Collected for the first time in English translation are over seventy of Kawabata's short stories. The range of effects include trick endings; ...Show synopsisCollected for the first time in English translation are over seventy of Kawabata's short stories. The range of effects include trick endings; dreamlike, atmospheric stories; autobiographical stories; and stories that crystallize themes from his longer works.Hide synopsis
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What is most impressive about this collection of short short stories written over a 50-year span by Yasunari Kawabata, the first Japanese author to be awarded the Nobel Prize in 1968 for novels like Snow Country and The Sound of the Mountain, is its stunning range and diversity. The short form allowed the author to experiment with a variety of themes, subject matter, and stylistic effects; according to the author, they are the "essence of his art."
There are elements that will be familiar to the reader of Kawabata's fiction: the delicate, impressionistic prose which conveys the beauty of the natural world and its fleeting evanescence as in "The Silverberry Thief"; the wondrous epiphanies of love as in "A Smile Outside the Night Stall"; the mood of loneliness that pervades much of his work; and the abiding mystery at the heart of his fiction. There are stories of eerie, even perverse eroticism that often center on the protagonist's obsession with a young woman, and the fetishizing of the odd anatomical detail as in "The O-Shin Jizo" (see, for example, the author's novella, House of the Sleeping Beauties).
But in this collection Kawabata also crosses over into the supernatural realm with stories like "The Maiden's Prayer" and "Yuriko," whose title character is transformed into the lily of her name. Despite their brevity, many stories have a satisfying sense of wholeness, while others have the concision of a prose poem. The Palm of the Hand Stories is a remarkable and invaluable addition to the Kawabata oeuvre in English.
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