Wednesday 16 January 2019

Review: Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata, translated by Edward G Seidensticker

Thousand Cranes Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata
Translated by Edward G Seidensticker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Kikuji is invited to a tea ceremony in honour of his dead father. The ceremony is conducted by his father's mistress Chikako Kurimoto who has taken it upon herself to as as go-between to organise a meeting for him to "view" a prospective bride Yukiko Inamura. However at the gathering is also Fumiko Ota and her mother who had been his father's long time lover at the time of his death. Kikuji begins a relationship with Mrs Ota which brings much suffering to all. After Mrs Ota's suicide, he transfers his desires to Fumiko.

Just as in the tea ceremony where every move is precisely scripted and choreographed, so every action of the jealous Chikako is laden with meaning. Control and manipulation in abundance, smouldering desires and fierce passions in equal measure are all told with incredible subtlety just like the minute movements within the tea ceremony, the shape of different styled tea cups and bowls, the bamboo whisk stirring up the liquid, mixing up leaf and water.

Kawabata weaves each object involved in the tea ceremony into his story, each with its own significance - a bowl owned by one mistress passes to the hands of another, who uses it to serve the son, becoming a poisoned chalice

But the perfection strived for in the tea ceremony is not found in life - bowls are broken, hearts are broken, life is taken, love is lossed.

ashramblings verdict 3* Kawabata's writings are known for their beautiful language, obsessive sexuality and contempt for the era. But this one suffers from a little too much repetition in the later stages -  it may be the translation although the translator Edward Seidensticker does have a respected reputation for translating number of Japanese authors, or it may be stylistic but its reasoning escaped me and detracted only in places from what is otherwise a lovely lyrical novella.

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