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Palm-of-the-Hand Stories

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  2,473 ratings  ·  217 reviews
Recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1968, the novelist Yasunari Kawabata felt the essence of his art was to be found not in his longer works but in a series of short stories--which he called "Palm-of-the-Hand Stories"--written over the span of his career. In them we find loneliness, love, and the passage of time, demonstrating the range and complexity of a true m
Paperback, 288 pages
Published November 14th 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1971)
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a symmetrical simplicity denoting the depths of human complexity.

He understood that human beings cannot make other human beings unhappy, he murmurs, as I gaze up at the bewildered night sky.

the ephemeral life of time.
the beating of a hummingbird's wings.
a world contained in a vase filled with peonies.

death throes under the fading light of dusk.
fragments of a dream that never belonged to this place.
the atmospheric silence of an afternoon wrapped in autumnal colors.
a bowl being dashed against a ro
Oct 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: yk, にほん

“There are not many bell crickets in the world. Probably you will find a girls like a grasshopper whom you think is a bell cricket....... To your clouded, wounded heart, even a true bell cricket will seem like a grasshopper....”

The birds scurry over to the lake, noisily pecking the earliest fish of the season. A fresh flower bud opens to the flutter of the hummingbird. The white flower that bloomed last night desired to be pink. Pink was the colour that would erase its transparency. Pink was the
Mar 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: polar
Recommended to Mariel by: solar
Shelves: my-love-life
Yasunari Kawabata's Palm-of-the-Hand Stories could be my key to my own heart. Palmists! Why didn't I think of that? They are short, like echoes inside that sound fainter as time passes, but are important enough to leave its footprint (handprint?) behind. Fucking haunting me kinda faint. "Oh." Much later: "Oh!" Yeah, he's got me. The eyes as windows to the souls thing that I like no matter how cliched it is (staring! you can't look away 'ship WRECKS), the Mona Lisa secret smiles, millions of tiny ...more
Apr 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
A very strange book. Two-thirds or more of these very tiny stories (like Haiku) were written between 1923 and 1935. Then 15 between 1944 and 1964, and one from 1972. We have heard of "occasional" writings; perhaps these need to be called "momentary" writings....

A collection of this sort will likely be, perhaps inevitably, uneven. Yet this collection certainly contain some, quite a few Kawabata masterpieces. I preferred the earlier stories, those from the early 20's, and some of the Postwar stori
Tiny stories that are more like poems.

I approached this book in the wrong way. I consumed as many of them in one go as I could and almost certainly shouldn't have. Kawabata crafts beautiful images that can have a profound effect on you but when you pile image upon image they lose all appeal and the effect is dulled. I knew this and yet I kept on reading until my brain couldn't hold any more imagery, kind of like an addiction I suppose.

This is the kind of work you can return to many times and pic
Sep 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Another annotation from my MFA/Creative Writing work at Goddard this semester:

Talismans Inside Koans Masquerading as Fairy Tales: Yasunari Kawabata’s Palm-of-the-Hand Stories

The toss of a silver coin determines whom a boy should marry, but a sparrow shows the boy that in his next life he will marry a sparrow. A vision is had, and something that might be considered a lesson or generalization about human existence is imparted—i.e., don’t worry about marrying the girl, because in your next life yo
Mar 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
It feels very difficult to verbalize the experience of reading these short-stories. They at times border on the fantastical, but mostly describe some intricate psychological play, as if Kawabata has access to the deep labyrinths of thoughts and feelings inside a character’s head. Often the stories refer to dreams, and have themselves a dreamy quality, and they left me with the uneasiness of eavesdropping on people’s very inner feelings: the young sister who loves her older sister’s blind lover; ...more
Erasmo Guerra
I wanted to love this book. Over the years, I've heard so many great things about these short-short stories, but I could never really quite get into them even though I read the entire collection. Reminded me of looking at the gorgeous window displays at Tiffany--things of beauty that I couldn't quite touch, unable to reach them emotionally or otherwise understand what was going on or why. The subtlety and shades of meaning were lost on me. The recurring environments of hot spring inns and charac ...more
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read a number of Kawabata's novels—Snow Country, Beauty and Sadness, The Sound of the Mountain, and Thousand Cranes—while saving his collection of very short stories, known as Palm-of-the-Hand Stories (so small they can fit in the palm of your hand), for later. The stories are supposed to be where Kawabata truly finds his form, which, having read them at last, I find to be true.

