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Thousand Cranes (Vintage International) [Kindle Edition]

Yasunari Kawabata , Edward G. Seidensticker
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $5.01 (33%)
Sold by: Random House LLC


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Book Description

Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata’s Thousand Cranes is a luminous story of desire, regret, and the almost sensual nostalgia that binds the living to the dead.
While attending a traditional tea ceremony in the aftermath of his parents’ deaths, Kikuji encounters his father’s former mistress, Mrs. Ota. At first Kikuji is appalled by her indelicate nature, but it is not long before he succumbs to passion—a passion with tragic and unforeseen consequences, not just for the two lovers, but also for Mrs. Ota’s daughter, to whom Kikuji’s attachments soon extend. Death, jealousy, and attraction convene around the delicate art of the tea ceremony, where every gesture is imbued with profound meaning. 

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews


“A literary habitat like no other . . . quietly devastating fiction. . . . Behind a lyrical and understated surface, chaotic passions pulse.”
The Independent (London)
Thousand Cranes has the qualities of the best Japanese writing: a stunning economy, delicacy of feeling, and a painter’s sensitivity to the visible world.”
The Atlantic

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Japanese

Product Details

  • File Size: 1164 KB
  • Print Length: 147 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (February 26, 2013)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00B0LP3UK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #209,419 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
The metaphor used in "Thousand Cranes" is tea, but not simple dried leaves in boiled water. Along with tea, in the tradition of the Japanese tea ceremony, is the complete picture created by the individual pieces of the art, bowls and whisks and jugs for carrying water. The various utensils, each with their own pedigree, are only able to find their true use in the hands of a Master of tea.

In this story, the metaphor is skillfully brought to play in Kikuji, who has inherited his father's women and guilty past in the same way that he has inherited his tea cottage and collection or rare cups and utensils. Chikako, a discarded mistress of Kikuji's father, is the poisonous Master of tea, manipulating others with the same subtle skill she maneuvers the ceremony. In equal measure, Fumiko, daughter of Kikuji's father's favorite mistress, also struggles under the burden of inherited guilt, even while seeking to escape, giving her mother's tea items to Kikuji as gifts yet not able to free her mind with the same ease.

