First Snow On Fuji ($24.00; Sept.; 224 pp.; 1-58243-022-5). A fine collection of nine limpid stories (plus an enigmatic brief play), originally published in 1958 by Japan’s first Nobel laureate (in 1968). Kawabata’s narrative clarity and meditative intensity give impressive depth to his closely focused portrayals of suburban lovers who cannot fully know each other or themselves and—a frequently recurring figure—of the writer whose commitment to art belies, or consumes, his emotional identity. All the tales have great power, but most notable are the Kafkaesque fable “Silence,” about an elderly novelist’s withdrawal from the world and his “silence’s” radiating consequences, and the plaintive title story, in which a former couple separated by both the death of their child and their marriages to other people meet again, but find they can recapture neither their youth nor their feelings for each other. Beautifully spare, moving, and involving work from one of the modern masters.