Some of the stories were better and more memorable than others (The Jay, for example, is close to perfect). Yet the f
Sep 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to FeLicia by: Pete Rock
Due to the success of two of my writing teachers (Pete Rock and Bruce Holland Rogers), I wanted to study short-shorts/flash fiction and this was a good place to begin.

Although "Canaries" is probably the most anthologized of Kawabata's stories, I found a other treasures in this tome. "The Rainy Station" is one of those. Beginning with the opening line "Wives, wives, wives,..." it carries the reader throughout the disappointing life of a typical housewife with an interesting twist. So many of the
What a nice surprise, I didn't know Hiroshi Shimizu's 1936 movie "Mr. Thank You" was based off a Kawabata short story.

I know Kawabata also worked on A Page of Madness so I'm going to assume "The Man Who Did Not Smile" is related to that experience, seeing as it's about a writer on a movie set, Noh masks, a mental hospital, etc.
Mikael Kuoppala
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
A strong collection of very short and equally sharp stories from Kawabata. In these little gems laconic storytelling and subtle irony join forces with realistic tragedy.
Aug 31, 2010 rated it liked it
These stories are the Japanese equivalent of Lydia Davis's short short stories, as so employ more aesthetic considerations. Where Davis's stories are pure practices in economy, Kawabata's stories are more about the distillation of complicated interpersonal stories into beautiful tableaux, sometimes with a distracting predilection for the dreamlike.


Kawabata, as opposed to Lydia Davis, gives his short short stories a haze of dreaminess with deft, artful, but inexact images, whereas Davis is
Pete Young
Nov 13, 2012 rated it liked it
Seventy miniature short stories that Kawabata wrote between 1923 and 1972. It’s said the essence of Kawabata’s writing can be found in these brief episodes in Japanese lives more so than in his novels, but in truth they often feel like fragments of larger stories that Kawabata may have discarded then stripped down to their absolute minimum. Many end with a character staring into the distance, perhaps wondering something, or with an unresolved issue still hanging uncomfortably in the reader’s min ...more
May 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
it's been 4 years or so since I read these stories but the way I felt still glows in me. This is not to say I can remember any details of the stories themselves.. I can't. That's how I am. But the feelings of awe. Of encountering strange beauty. Of being led slowly through small but intricate (and glowing also) little gardens and baths. That all glows in me. It's a book of glowing flesh. Of a bitch about to whelp.

I came to this book by sheer chance. Beckian Goldberg Fritz (who's used the word co
Jun 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: japan, abitallthetime
Like a small stone dropped into a pond, these minute but potent stories send out ripples long after they've been read. Some of the stories I read over and over are "Snow," "Up in the Tree," "Immortality," "Yuriko,"
Kyle Muntz
May 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A set of poingnant, breif, sad gems that spans fifty years of Kawabata's career, with almost all the stories between two to five pages. They're very silent, still stories but deeply insightful. I won't claim there were no duds, but the mood of the collection as a whole is incredible.
Bryan--Treasurer, Middlemarch Appreciation Society
For the right person, I think this collection of short-short fiction by Kawabata might be very stimulating, but I found it a chore to keep going, and finally decided either it's not for me, or it's not the right time for me. At first, I thought maybe these stories might have a Zen koan kind of effect (and they might, to some people), but I don't think my mind is open to this delivery. It may also very well be that my mind is not disciplined for this kind of writing. Perhaps after reading some of ...more
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: five-star-books
One of the best short story collections I've encountered.... In fact it is going straight into my top five list. Achingly beautiful stories. Makes me wish I could write about beauty and beautiful incidents using beautiful prose this way. But why even try? Sometimes we need to relinquish our urge to jump in and take over and just be happy that someone else has done (or is doing) the beauty and the perfection on our behalf.

