Yasunari Kawabata, Edward G. Seidensticker
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Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata’s Thousand Cranes is a luminous story of desire, regret, and the almost sensual nostalgia that binds the living to the dead.
While attending a traditional tea ceremony in the aftermath of his parents’ deaths, Kikuji encounters his father’s former mistress, Mrs. Ota. At first Kikuji is appalled by her indelicate nature, but it is not long before he succumbs to passion—a passion with tragic and unforeseen consequences, not just for the two lovers, but also for Mrs. Ota’s daughter, to whom Kikuji’s attachments soon extend. Death, jealousy, and attraction convene around the delicate art of the tea ceremony, where every gesture is imbued with profound meaning.
woman is a woman. I don’t think I would ever be able to tell a man that I had a big mark on my breast.’ ‘But she’s hardly young any more.’ ‘Still it wouldn’t be easy. A man with a birthmark could probably get married and just laugh when he was found out.’ ‘Did you see the mark?’ ‘Don’t be silly. Of course not.’ ‘You just talked about it?’ ‘She came for my lesson, and we talked about all sorts of things. I suppose she felt like confessing.’ Kikuji’s father was silent. ‘Suppose she were to
you do with Mrs Ota’s Shino?’ Kikuji did not answer. ‘Shouldn’t you send it back?’ ‘That I think is up to me.’ ‘I’m afraid not.’ ‘It’s hardly your place to be giving orders.’ ‘That’s not quite true either.’ She laughed and showed her white teeth. ‘I came today to tell you what I think.’ In a quick gesture, she thrust both hands before her, then spread them as if to brush something away. ‘If you don’t get rid of that witch.’ ‘You sound very threatening.’ ‘But I’m the go-between, and I’m to
jar that had been Mrs Ota’s was now being used by Chikako. After Mrs Ota’s death, it had passed to her daughter, and from Fumiko it had come to Kikuji. It had had a strange career. But perhaps the strangeness was natural to tea vessels. In the three or four hundred years before it became the property of Mrs Ota, it had passed through the hands of people with what strange careers? ‘Beside the iron kettle, the Shino looks even more like a beautiful woman,’ Kikuji said to Fumiko. ‘But it’s strong
moment when his eyes were on the discarded pieces, the morning star had disappeared in the clouds. He gazed at the eastern sky for a time, as if to retrieve something stolen. The clouds would not be heavy; but he could not tell where the star was. The clouds broke near the horizon. The faint red deepened where they touched the roofs of houses. ‘I can’t just leave it,’ he said aloud. He picked up the pieces again, and put them in the sleeve of his night kimono. It would be sad to leave them
time he had known himself as a man. It was an extraordinary awakening. He had not guessed that a woman could be so wholly pliant and receptive, the receptive one who followed after and at the same time lured him on, the receptive one who engulfed him in her own warm scent. Kikuji, the bachelor, usually felt soiled after such encounters; but now, when the sense of defilement should have been keenest, he was conscious only of warm repose. He usually wanted to make his departure roughly; but today