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The Sound of the Mountain Paperback – May 28, 1996

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage International
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (May 28, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679762647
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679762645
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Kawabata is a poet of the gentlest shades, of the evanescent, the imperceptible.”
“A rich, complicated novel. . . . Of all modern Japanese fiction, Kawabata’s is the closest to poetry.”
The New York Times Book Review

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

To me that is very sad and a hard way to die.
Ms. Sarah R. Simmons
"Kindness towards her was a beam lighting isolation. It was a way of pampering himself, of bringing a touch of mellowness into his life."
Bob Newman
This book is so well written, so lyrical and evocative, with descriptions of nature and natural metaphors.
K. L. Cotugno

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Bob Newman VINE VOICE on July 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
Kawabata Yasunari won the Nobel Prize in 1968 and this novel above all his others, in my opinion, gives readers a chance to find out why. This is a classic of world literature, a work of genius. It is a finely-written tale of family, a simple story about an older man who is fond of his daughter-in-law, though his relations with his own two grown children, son and divorced daughter, are ambiguous. The story line, as in other Kawabata novels, is simple----there are no great events, no dramatic conclusions or climaxes. Natural phenomena---birds, animals, plants, and weather---play a large role in setting the mood and are used as symbols throughout. Far from being a recurring theme, the "sound of the mountain" is heard only once, on page 10, yet it and many other signs presage changes in life that follow a pattern unseen by human eyes.
The most amazing thing about THE SOUND OF THE MOUNTAIN is its capacity to summarize or to encapsulate family life, the compexity of family relationships. The only other book I know that comes close is Christina Stead's "The Man Who Loved Children", but that is a most verbose book whose characters verbalize nearly every emotion, or else the author does it for them. Kawabata's novel, however, succeeds in portraying family life equally well, if not better, with an absolute minimum of brush strokes. The indecision, the steps not taken, the regrets, the lost loves who return in dreams---all the myriad small events from which marriages and families are constructed---flow in a way that is both typically Japanese and universal. Shingo, the old man, was particularly kind towards Kikuko, his daughter in law, who "was for him a window looking out of a gloomy house." "Kindness towards her was a beam lighting isolation.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Zack Davisson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
"The Sound of the Mountain" ("Yama no Oto") should have been a script for an Yasujiro Ozu film. All of the elements are here, with the kindly aged father Shingo who cannot gain his children's respect or love, ready to be portrayed by Chishu Ryu, and the lovely and loving daughter-in-law Kikuko, far more understanding than his real children, designed exactly for Setsuko Hara. The family who has left its rural home to uproot to Tokyo, following the jobs, losing their heart in the process. It really is too perfect.
Instead, the story is guided by the gentle hand of Yasunari Kawabata, who gives us the Japanese family, still disheveled by the end of the war and not quite certain what their roles are and dealing with their loss of identity. Confucian ideals, such as respect for the elder parents, have been swept aside in the post-Occupation reality. Shingo's son Shuichi has come back from the war an indifferent, cold-hearted man, flaunting his affairs with neither spite nor pleasure. Shingo's wife, Yasuko, is an ugly reminder of her sister, whom Shingo loved in is youth yet died. Their daughter Fusako is a burden, returning home with ugly children, her husband a waste and their marriage broken. The only pleasure in his life is the daughter-in-law Kikuko, whom his son wounds daily with his lack of caring.
In the Kawabata style, there is neither complaint nor surface rage at life's inconstant fortunes, but rather an acceptance and perseverance. Life is about moving forward, even at the advanced age of Shingo and Yasuko, who take their burdens as they come. Shingo is the main character, and so this is a book of old age, of looking back at life's mistakes and longing for fading pleasures.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 1, 1997
Format: Paperback
A haunting, evocative novel of family life in the immediate aftermath of the second world war. Shingo, the grandfather of the family, describes the relationships between his children and their partners, interwoven with flashbacks of his own early life. The disharmony of their lives is overwritten with a sense of Shingo's personal unfulfillment and unrequited love for the long dead sister of his wife. A constant theme of the novel is the decline in the powers of Shingo as head of the family and his inability to shape the destiny of his children as the story unfolds.

This is a beautifully written book, rich in the culture of Japan which maintains a sense of melancholy throughout yet accurately reflects the mundane nature of day to day family existence. A highly recommended, gentle read.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Bärchen on February 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
Written by Nobel-prize winning author Y. Kawabata, "The Sound of the Mountain" is a stunning and complex novel about the family life of Ogata Shingo. Shingo, head of the household, is deeply troubled by the moral decay of his children's families. Shuichi, his son, is married to Kikuko, but carries on an affair for a year, which results in a....... child by his lover and an abortion by his wife. Fusako, Shingo's daughter, separates and later divorces her drug-addicted husband to live with her two young children at her parents' house. Both of Shingo's children disrespect him and think little of him because of his absent-mindedness. These periods of thoughts are filled with beautiful imagery of nature's sounds, smells, and scenes. However, increasingly Shingo's dreams bring him anguish over his moral responsibilty, his hidden love for his daughter-in-law, Kikuko, and his desire for the beauty of his wife's younger sister, his late first wife. In the end, family ties hold this microcosm of Japanese life together--for better or for worse.
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