Snow Country – The Best of Yasunari Kawabata
Snow Country is the most representative of Kawabata’s work, with its haiku like structure. Snow Country is a story of a Japanese writer and a geisha. But anyone trying to find a traditional story of a man having an affair with a geisha will be disappointed. The setting is completely different; very Japanese. He visits his geisha in a mountain spa, hidden deep under the western mountain range of Honshu.
Snow Country is not just to be read. It is to be felt. It is to be felt in the train journeys of the hero to the spas. It is to be felt in the walks taken near the spa. It is to be felt in the fleeting images which flash throughout the novel, images which are juxtaposed with actual situations.
Snow Country is contemplation over beauty and its impact on the observing individuals. It is sad, but in a different way. It is a deep and intense observation of beauty, yet this beauty does not bring happiness. The overwhelming beauty ultimately turns into sadness.
It is not indicated by Kawabata, but the way beauty turns into sadness in his novels in general and in Snow Country in particular, it tell us of a society in which individuals can no longer bank on their spiritual heritage. That heritage seems to be receding into a past, a past which is yearned for, but can no longer be brought back. Snow Country is an elegy of wasted beauty, of beauty spoiled by its own excessiveness.