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Main page » Fiction literature » Beauty and Sadness

Beauty and Sadness


Penned by the great Yasunari Kawabata, Beauty and Sadness (美しさと哀しみと; Utsukushisa to Kanashimi to) possesses all the familiar characteristics of his novels: repressed emotion, love, lust, pain and the delicate painting of Japanese manners and expression. The story concerns Oki, a middle-aged writer, whose passionate and torrid affair with the naive Ueno colours both their lives decades later. His published account of their time together has caused tensions in his own family, as well as haunting Ueno. And when Ueno's unstable and seductive pupil vows a campaign of revenge against Oki, things spiral rapidly out of control.

It probably goes without saying that Beauty and Sadness is far from an upbeat novel but don't let that discourage you from indulging in what proves to be a satisfying and essential read. Kawabata's precise symbolism, particularly employed through Ueno's paintings and descriptions Japanese of society, hints at the brooding turmoil of emotion that beautifully captures the complexity of human expression. The book is the more potent for withholding access into the character's lives and, though they are often hard to like, you never fail to feel empathy with their conflicts. As we are all too aware, confessing emotion is not something that people find easy and Kawabata's powers of observation are startlingly accurate, perhaps even more relevant today than ever.

A great novel by a great author and one of those rare, important works that live with the reader long after they've turned the final page. Gripping in its clarity, it deserves far more recognition from the literary establishment than it currently has and I think, in today's uncertain times, Kawabata's account of alienation and internecine relationships is ripe for re-discovery... [Mr. D. Woods]

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Tags: Yasunari Kawabata, Japanese literature, Japan, fiction, novel, unfolding, Kawabata, Keiko, Otoko, novel