The Sound of the Mountain Author:Yasunari Kawabata Kawabata Yasunari won the Nobel Prize in 1968 and this novel above all his others, in my opinion, gives readers a chance to find out why. This is a classic of world literature, a work of genius. It is a finely-written tale of family, a simple story about an older man who is fond of his daughter-in-law, though his relations with his own two grown... more » children, son and divorced daughter, are ambiguous. The story line, as in other Kawabata novels, is simple----there are no great events, no dramatic conclusions or climaxes. Natural phenomena---birds, animals, plants, and weather---play a large role in setting the mood and are used as symbols throughout. Far from being a recurring theme, the "sound of the mountain" is heard only once, on page 10, yet it and many other signs presage changes in life that follow a pattern unseen by human eyes.
The most amazing thing about THE SOUND OF THE MOUNTAIN is its capacity to summarize or to encapsulate family life, the compexity of family relationships. The only other book I know that comes close is Christina Stead's "The Man Who Loved Children", but that is a most verbose book whose characters verbalize nearly every emotion, or else the author does it for them. Kawabata's novel, however, succeeds in portraying family life equally well, if not better, with an absolute minimum of brush strokes. The indecision, the steps not taken, the regrets, the lost loves who return in dreams---all the myriad small events from which marriages and families are constructed---flow in a way that is both typically Japanese and universal. Shingo, the old man, was particularly kind towards Kikuko, his daughter in law, who "was for him a window looking out of a gloomy house." "Kindness towards her was a beam lighting isolation. It was a way of pampering himself, of bringing a touch of mellowness into his life." There is nothing so definite (or crass) as an out-and-out love affair between the two. Rather, there are solutions that are no solutions, compromises that have to paper over the disappointments. Life goes on and Hollywood is for children. What a brilliant book !--Robert S Newman« less