Saturday 24 April 2021

Book Review: Beauty & Sadness by Kawabata Yasunari (Modern Classics)

Title: Beauty and Sadness
Author: Kawabata Yasunari
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: 2011 (1964)
Genre: Modern Classics
Source: Xmas Gift

The successful writer Oki has reached middle age and is filled with regrets. He returns to Kyoto to find Otoko, a young woman with whom he had a terrible affair many years before, and discovers that she is now a painter, living with a younger woman as her lover. Otoko has continued to love Oki and has never forgotten him, but his return unsettles not only her but also her young lover. This is a work of strange beauty, with a tender touch of nostalgia and a heartbreaking sensitivity to those things lost forever.


Beauty and Sadness is another exquisite work from Kawabata. The prose is lyrical yet simple and the story explores the characters' emotions in a slow and revealing way. The plot held my interest from start to finish and I was keen to see how things would play out. The book is quietly sensual and atmospheric throughout, with much of the drama at key moments left to the reader's imagination, Kawabata only offering a brief glimpse into what is happening and leaving it to us to decide. If you are already a fan of Kawabata's works, you will doubtless enjoy this one. If you are new to his writing, Beauty and Sadness is a reasonable place to start, being a short but poignant example of his style.

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