The Dancing Girl of Izu and other Stories by Yasunari Kawabata

The mystifying aspect of the book is perhaps lost entirely to poor translation. I enjoyed bits and parts of the book where I felt the translator’s sentences did justice to what the author was saying. But the prose mostly fell flat and brazen and failed to evoke sentiments in me which I’m sure were due had I read the original or a better translation.

Japanese literary mindset is one which holds beauty and mystery quite similar to the literary culture of Latin America but this unfortunately could not emanate from this collection of semi-autobiographical short stories.

Many times the stories seem vague in themselves, most ending abruptly much to my annoyance. Only the author’s relationship with his grandfather invoked emotions in me and that too just lasted the first few pages of the book.

  • I stood stiff, staring at him, wondering how he could be alive, this mystery in the mountains.
  • Twenty years old, I had embarked on this trip to Izu heavy with resentment that my personality had been permanently warped by my orphan’s complex and that I would never be able to overcome a stifling melancholy. So I was inexpressibly grateful to find that I looked like a nice person as the world defines the word
  • “I wonder when I’m going to get better?” my grandfather asked, in a voice that was nine parts despair clinging to one part hope.14030
  • The sorrow of loneliness—that is my grandfather. My grandfather’s habit of saying “I have lived my life crying” is his true feeling.
  • What seemed strangest to me when I found this diary was that I have no recollection of the day-to-day life it describes. If I do not recall them, where have those days gone? Where had they vanished to? I pondered the things that human beings lose to the past.
  • Then, as I drifted from relatives’ houses to dormitories to lodging houses, the concepts of house and household were driven from my mind. All I saw were dreams of myself as a wanderer
  • My memory is so bad that I can have no firm belief in memory. There are times I feel that forgetfulness is a blessing
  • What I believe to be memories are probably daydreams. Still, my own sentimentality yearns for them as if they were the truth, suspect or twisted though they may be
  • “How horrible. Your kimono smells like a grave.” “It’s a bad omen if you don’t know the smell of a grave.”
  • So it was that as a youth, my decorous behavior at the funerals of strangers was never feigned; rather, it was a manifestation of the capacity for sadness I had within myself.
  • There were two ponds in the valley. The lower pond glimmered, as if brimming with molten silver, while the upper pond was deep and silent like death, as though the mountain shadows lay submerged in the green waters.
  • When you die, there is nothing—only a life that will be forgotten.
  • The man spoke cheerfully. “Wonderful. I will buy your daydream.”
  • Vanity happened to give this man, who had groveled in fear of women, a little courage for love.
  • The realization that she could not return home spread through her chest like water
  • Her idea that life would be more meaningful for her alone—with an education rather than with a man—was interesting
  • As death approaches, memory erodes. Recent memories are the first to succumb. Death works its way backward until it reaches memory’s earliest beginnings. Then memory flares up for an instant, just like a flame about to go out

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