am 23. April 2000
This is arguably one of Kawabata's best works. After reading and rereading it over many years, my admiration for Kawabata as a writer only increases. There is something so comforting about the domesticity in this book, despite any problems in the domestic landscape. The style of the book and the writing is pure genius. It captures the essence of the lives it portrays like poetic prose. There is zen in the simplicity and the structure of this book. It makes you want to get up and move to Japan, or at least visit. It makes you want to learn Japanese so that you can read this beautiful writing in the original, even though the Sidensticker translation is great in itself. I'm still thinking about what the sound of the mountain could be. Kawabata is the apex of world literature, and this book is very highly recommended.
am 17. Juli 2000
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. It was a way of pampering himself, of bringing a touch of mellowness into his life." There is nothing so definite (or crass) as an out-and-out love affair between the two. Rather, there are solutions that are no solutions, compromises that have to paper over the disappointments. Life goes on and Hollywood is for children. What a brilliant book !
am 1. Juli 1997
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.
am 9. Februar 1997
Aunt Nancy is a bright and clever character who outsmarts Old Man Trouble every step of the way. She is a shining example of getting lemons in life and making lemonade. One of the funniest scenes is when Old Man Trouble causes Aunt Nancy to drop a glass which shatters in all directions only to have her respond by thanking him since the glass already had a crack! When Old Man Trouble finally learns that he cannot outwit this sunny dispositioned lady, he heads off for greener pastures to cause trouble elsewhere. The wonderful illustrations and whimsical dialog clearly enhance the readers' enjoyment of each character. I look forward to revisiting the charming Aunt Nancy in her next adventure with "Cousin Lazybones."