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The Master of Go Paperback – May 28, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (May 28, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679761063
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679761068
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 4.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #249,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Language Notes

Text: English, Japanese (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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This novel is mostly non fiction and is told in a light aesthetic style.
Paul Miller
Go is very interesting, in that the first 50 moves, or the beginning game, aren't very complex, and so they go fast.
Joseph Dewey
The notes at the end are very insightful however, and help fill in some of the gaps of Go-knowledge.
Zack Davisson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Bob Newman VINE VOICE on July 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
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 By Zack Davisson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
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 By shihjeff@sas.upenn.edu on March 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Paul Miller on July 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
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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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
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 By Giordano Bruno on June 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
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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