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The Master of Go

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  3,998 ratings  ·  361 reviews
Go is a game of strategy in which two players attempt to surround each other's black or white stones. Simple in its fundamentals, infinitely complex in its execution, Go is an essential expression of the Japanese spirit. And in his fictional chronicle of a match played between a revered and heretofore invincible Master and a younger and more modern challenger, Yasunari Kaw ...more
Paperback, 189 pages
Published May 28th 1996 by Vintage (first published 1951)
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Lucas Según mi punto de vista hay dos temas interesantes en este libro, por un lado la psicología de los jugadores que se entregan completamente a su arte, …moreSegún mi punto de vista hay dos temas interesantes en este libro, por un lado la psicología de los jugadores que se entregan completamente a su arte, en este caso el go, pero he visto jugadores de ajedrez con la misma entrega. Por otro lado, la lucha entre el japón antiguo, con tradiciones a veces arbitrarias, y el japón moderno, occidentalizado, donde un juego que era sagrado pasa a ser una confrontación más, donde cualquier argucia es útil con el fin de ganar. Con la muerte del maestro se simboliza el fin de esta concepción del juego (y de la vida) en Japón(less)

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Adam Dalva
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this slim book - based partially on Kawabata's newspaper reports of one of the century's most famous Go matches. I don't understand the game at all (Wikipedia rabbit hole somehow left me more confused than when I started), but the psychological import of the conflict between the aged, stubborn master and his young challenger is fantastic. The obvious comp is Zweig's CHESS STORY, but this is quite different, an existential novel that in some ways is an extended metaphor about transitions ...more
Dec 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: games, japanese, go-go-go
Kawabata writes a factual account of a Go match, which at one level could be compared with the sort of journalism you see in a magazine like New in Chess. He presents all the moves in the game, and comments the play. Somehow he turns it into an emotionally gripping meditation on life, art, fate and the inevitable destruction of traditional Japanese society. He apparently thought this was his best book - remember that he won the Nobel Prize.

It would be easy to say that this is a unique occurrence
Sep 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: にほん, yk

Two stones....two individuals. One world. The yin-yang philosophies sprouting from the wooden bowls on to a 19 x 19 arena. The small stones carrying the burden of altering destinies. In the realm of shōsetsu, Kawabata chronicles a factual reportage of a decisive championship game of Go held in 1938, between Honnimbō Shūsai and Mr. Kitano Minora. Abiding the culture of literary fiction, Kawabata confers fabricated identities to the players as well as to himself (Mr. Uragami) in this
Riku Sayuj
Jan 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
How Kawabata combines a journalistic narrative voice with such a rich literary tradition baffles me more than the intricate game of Go and it's complex representation of the structural game in society the novel is supposed to explore, and what a beautiful structure Kawabata takes us through, peeling such thin layers of meaning with each inflection and each crafty Go move between the classic master and the iconoclast challenger. ...more
Mar 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
With no such intention in mind, I rather fell out of the frying pan on this one. I had to get away from Yourcenar and a glance at the shelves made me think nothing could be further from Hadrian than a book about Go.

My very first Go move, and it’s a mistake.

Continue here: http://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpres...
May 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: go players, Hikaru wannabes, definitely not Naruto wannabes

How does a book about a go game win the Nobel Prize for Literature? (Actually, the book itself didn't win the prize - Kawabata the author did, but this book is widely regarded as his best, and probably the one that sealed the Nobel for him.) You have to read this book to understand what it's really like. It's a semi-fictional chronicle of an actual game between a revered reigning master and a rising young champion destined to unseat him. Yes, I just spoiled the ending, but it's pretty much given
Sep 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Japanophiles, 親日, whatever you wish to call it
Recommended to Yuki by: fellow Go players
EDIT: I wonder, would a pun(?) like 明治ん - 名人 be acceptable...?

A masterpiece, perhaps? - all of Kawabata's sentiments crammed into one book rather than an observation of a Go match. Though Kawabata's ideals doesn't strike me as those which are sensible, for some reason this book touches me more deeply than I've ever expected.
After reading this, I thought as if for a moment, I could understand the reasons behind his suicide.

Another one-sitting read; 4 stars, +1 personal star.
Aug 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, japan
3.5 stars

I've just read an interesting article in The Japan Times entitled "An exploration of the great game at the heart of 'the Master of Go' by Tyler Rothmar, informing his readers that the battle took place nearly six months and the victor finalized exactly 78 years ago today (December 4, 2016). If you'd like to read the JT article, please visit this web page: []

Reading this novel by Kawabata is, I think, a bit different from reading his other three, n
aPriL does feral sometimes has videos of people explaining how to play Go, so that is where I went to watch to prepare myself for this book.

