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Book Club Discussions > February 2015: Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

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message 1: by Kristina, Klonk Zedong (new)

Kristina (klonk) | 25 comments Mod
We have a winner for the second #books book club, and the winner is "Snow Country" by Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata. Get your copies and let's start reading!

message 2: by Kristina, Klonk Zedong (new)

Kristina (klonk) | 25 comments Mod
Okay, February is almost over! Time to start discussing Snow Country everybody! :)

message 3: by Gridcube, I am the walrus (new)

Gridcube | 34 comments Mod
well, i think i speak for myself when i say this:

This book is boring.

But at the same time I have the feeling that thats exactly what the author wanted us to feel, he even made the main protragonist the most boring person in the world, even himself mocking himself about how much of a joke he was, not liking to see people dancing because he just read about it, i mean, like, what.

the other thing that bothered me is that the author didnt use the story to explain something about the profoundly destroyed japanese societal differences, how women are irrelevant and toys for men if they dont have the courage to be more. He just went with it, as the "normal" in japanese is. Which make me think he might be one of the visitors to this places, if not in body, in soul form

I never understood if Shashimura and Komako actually had sex. Though that hardly would change anything of the story.

I would like to think that the author wanted to portray boredom, simple and straight, if thats what he wanted, he achieved it.

For as much as this book was boring, I don't hate it, that would be too strong of a feeling to have toward it. Its just "meh". I didn't care for the characters.

message 4: by Andrew (last edited Feb 23, 2015 07:54PM) (new)

Andrew (gigahurt) | 14 comments I think thats an interesting observation Gridcube: that it may be how the author wanted the reader to feel. I had a similar suspicion.

Even if it was intentional, I don't know if it was worth it. Some books are exhilarating. Some mind bending. Some shattering. But I do not know if a work can stand completely on wasted effort, boredom, and aesthetics.

With that said, I did appreciate a few passages. For one, the scene where the viewpoint character is looking at Yoko in the reflection of the train window. Somewhat creepy, but memorable for me.

I found this passage amusing, as it reminded me of goodreads:

Shimamura was surprised at her statement that she had carefully catalogued every novel and short story she had read since she was fifteen or sixteen. The record already filled ten notebooks. [...]
“But what good does it do?”
“None at all.”
“A waste of effort.”
“A complete waste of effort,” she answered brightly, as though the admission meant little to her. [..]
He knew well enough that for her it was in fact no waste of effort, but somehow the final determination that it was had the effect of distilling and purifying the woman’s existence.

I also really enjoyed the description of the Chijimi at the end of the book. I find pieces of art, craft, or whatever else which are extremely time consuming fascinating.

I think the book may have been more interesting if told from the geisha's perspective.

In either case, I also found it meh, but if someone can help me look at it a different way to better enjoy my memory of it, I am all ears.

message 5: by Amaan (new)

Amaan Cheval | 11 comments I'm hoping *someone* enjoyed the book so they can give us a better perspective on it, but I'm definitely not one of those people.

I rated it 1 stars, but it *may* be deserving of 2 at best.

The writing isn't bad, but the content is on the whole quite uninteresting. The synopsis was very misleading in that regard.

Like Andrew, I did find the passage where Shimamura looks at Yoko through the reflection on the train interesting, and just Yoko on the whole was intriguing, but it got to no satisfying end for me. They didn't build her character up as much as I'd hoped, nor did they really feature her much at all.

I think the part where Shimamura goes berserk and starts running was amusing, but I'm not sure I understand what that was about. (This happens right before he meets Komoko, I think)

message 6: by Spinster, Her Divine Majesty (new)

Spinster (spinster-monster) | 7 comments Mod
I agree with all of you, the book was just bland. It had potential, and it not rising to it was mostly annoying. There were times when it could have been a decent book, but then nothing happened. I'll just copy-paste my review because I don't have much else to add. Except "Bored now."


I have a very mixed history with the works of Nobel prize winners. Some I've loved (Gabriel García Márquez, Toni Morrison, William Golding) and some I haven't understood - at all (Herta Müller, Saul Bellow). As you may have guessed from my rating, Yasunari Kawabata joins the Müller-Bellow power group. However, it only took me a day to read Snow Country. Which is years less than it took me to read The Land of Green Plums or Humboldt's Gift.

I love it how the translator has added his own notes, asking the reader to read the book "less Europeically". OK. Right. How exactly does a European person do that? I'll be the first one to admit that I don't know much about the Japanese culture, unlike half the internet these days it seems. Though frankly, I'm not that interested in getting to know the cultural settings of the world Kawabata is depicting.

So there's this middle-aged dreamer, Shimamura, living and supporting his wife and kids on his late father's money. He gurgles, yawns, travels, walks hills and spends his money on hookers. Or geishas, whatever they are. He seems more or less colorless and bland, with a whiff of unpleasantness in his character and behaviour.

And then there's this young geisha girl, Komako, who looks older than her age (early twenties instead of 19, how horrid!) and has hot skin, and who for some inexplicable reason falls for this good-for-nothing Shimamura dude.

It's probably because of my personal views and interests that I noted this, but to me a lot of Snow Country concentrates on the inequality of men and women. Shimamura has a family, but it's barely even mentioned because his yearly visits to a young, adoring girl are much more important. And there's another girl he lusts after too, possibly even younger one. They're desirable and lovable because they're young and pure and clean, have the perfect skin or voice or lips, and not because they are who they are. The feminist in me really didn't like the book.

And that's pretty much all of it. I didn't understand the relations between any of the characters, I didn't understand the weird behaviour, I didn't understand the mood swings and reasoning, I didn't understand all the vagueness, I didn't understand anything. I don't know if it's me not understanding Kawabata or me not understanding what Japanese culture is all about in its core, like the translator suggests, but the end result is the same. The only reason I managed to read this book and read it so fast was because there wasn't much else to do at work.

I don't think Snow Country is a bad book. It's well written and has some really nice depictions, but on the whole it's just... irrelevant. And pretty boring.

message 7: by Jani (new)

Jani | 8 comments Not much to add. I felt kind of meh about the characters and the plot and the whole book really, but at least it was short. Though I'm curious how much the original Japanese version of the book differs from the English translation. Maybe in Japanese the prose is amazing but it just gets lost in the translation. Or maybe not.

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