Snow Country
by Yasunari Kawabata

A Review by Scott finished Jan. 3, 2009

This review will contain spoilers!

In many sentences:

Snow Country relates the story of a tragic love affair between Shimamura and Komako. The style utilizes frequent sets of contrasting elements and opulent imagery to adapt the haiku style of poetry into prose form. This style is interesting and effective, though often difficult to come to terms with due to its inability to probe too deeply into in one subject or conversation. Basically, the author will transition rapidly between scenes, and characters will move through emotions more quickly than you might find in other works. However, the images that are created through the contrasts create a tone that accentuates the inevitable tragic relationship between S & K.

On the whole, I enjoyed the rapid transitions and the characterizations. Though I would not describe either of the main characters as people I could relate to (or even as particularly realistic) the setting of the isolated snow country, coupled with the contrast between life and death, love and hate, anger and joy, beauty and unattractiveness, create an environment that leaves you enthralled with the doomed romance. I always find it interesting when you read a book where neither character is the hero. You are not rooting for either S or K, nor are you (realistically) hoping their relationship is successful. Ultimately, this is a novel to read if you enjoy tone, subtlety and the craft of story, and not necessarily for the story itself. There are no plot twists or exciting events, but that is not to say that the work isn't compelling.

The climax of the story occurs when S says to K "you"re a good girl" and then a few minutes later "you"re a good woman". Though subtle, the significance of this transition should not be underestimated, as we see from K's powerful reaction and exclamation of "I hate you". Through this unconscious transition, S has revealed to us and to K that he was using her all along. He did not want to love her, or to develop anything more than a physical relationship with her in the end. During this scene, when S first asks for a geisha, K muses that there are not any women like that (implying a willingness to fulfill his sexual desires) in the town. She proceeds to consider a scenario in which there were women like that, and if S would just laugh at them if there were. Though he does not actually laugh at her during the climactic scene, K says "Admit it. That"s why you came to see me. You were laughing at me. You were laughing at me after all." This transition is emphasized when, in a moment of silence, sexual tension is implied as we read ""¦ the awareness of a woman"s being alive came to S in her warmth." Though the story proceeds further, with S & K continuing to interact, and with us learning of the death of Yoko in the fire, it is at this point that we know the relationship is over. K has learned that S was using him all along, and the time they spend together after this point is simply a matter of delaying the inevitable.

First Line

"The train came out of the long tunnel into the snow country."

Yasunari Kawabata the First Line of Snow Country

Last Line

"As he caught his footing, his head fell back, and the Milky Way flowed down inside him with a roar."

Yasunari Kawabata the Last Line of in Snow Country

Originally Published Jan. 1, 1948

Paperback edition:

175 pages - Feb. 1, 1996

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