That was edifying.

'The Master of Go’ is an acclaimed book, recognized in several countries as a masterpiece. However, it is NOT edifying.

A sick dying old man, a master of Go, plays an epic game against a young modern man. It is moved to various inns in Japan. Seasons pass, weather changes, illness comes and goes, negotiations stop the progress of the game, reporters eagerl
Denisa Arsene
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
This is my first meeting with Kawabata - and I believe is not the last. I had some emotions when I began reading - I didn't know the author's style, I had no idea about the game (still in the same place). But I came to understand that the story is not about the game of go, but about the clash of two generations, of two - we can say- civilisations. I am a traditionalist and I also love Japanese civilisation, their respect for tradition, for elders, for family and for others. Of course their tradi ...more
Nov 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Go match must start at the appointed time even when the player's parents are on their deathbed or the player himself fell ill right over the chessboard.

The Master of Go records an old generation v.s. younger generation, tradition v.s. modern contest between one old Master of Go (actually, he was the last person to hold this title) and an up-and-coming one, and the actual event took place in year 1938.

The author, Yasunari Kawabata, who penned this novel years after he wrote serialized journ
Tyler Jones
Jan 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
One sign of a master writer is the ability to match subject and style. I can think of no better example of this than The Master of Go, by Kawabata. The careful elegance of Kawabata's writing slowly, almost imperceptibly, creates layers and patterns of meaning in a very similar way to how a game of go might develop. To the untutored eye, the first stones placed on the board seem to fall at random, but the master already sees the battle to come and these first stones plant the seeds of the war. So ...more
Bob Newman
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Japanese Culture à Go-go

In 1938, a go match was played over six months in 14 sessions at several different locations in Japan. The opponents were the grand master, Shusai, and Otake, a younger professional challenger. Kawabata, then 39 years old, was the newspaper reporter who covered the match for Tokyo and Osaka newspapers. After the war, he turned his reportage into a novel which still retains much of the feeling of reports. If you don't know the game of `go', played with white and black ston
Feb 17, 2020 rated it liked it
"The sound of the stones on the board seemed to echo vastly through another world." (88)
Dec 01, 2018 rated it liked it
This is probably not the best novel to get started on Kawabata. It is not representative of his usual sensory or sensual style of writing. Instead it is more contemplative and reflective. It was a bit draggy in parts with the details of the championship game. The ending also seemed incomplete.

”The invincible Master” had lost his last championship match.

It was the end of an era. Not only did Shusai’s reign finally come to an end, the new champion was not his choice as a successor. It was not just
This novel about the last game of a dying Go master was a gift to me by friends. They knew of my longstanding interest in Go and gave me this novel for my birthday. I've previously read a couple of Yasunari Kawabata's short stories in anthologies but I've always felt his writing to be at least one shade more oblique than is comfortable. This book, which is apparently more straightforward than a lot of his other novels, is quite difficult to parse as an emotional work. But I still end up contempl ...more
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Given that Yasunari Kawabata was a Nobel Prize winner (1968) and that is one of the few lists I tend to consider, and given how many positive reviews his The Master of Go received I took it up as a fairly short introduction to this writer. I will be seeking other of his titles, but I am not sure how much of this book I grasped. On the surface this is a near hour by hour dry reporting of how a great classic Master of the Chinese game of Go played and lost his final match to a new and new style pl ...more
Philippe Malzieu
Feb 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The good books about the game are rare. I know only four one, "The chess player" Zweig, "Loujine defense" Nabokov, "Little chess player "Ogawa and this one.
He is exceptionnal. The Go is a very special game. By the time, territory is occupied. It's a brain représentation. Chcker draw waves, attacks, idea. I think that go is the reflect of himself.
Two player : old master personnify eternal old Japan and young master who is the future. The story came fron a real party after second world war.
It do
Cam *tactile seeker*