Saying that these stories are "beautiful" doesn't mean that all of them are
George K. Ilsley
Very short pieces written over a lifetime: each short story parses the line between “complete” and “undeveloped”.
This is not a book I could read very much of at one time. It’s a long book of very short tales that takes forever to get through. I liked the later works best — perhaps because by the time I got to them I had matured a bit more and so could appreciate them better.
“Tabi” I liked, and “The Jay”. “Water” is barely a page long and says so much about the war, imperialism, and the endless
J.M. Hushour
Jul 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These are ticklish teases that hardly merit the name "stories". Kawabata excels at the simple and pinprick nuance, so naturally, and as he even said so, these little slices of narratives exemplify what makes him stand out from much of the blather of 20th century fiction.
Concise and often gaspworthy, figmental and fragmental in much the same way that Nabokov could be and that Calvino tries to be, the stories are almost impossible to lump together. The themes are as disparate as their beginnings a
Feb 21, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
I'm not sure what to say, so let me be brief. I'm enthralled with Yasunari Kawabata's form, and these short stories do linger, though not for traditional narrative reasons. I feel as if someone has loosed a wild bird inside my skull and its panic has sent all the artisan glasswork crashing to the stone floor.

Yasunari Kawabata gifts the reader much to think about.

— "Since he was blind, I often stared fixedly at him." —
This quote is a pretty good representation of how I felt after reading each sto
Luciana Vichino
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has several short stories and most of them, if not all, are about men and women relationships since childhood to old ages.I have to be honest that I have actually not been able to understand and / or appreciate all stories but some of them are so kind, sensitive and display such a deep understanding of human hearts and soul that are worth the entire book.
Jeff Jackson
Apr 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who like novels that only last several pages
Poetic and zen-like reinventions of the short story from a Japanese master. Beatifully distilled narratives, including his novel Snow Country condensed to eight hypnotic pages. "I mostly wrote these in my youth instead of poetry," Kawabata said. If only more followed his example.
Sidik Fofana
Jun 10, 2019 rated it liked it
SIX WORD REVIEW: Enchanting, surreal, pocket tales from East.
Jul 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
E. G.
Apr 01, 2019 marked it as to-read
Editorial Note
Translators' Notes

--A Sunny Place (Hinata, 1923)
--The Weaker Vessel (Yowaki utsuwa, 1924)
--The Girl Who Approached the Fire (Hi ni yuku kanojo, 1924)
--A Saw and Childbirth (Nokogiri to shussan, 1924)
--The Grasshopper and the Bell Cricket (Batta to suzumushi, 1924)
--The Ring (Yubiwa, 1924)
--Hair (Kami, 1924)
--Canaries (Kanariya, 1924)
--Harbor Town (Minato, 1924)
--Photograph (Shashin, 1924)
--The White Flower (Shiroi hana, 1924)
--The Incident of the Dead Face (Shinigao no dekigoto, 19
Neil MacDonald
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There are few pleasures greater than being introduced to a new writer who makes your spirit resonate with the universe. Yasunari Kawabata’s stories had been there all my life, waiting to spring their trap on me. Nothing has impressed me so much for years.

Kawabata was the first Japanese writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Though he won it for his novels, he always thought his short stories were among his finest work. The stories collected in Palm of the Hand Stories were written over hi
Karen Kao
Apr 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kawabata Yasunari was born in 1899 and committed suicide in 1972. He watched Japan open itself to the world, indulge in dreams of empire and survive the ensuing firestorm. His characters were ordinary people: prostitutes, abandoned wives and children. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968 for his novels but Kawabata himself prized most the abbreviated, intense works of fiction he called Palm-of-the-hand stories.

To read more of this book review, please visit my website at http://inkston
Apr 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Maybe had some unrealistic expectations about how good this one would be. His ability to write complete stories with a narrative and few gimmicks in two to four pages is amazing, and it was surprising how much some of the stories reminded me of Carver rather than other Japanese authors, but I expected more. There are about 70 stories in the collection, and probably less than a third of them had an effect on me. The others were either choppy (probably a translation issue), or too obvious, or too ...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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