True to Kawabata's style, the unsaid rings much more loudly than the dialog, and surface tone of calm belies a raging whirlpool sucking the characters deeper and deeper. I found "Thousand Cranes" a captivating read, and was unable to put it down until I had finished the story. A small book, it does not lack for power.
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Expiation in the Summer Heat, Japanese Style July 5, 2000
Mishima Yukio, that troubled, brilliant, versatile author of numerous great novels, said that if a Japanese writer was going to receive the Nobel Prize, it should be Kawabata Yasunari. The latter did win the prize in 1968, four years before his death. Both Kawabata and Mishima should be numbered among the great writers of the 20th century, both committed suicide, and both were Japanese. That's where the similarity ends. Any novel of Kawabata's opens the deep treasure of Japanese understatement, the minimalist style of sumi-e, haiku, and Noh theatre. Every sentence says less than expected, but as some people like to say nowadays, "less is more." So true. THOUSAND CRANES is brief and to many Western readers could appear overly simple and without strong flavor. To assume this would be to miss the main attraction of the novel, which, admittedly, might not be for everyone. In delicate brush strokes, the author deftly paints the picture of a complex relationship which would have attracted Henry James, had he not been so stoutly Victorian in his choice of plots. A young man has an affair with Mrs. Ota, his father's former mistress, rejects the meddling of a second woman, also a former mistress of his father's, and is attracted, full of guilt and hesitation, to Mrs. Ota's daughter. Like much Japanese writing, the novel is full of natural symbols as well as the signs of the seasons. Tiny details assume great importance, take on important symbolism----two tea bowls used by deceased lovers, an ugly birthmark on a woman's breast----details which would be drowned in the mass of verbiage present in most Western writing. Tea ceremony and the delicate beauty of old ceramics suffuse the pages. Read more ›
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true work of art October 26, 2001
Yasunari Kawabata was truly an artist with great taste. He was a great painter in disguise of a writer. Reading his work is like wandering alone in Japanese art gallery in a chilly day, looking at painting after painting while pondering over your own thoughts, savoring the beauty of color and at the same time being transported by the delicacy or even the tiniest details of his literary brushstrokes. Every word or gesture in this story has meanings in itself even if it was inexpicitly expressed. The suppressed passion, guilt, revenge and jealousy intertwined beautifully among the backdrop of tea ceremony, thousand cranes kerchief, iris vase in the alcove, the lipstick stain on the rim of the teacup, the double star, the fireflies etc. This is certainly not the book for everyone. For those who are looking for a book that full of plots, or a book that inundated with overdone passion or actions, this is definitely not for you. But for those who want to explore complex and artistic Japanese minds, Zen philosophy which is the backbone of the famous cliche "less is more", the beautiful combination of domestic life and nature, this book is a gem. Kawabata is by all account worthy of Nobel prize for literature. This is the book I cherish and feel wonderful every time I read and re-read it.
Strongly recommend.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sex, Lies, Suicide, and Tea May 15, 2003
Sex, lies, suicide, and tea. This slim novel by Nobel Prize winner Kawabata Yasuni deals with Kikuji Mitani and his encounters with a wide variety of women: the poisonous Chikako, the haunted Mrs. Ota, and Fumiko, caught between her shame and her desire. The books moves at a leisurely pace, touching upon numerous subject: propriety, shame, and revenge. Kawabata shows his mastery here, crafting each character carefully, with precise nuance. I would recommend this book if only for the character of Chikako: both monstrous and tragic, she is one of the most interesting characters you will encounter in literature. Some Western readers will be off put by it's slow pace and decentralized plot, but the details and characterization will win you over in the end. One word of warning: although extensive knowledge of the tea ceremony is not need, and a brief introduction will fill you in on basically everything you need to know, readers may miss some of Kawabata's lush symbolism when it comes to the tea ceremony and the tea utensils. But even without that layer, it remains a masterpiece.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected
I suppose I learned something about the Japanese tea ceremony. However, the story was a little strange and I guess I didn't really understand it.
Published 2 months ago by Voracious Reader
3.0 out of 5 stars Sexual Perversity in Japan
THOUSAND CRANES is a tricky book .Overall , it is interesting but very strange.Many readers will assume its strangeness comes from the book being very Japanese, when they aren't... Read more
Published 4 months ago by JAK
5.0 out of 5 stars Sheer Poetry of a Culture watching its Own Decay
This is a beautiful book. Read it, and you'll never savor a cup of tea as you did before. The formality of the Japanese ritual rarely shows its roots. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Frenchlaw
1.0 out of 5 stars A Thousand Cranes with a Thousand hand written notes
From Amazon book purchase.

I knew this was a used book, but the amount of notations made it nearly impossible to read. Read more
Published 6 months ago by eloise wood
5.0 out of 5 stars stunning, many layers of meaning, complex characters
This is a short, stunning Japanese novel told in a simplistic style underlain by layers of meaning to be mined by the reader long after he/she has finished the book. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Gretchen Tremoulet
4.0 out of 5 stars Thousands cranes- thousands emotions
The novel is a perfect reminder of that fine line between love and hate, regret and gratitude, beauty and beast, revenge and peace, friends and enemies, guilt and harmony, death... Read more
Published 9 months ago by lovevonbeautyvonlove
5.0 out of 5 stars A thousand Kudos!
As I expected, this novel by a nobel-prize winning Japanese author was rich with symbolism, very articulate, highly readable and a simple but profound tale. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Jim Fishbein
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous!!
Ed. Sidensticker is the best translator from Japanese to English ever. His translation of this very Japanese "ambience" is truly amazing, giving the reader an intimate... Read more
Published 18 months ago by stiletto
5.0 out of 5 stars As slow and enchanting as the tea ceremony ~
Being a huge fan of Japanese literature, and Kawabata in particular, I knew I would enjoy this story even before cracking the cover open. It is rather subliminal. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Christopher Barrett
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant Prose
The attention to detail, delight in beauty and observation of seasonal change which are, to me, important aspects of Japanese life are all here. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Pip
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