An acute, contemplative tale of the twilight days of the elderly man, Shingo, when both turmoil and tranquillity shock life into sharper, more distinct and painful illuminations before the dark. Kikuko, wife of his son Shuichi, in her shy dependence ""was for him a window looking out of a gloomy house"" and relief from the ungainly unhappiness of his own family. The disproportionate callousness of his son, and the angry betrayed and ugly countenance of his daughter Fusako, who had left her ne'er-do-well husband with her two daughters, depress Shingo. And his old wife, an acolyte become anachronism, is no comfort. The old man approaches and then withdraws from the abrasive ""misery and destruction"" that men and women, children and parents engender. Yet through Shingo's tentative probing at the totality of existence (sunflowers and strangers; the death of friends; the unborn, unloved children; a kitchen full of women) the gentle Kikuko is a memory and affirmation of tenderness and love. But he at last relinquishes even that certitude as the irony of an old man's dreaming. With a peculiarly Japanese involvement with delicate gradations and adjustments, and a brilliant economy of means, the author, winner of the 1968 Nobel Prize for Literature, has produced a lyric poem of tangled reeds and quiet distances.