THE OLD CAPITAL by Yasunari Kawabata


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A delicate, wispy, melancholy novel, shimmery with images and intimations of life's ephemera: an old city, old ways, the souring illusions of love. By the late Nobel prize-winning author of The Master of Go (published here in 1972), this novel was first published in Japan in 1962. In the ancient city of Kyoto, within a section of winding, small streets and shops with lattice doors, lives Chieko, foundling daughter of a wholesale fabric dealer, Takichiro. During a year of seasonal festivals--gorgeously ornate processions and intricate rituals, symbols of a culture withering away--Chieko will find her twin, Naeko, a mirror image, who will tell of dead parents; who works in a cedar forest; whose hands are red and rough; who calls Chieko ""Miss."" Naeko's tears are of joy; Chieko's are of grief for lost parents, of embarrassment and confusion. Then events seem to twist out of shape: a young man, intrigued by Chieko, proposes to Naeko; Takichiro dallies with a young girl, worries about retiring; and practical, bluff young men, living in the ""now,"" chill the presumptions of old courtesies and castes. Kawabata sketches the contours of nature, both raw and tamed, with brisk strokes, while the drama of the twins--like an old and new city within one--slides by with brief stabs of emotion and sly, shaded evasions. A fragile, faintly decadent and evanescent tale that is undoubtedly deprived of full body and flavor and emotive reverberations in English, in spite of the melodious translation by Holman.

Pub Date: June 20th, 1987
ISBN: 1593760329
Publisher: North Point