Kawabata Yasunari chronicles a go match between an old, sick, declining master and a young, modern, aggressive rising star for one of Japan's most popular newspaper, and he does that from the point of view of someone relatively new and inexperienced at go; the book version of his account presents a scheme of each step of the game, from the beginning throughout its progression, until the dramatic conclusion.
Despite its simple, basic rule
Jun 26, 2008 rated it liked it
Well, I still don't know if the problem is Kawabata's writing or Seidensticker's translating, but I have a feeling it's the latter. This is the second Seidensticker translation I've read ("Snow Country" was the first), and the lack of flow is very noticeable. There's no rhythm or melody to his writing, so you feel you are walking along an incredibly uneven path that makes unexpected turns all the time. This reinforces my belief that translators must not only be adept in both languages, but must ...more
J.M. Hushour
Sep 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Kawabata is my most recent literary obsession, I'm just gonna read everything he ever wrote and I haven't gotten very far. "Scarlet Gang" was experimental and awesome, "Snow County" and "Thousand Cranes" and the"Palm-of-Hand Stories" sparse, gently, and apocalyptic (in a love sense), and "The Master of Go" is really not like the others at all. Kawabata fictionalizes an actual final game of Go he covered as a journalist, a last contest between one of its most famed players, terminally ill and fai ...more
Jan 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
I read this and Stefan Zweig's Chess Story back-to-back, and was very happy that I did. Both deal with the psychological effects of obsessing over complex boardgames, and explore a central character whose life has been consumed by such obsession. Despite the fact that Chess Story takes a fictional approach, while Kawabata's book is based on an actual person, there were many parallels between the two works, and each highlighted aspects of the other that otherwise I might have missed. While both b ...more
Did I *just read a 200+ pages book narrating a go match between two players whose characteristics personify the clash between tradition and innovation in a certain period of Japanese history?

*just is incredibly fictional here because I’m extremely behind in reporting my actual reading on goodreads lol
Irfan Ali
May 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Its just a game; get over it! Apparently not when the game is Go and the Master of the game, a figure revered by the author as if a prophet (the episode about the single strand of hair on the Master's eyebrow treads on the hilarious, though), is playing his last fateful game against an upstart Otake. The author uses the backdrop of this single game to depict the lifestyle of a passing era in Japan. An era when a game was more than atheistically calculated 150 odd moves on a 19-by-19 matrix board ...more
Dec 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, japan

There was something unreal about the pictures, which may have come from the face, the ultimate in tragedy, of a man so disciplined in an art that he had lost the better part of reality.

Just like Kokoro or the majority of Yukio Mishima's work, Master Of Go belongs to that corner of Japanese culture in favor of the "old" (Meiji-era) and against the "new" (Western influence, loss of values etc.).

It may be said that the Master was plagued in his last match by modern rationalism, to which fussy rule
Nov 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: asian, nobel, read-2008
“I could not pretend to know much more about Go than Kume did; but even so it seemed to me that the unmoving stones, as I gazed at them from the side of the board, spoke to me as living creatures. The sound of the stones on the board seemed to echo vastly through another world.”

This book was a meditation. It did not teach me how to play Go. I knew and still know nothing about the game of Go other than it is played with black and white stones on a board with a 19 x 19 grid. What this book taught
"A sad, elegant piece of reportage" was how the translator Edward G. Seidensticker described The Master of Go in the introduction. It was about an actual 1938 match that Kawabata Yasunari reported in the newspapers. The novelist reworked his narrative during the war and it was finally published as a book ten years after, in 1954. It was obvious from his treatment of the particular game of Go that the story was not merely a straightforward narrative of a battle between two diametrically opposite ...more
Ridzuan Rosli
Maybe I have no nerves. A vague, absent sort—maybe the vagueness has been good for me. The word means two different things in Tokyo and in Osaka, you know. In Tokyo it means stupidity, but in Osaka they talk about vagueness in a painting and in a game of Go. That sort of thing - Yasunari Kawabata, The Master of Go (1951/1974)

Kawabata Yasunari was born on 11 June 1899 in Osaka, Japan. He was the first Japanese author who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968. His notable works include Snow C
Sourojit Das
Dec 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Will definitely need to revisit after reading on a flight. A palate cleanser and maybe more
Jef Sneider
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club
Pre-war Japanese culture was very different from pre-war Western culture and almost unimaginable to Americans today. That any game could last 6 months, with 40 hours allotted to each player and the stress so great that even younger players strain to maintain concentration is also unimaginable to us. The formality of rules and agreements along the way, added to the the usual Japanese obsession with hierarchy, rules of respect and engagement become even more complicated when any concession can giv ...more
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Yasunari Kawabata (川端 康成) was a Japanese short story writer and novelist whose spare, lyrical, subtly-shaded prose works won him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968, the first Japanese author to receive the award. His works have enjoyed broad international appeal and are still widely read today.

Nobel Lecture: 1968

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“After he became the Master, the world believed that he could not lose, and he had to believe it himself. Therein was the tragedy.” 25 likes
“It may be said that the Master was plagued in his last match by modern rationalism, to which fussy rules were everything, from which all the grace and elegance of Go as art had disappeared, which quite dispensed with respect for elders and attached no importance to mutual respect as human beings. From the way of Go the beauty of Japan and the Orient had fled. Everything had become science and regulation. The road to advancement in rank, which controlled the life of a player, had become a meticulous point system. One conducted the battle only to win, and there was no margin for remembering the dignity and the fragrance of Go as an art. The modern way was to insist upon doing battle under conditions of abstract justice...” 9 likes
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