Patrick McCoy's Reviews > House of the Sleeping Beauties and Other Stories

House of the Sleeping Beauties and Other Stories by Yasunari Kawabata
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's review
Sep 28, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: japanese-literature

Yasunari Kawabata’s novella House of the Sleeping Beauties and Other Stories is one of his finest works. I was inspired to read this collection after noting that the first sentence of the novella appears as an inscription to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s elegant novella inspired by Kawabata’s, Memories of My Melancholy Whores. Although these are two very distinct works of fiction, they are both primarily concerned with the connections between the young and old, sex, life, death, and remembrance. In Kawabata’s story Eguchi is an old man approaching 70 who has been introduced to a special sort of service, an older woman procures young girls whom she drugs to sleep naked in the same room with old men. Eguchi uses these episodes to reflect on the women he has known in his life, including his wife and daughters. He is unusually preoccupied with death through sleeping. The services provided by the old woman include drugs to aid sleeping, and the girls are given a more powerful drug to keep them unconscious. This causes complications later in the story. Kawabata’s unusual exploration of living is further investigated in the other two stories included in this collection; “The Arm” and “Beast And Man.” The first seems to have been possibly inspired by Golgol’s “The Nose” when a woman detaches her arm and gives it a man whoa takes it home to sleep with and at one point detaches his own arm re-attaches the woman’s arm in its stead. However, this act causes him to experience great anxiety. The protagonist of “Beast and Man” feels more at ease with animals in his proximity, the movement of the animals seems to clam him for some reason. All of these characters seem to be deep thinkers and eccentrics; Kawabata writes metaphorically that is cause for reflection after reading his stories. I am interested in reading more. I have read only one other book by him, Beauty and Sadness. It is a novel about a love affair between a young girl and an older distinguished man, a novel that I found impressive as well.

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