan for a year of immersion.

Ooe and Kawabata both won the Nobel Prize. Kawabata and Yukio Mishima were reputed to be close friends, and both committed suicide. All three were psychologically devastated by Japan's crushing defeat in WW2 and by the 'disgraceful' submission of Japanese culture to Western influences during and after the Occupation. Only Mishima took the lurid path of nationalistic recrudescence, but all three could be superficially categorized as 'reactionaries' from a pro-modernist point of view.

Kawabata's style of writing is the polar opposite of Oe's. In Kawabata, silence is tension, immobility is excitation, not speaking tells much. The famous swept-pebble Zen garden might serve as an image of Kawbata's prose. A English translation can scarcely suggest the 'tea ceremony' restraint of Kawabata's writing in Japanese. His vocabulary of "kanji" -- the Chinese characters used for writing classical Japanese -- is daunting. That's the reason I gave up; I recognized that I couldn't pragmatically afford the time to learn 20,000 kanji, any more than I could devote myself to mastery of Go.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Go and the Art of Gracious Living
According to the introduction to the book there is a word in Japanese (shōsetsu - literally: "short story") which means a fictionalized account of an historical happening. Read more
Published 15 days ago by Chris Ziesler
2.0 out of 5 stars Rather boring
I love go and was looking forward to reading a book about go that even non players liked :)

However, I found the book to be rather boring. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Shawn L.
5.0 out of 5 stars Uniquely Japanese viewpoint
Written in the early days of WWII, this autumnal biography is based upon a real person. The Master, who always plays white and never loses, is regarded as superhuman and an emblem... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Jeffrey Huntington
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorites.
I got this book a couple of years ago. I just love it. I am happy to see Kindle finaly got it. Being a lover of the game of Go, or igo as it is known in Japan, I really get into... Read more
Published 6 months ago by eric v. c. carlson
4.0 out of 5 stars The last match of a master
Even if you do not play Go or have any interest in it, this story of the last match of an aging and ill master against a much younger and more aggressive player of high rank will... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Allan H. Clark
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful story.
It's an absolutely enthralling tale about a single game of go. It is also the tale of changing traditions in a country that reveres excellence. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Gary Freed
5.0 out of 5 stars The Only Constant Is Change
Shortly after I'd caught wind of a game called "Go" I discovered "The Master of "Go" by Kawabata.

I was immediately taken by the games' eloquent simplicity in principle,... Read more
Published 10 months ago by DH Koester
4.0 out of 5 stars When stillness reflects turmoil
In this novel, a masterful Kawabata describes the game of go between Shusai and Otake in 1938, which was the last game Shusai, the old master, ever played. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Sebastian Fernandez
4.0 out of 5 stars Novel about a real-life top-level Go "retirement game"
Kawabata used this highly important game to contrast the old and the new in Japan. Of course, this is a relative term. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Dr. J. Sarfati
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wondrous Little Book
This is a wonderful little piece. Being, in the imperfectly translated words of the author, "chronicle-novel" - based upon actual events but with fictional elements - I could not... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Andrew E. M. Baumann
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