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The Old Capital Paperback – January 10, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; Reprint edition (January 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593760329
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593760328
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #281,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Whether this subtle and brooding novel, here making its first appearance in English, deserves to rank alongside Snow Country and Thousand Cranes as one of Kawabata's major works is debatable, but it contains all the Nobel laureate's most striking characteristicsacute esthetic sensibility, preoccupation with the clash between old and new, pervasive melancholy and a story line suggestive of a Zen brush-and-ink painting where what is omitted is as important as what is included. Set in Kyoto, the Japanese city most symbolic of tradition, the story centers on a young woman, Chieko, whohaving been brought up to think her parents stole her as a baby in a fit of passionate desireis profoundly disturbed to learn (after a chance encounter with a girl who turns out to be her sister) that her real parents had abandoned her. Her identity crisis is exacerbated by her need to choose between carrying on her adoptive father's kimono-designing business, now in decay, and leaving home to marry. It's an intensely poetic story in which much is evoked, little stated or concluded.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Language Notes

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

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Customer Reviews

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This is my favourite Kawabata novel.
Sye Sye
For such a short book, the complexity of the stories and the characters would require a dissertation to describe.
Jonathan M. Lourie
This book is mysterious, eerie, awe-inspiring, beautiful, touchingly tender and somewhat weird.
N. Dyachenko

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 14, 1996
Format: Paperback
For years I'd been anxiously awaiting another Kawabata novel to appear in translation. When I finally got a copy of "The Old Capital" I was initially disappointed because Seidenstecker wasn't the translator, but, if anything, I like Holman's style of translation better.
Cheiko, the novel's twenty-year-old heroine, embodies Kawabata's ideals of deep sensitivity, beauty, modesty, and virginal purity. She works in her parents' wholesale silk goods store, which is failing like so many traditional Kyoto shops because the Japanese are falling under the spell of Western cultural values. This is especially significant because Kyoto is the cultural center of Japan--the most ancient and traditional of her cities. The successful stores now carry Sony radios and other nontraditional items to satisfy new Western tastes. "Anything for a buck," quips the successful store owner's son.
A foundling raised by loving middle-class parents, Cheiko might seem to be on a kind of spiritual quest to find her lost background--rather, the book itself is on a quest to help her find her origins, for she unconsciously unravels the mystery without really trying.
Of all Kawabata's novels, this one most resembles "The Sound of the Mountain" in its exquisite evocation of beauty, sensitivity, and the invasion of Western values--but without the heartbreak attached. It's one of the few Kawabata novels that doesn't end in some tragedy or disappointment. Kawabata suffuses the story in a gentle patina of longing. His subtle humor softens any edges, as in the parents' comic insistence that they stole her as a baby when, in reality, she had been left in front of her father's shop. Cheiko doesn't know what to make of this, but she accepts it because she knows her parents love her.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By N. Dyachenko on January 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is my favorite Kawabata book and I've read quite a few. I think it is much better than more famous "Snow Country". It is also much more complex than other Kawabata books, which are somewhat similar in their repetitive descriptions of the relationship between weak man and unhappy woman. This book is mysterious, eerie, awe-inspiring, beautiful, touchingly tender and somewhat weird. At the center of the story are two female twins, their incomprehensible inner universes and strange sensibilities. "Old Capital" is Kyoto - ancient center of Japan and cradle of the beautiful Heian culture. The city is portrayed as a place where past is mixed with present and aestetic sensibilities is combined with everyday routine of protagonists, who are but simple people with their life centered around family, work and small bussinesses.

Reading this book in both Russian and English translations made me realize that a lot of meanings in the book are lost when it is translated in English, because of the complex system of dialogues where the manner of speech is changed accordingly to the status of people conversing and their relationship to each other. Russian, being a much more hierarhical and polite language than English, produces better translation, but than again - as I dont know Japanese, I cant really say how much inferior the translation is compared to the original work.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By vic spicer on July 16, 1998
Format: Paperback
rather than the usual study of twisted eroticism and revenge, this story is amazingly calm, gentle but still wonderfully crafted. the emotions of muted longing and subtle sadness match perfectly with the descriptions of kyoto. well worth a read for kawabata fans.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mostly Mozart VINE VOICE on July 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
The Old Capital, though mentioned along with Snow Country and A Thousand Cranes in the announcement of Kawabata's Nobel Prize in literature, is not as well-known as either of the other two. Yet it is my favorite of his novels.

Kawabata explores the distances between people, the differences between them, the value of tradition, and the difficulties of knowing in his narration of Chieko's discovery of her twin sister, from whom she was separated shortly after birth by a kidnapping - or was it by an abandonment?

I neither speak nor read Japanese, but J. Martin Holman's translation must be a good one. Virtually every page held me entranced with its beauty.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By fanofjapan on June 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This novel captures beautifully the atmosphere of post-war Kyoto, its ancient culture in the throes of modernization, through the eyes of the daughter of a traditional textile shop. The descriptions are full of intricate details and although some knowledge of traditional Japan, its myths and rituals, is needed to fully appreciate the book, I'm sure anyone can just enjoy the story as it gently and gracefully unfolds.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Choux Goûter on May 15, 2011
Format: Paperback
As with so many Japanese novels of this period, and more so with Kawabata, the enormity of the emotions of the characters is expressed through their relationship to their context: a mountain rain shower, a festival, the uncanny resemblance of two teenage girls. A halting courtship and headstrong rebellion are expressed through arguments over the design for a custom-woven obi. Kawabata reveals so much while saying so little. The reader is almost encouraged to pause and reflect after scenes of particular intensity. The protagonists only graze their sentiments, but the reader is drawn into their turbulence. The novel is sparingly translated by Holman - in the North Point Press edition, one suspects from his preface that he received many criticisms of his first draft.
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