Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2. Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata

I will get back to the usual stuff soon enough (it's been a month?!), but battery issues and the like call for another step in one of my New Year's resolutions instead...

Since the book I got from the library was actually a two-novel volume, I immediately started Thousand Cranes after finishing Snow Country. I'm not sure if that was a good idea or not; on one hand, I was already in the mentality to read through the simplicity of Kawabata's writing, but on the other, I sort of took the time away from myself to actually sit back and consider the depth of the first story. But at any rate, they have both been read, so there's not much point in thinking about this now.

Based on the descriptions, I was actually looking forward more to Thousand Cranes than Snow Country, but having read both I think I might actually prefer Snow Country. The novels share the same type of frustrating male protagonist, who sabotages his chances at love through indecision and pointless mental wanderings. I could in a way relate to Shimamura in Snow Country, since in addition to feeling restless he was also conflicted about having left his family back in Tokyo and about marring the "cleanness" that defined Komako, but Kikuji in Thousand Cranes almost seems to have no moral or societal compass.

Sleeping with his deceased father's former mistress? What? Come on now. I can sort of understand his hesitation to marry the Inamura girl, since (even in miai) appearances aren't everything, and Chikako the go-between is as exasperatingly meddlesome as characters get, but allowing Mrs. Ota to seduce him because he reminds her of his father is simply creepy. Kikuji gives no thought to how the Inamura girl must feel or look--being led on that a successful match would happen, and then being ignored--and instead half-pursues the Ota girl despite her evident discomfort and all the history between their families.

Of course, the story ends with another inconclusive ending from Kawabata. It seems that in all likelihood the Ota girl also commits suicide, but the possibility that she and Kikuji end up together is also left somewhat open. And if she does commit suicide, then what happens to Kikuji? Is he as useless as ever, lounging around and occasionally going into the office? What happens to Chikako? Snow Country's ending was inconclusive too, but I found this one far more maddening.

In any case, that's it for Yasunari Kawabata, unless I feel compelled to read another, which I probably won't--not anytime soon, anyway.

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