Yasunari Kawabata

From Academic Kids

Yasunari Kawabata (川端 康成 Kawabata Yasunari, June 14, 1899 - April 16, 1972) was a Japanese novelist who became the first Japanese, and second Asian, to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1968. His works have had broad and lasting appeal, and are still widely read internationally.


Biographical details

Kawabata was born in Osaka, and was orphaned when he was two; he then lived with his grandparents with his sister. Kawabata's grandmother died when he was seven, his sister when he was 9, and his grandfather when he was fourteen, causing him to move to his mother's hometown. He attended Tokyo Imperial University, graduating in 1924.

In addition to writing, he was also employed as a reporter, most notably by the Mainichi Shimbun of Osaka and Tokyo. Although he refused to participate in the militaristic fervour accompanying World War II, he was also unimpressed with the political reforms in Japan afterwards. The war was definitely one of the most important influences on him (along with the death of all his family while he was young); he said shortly afterwards that from then on he would only be able to write elegies.

He committed suicide in 1972. Many theories have been advanced as to his reasons, among them poor health, a possible illicit love affair, or the shock caused by the suicide of his friend Yukio Mishima in 1970. However, unlike Mishima, Kawabata left no note, and since he had not discussed it significantly in his writings, his motives remain unclear.

Artistic career

He had hoped to become a painter when he was a boy, but some of his first stories were published when he was in high school, and he decided to become a writer instead. While still a student at the University, he joined Yokomitsu Riichi in starting Bungei Jidai (The Artistic Age), a neo-Impressionist journal.

He started to achieve recognition with a number of short stories shortly after he graduated, and achieved acclaim with "The Dancing Girl of Izu" in 1926, a story which explored the dawning eroticism of young love. Most of his future works explored similar themes of love.

His first novel was Snow Country, started in 1934, and first published in installments from 1935 through 1937. Snow Country is a stark tale of a love affair between a Tokyo dilettante and a provincial geisha, which takes place in a remote hot-spring town somewhere on the west of the Japanese Alps. It established Kawabata as one of Japan's foremost authors and became an instant classic, described by Edward G. Seidensticker as "perhaps Kawabata's masterpiece".

After the end of World War II, his success continued with novels such as Thousand Cranes (a story of ill-fated love), The Sound of the Mountain, The House of the Sleeping Beauties, and Beauty and Sadness (his last novel, also a story of passion with a dark ending).

The book which he himself considered his finest work, The Master of Go (1951) is a severe contrast with his other works. It is a semi-fictional recounting of a major Go match in 1938, which he had actually reported on for the Mainichi newspaper chain. It was the last game of the master Shūsai's career, and he lost to his younger challenger, to die a little over a year later. Although it is moving on the surface, as a retelling of a climactic struggle some readers consider it a symbolic parallel to the defeat of Japan in World War II.

As the president of Japanese P.E.N. for many years after the war, Kawabata was a driving force behind the translation of Japanese literature into English and other Western languages.

List of selected works

  • "The Dancing Girl of Izu" (伊豆の踊り子 Izu no Odoriko 1926, English translation 1955)
  • Snow Country (雪国 Yukiguni, 1935-1937, 1947)
  • The Master of Go (名人 Meijin, 1951-4, English translation 1972)
  • Thousand Cranes (千羽鶴 Senbazuru, 1949-52)
  • The Sound of the Mountain (山の音 Yama no Oto, 1949-54)
  • The Old Capital (古都 Koto, 1962)
  • Palm-of-the-Hand Stories (掌の小説)
  • Beauty and Sadness (美しさと哀しみと Utsukushisa to Kanashimi to, 1964)

External links

et:Yasunari Kawabata es:Yasunari Kawabata eo:KAWABATA Yasunari fr:Yasunari Kawabata ko:가와바타 야스나리 it:Kawabata Yasunari nl:Yasunari Kawabata ja:川端康成 pl:Yasunari Kawabata sv:Yasunari Kawabata zh:川端康成


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