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Snow Country Paperback – International Edition, January 30, 1996

4.2 out of 5 stars 100 customer reviews

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Intrusion: A Novel
A loving couple, grieving the loss of their son, finds their marriage in free fall when a beautiful, long-lost acquaintance inserts herself into their lives. Learn More
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Editorial Reviews


“Beautifully economical. . . . The haiku works entirely by implication; so, in this novel, using the same delicate, glancing technique, Mr. Kawabata probes a complicated human relationship.”
The Time Literary Supplement (London)
“Kawabata’s novels are among the most affecting and original works of our time.”
The New York Times Book Review

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Japanese

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 175 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage International Ed edition (January 30, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679761047
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679761044
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on September 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
Snow Country, probably the most famous of Yasunari Kawabata's classical Japanese novels, is the story of a love affair doomed from the very start.
Set on the snowy, mountainous slopes of Western Japan, Snow Country tells the story of Komako, a hot springs geisha and Shimamura, a wealthy Tokyo dilettante who works as an expert on occidental ballet. The focus of the novel is on three visits to Komako from Shimamura and their changing relationship as well as Yoko, a maid at the inn where Shimamura chooses to stay while in the snow country. Each of these three characters is searching for love, yet finds himself (or herself) incapable of fully experiencing it.
Throughout Snow Country, Kawabata utilizes the changing of the seasons as a metaphor for the changing relationship between Komako and Shimamura. Meeting in the spring, Shimamura sees Komako as an "amateur," a mere girl, and feels the need to protect her, much as one would protect a growing seedling. The relationship thus begins in genuine friendship and under the protection of Shimamura, Komako grows and matures.
Shimamura's second visit takes place in the fall and Komako, who has matured into a woman, finds that her relationship with Shimamura has changed; she no longer views him as her protector and finds that the friendship the two once shared has now become a struggling romance. Komako, who emotionally, has moved beyond the superficial Shimamura, now views him with a mixture of passion and contempt.
Winter brings yet another change to this enigmatic relationship as Komako and Shimamura begin to argue and grow further and further apart. Shimamura finds himself attracted to Yoko, but it is an attraction that can only end in tragedy for all concerned.
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Format: Paperback
Unless you are familiar with Japanese culture and language, you will find Snow Country different from most any novel you may have read. Read superficially the novel appears to follow a simple plot and structure. Yet, its intensity and beauty lies in the lyrical imagery of landscape and evocation of the protagonists' complex psyche and their relationships. The novel can be compared to a Japanese brushstroke painting, economic and suggestive, where the observant eye is able to complete the picture or the story. To fully appreciate Kawabata's prose in English, newcomers are well advised to empty their minds of other, mainly western, literary experiences and expectations and open up to a different world. Snow Country has to be read at a very slow pace. Every word has importance, with sometimes more than one meaning. With these preparations and attitude of mind, Snow Country is an enriching experience that will linger on long after reading it.

Kawabata tells the story of Shimamura, a wealthy man of leisure who's visiting a hot springs mountain resort to meet the local geisha, Komako. He comes for distraction and out of boredom with his real life in Tokyo. Komako is a reluctant geisha, but has resigned herself to her role, while hoping for some other life. The contrast between what they are and what they would like to be is played out in their interactions. Shimamura is drawn to the unreal or the unlikely or impossible. He wants to remain "just friends" with Komako. Her chatty and highly emotional outbursts leave him somewhat amused and bored, yet he misses her when away from her. She does not behave like a real mountain geisha. His room is like a refuge from that life, a place where she can literally let her hair down.
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Format: Paperback
Kawabata is one of Japan's most respected authors, and "Snow Country" is his masterpiece. However, that does not mean that this is a book for everyone, or that everyone will necessarily understand or enjoy the novel. In fact, I got my copy as a cast-off from a friend who said it was incredibly boring and he didn't want to keep it.
It is a demanding read, one that expects the reader to be able to catch the substance of the unsaid, the implied. Almost nothing is spoon-fed. There is no action, no crisis, nothing that most literary traditions has lead readers to expect from a novel. It demands patience, even though it is a slender volume.
Personally, I found it captivating, and intensely deep and moving. Having read other Kawabata, I was prepared for the subtlety of style and the sparseness of language and story that is his trademark. He is the inheritor of the Haiku, which implies with as few words as necessary. The emotional depth of the novel is incredibly deep, much deeper than many novels I have read who express with much more fanciful language. The Geisha and the Dilettante, the one who affects love but cannot know true love, and the one who gives herself to love even though she knows it cannot be. It is a passionless affair, yet intense. Like the snow country itself, the landscape of their hearts is sparse, yet life lies under the surface covering of insulation.
I did find the translation annoying and disappointing, and I was surprised to find such a lackluster translation on one of Japan's premier novels. The constant use of quotations for "mountain trousers," for instance, instead of just naming it once and using the Japanese term. I am sure that a better translation could capture the novel even better, and perhaps transport it for a new audience.
All in all, one of the best Japanese novels that I have read. Simply incredible, and worth the time. But remember your patience.
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