With a restraint that barely conceals the ferocity of his characters' passions, one of Japan's great postwar novelists tells the luminous story of Kikuji and the tea party he attends with Mrs. Ota, the rival of his dead father's mistress. A tale of desire, regret, and sensual nostalgia, every gesture has a meaning, and even the most fleeting touch or casual utterance has the power to illuminate entire lives - sometimes in the same moment that it destroys them.
©1986 Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
"Narrator Brian Nishii uses calm, understated tones to fully illuminate Kikuji’s emotional state as he tries to make sense of his unruly desires, his feelings of loss, and his deep loneliness. Nishii adds depth to Kawabata’s spare, disciplined language, never resorting to theatricality yet providing significant moments of reflection and contemplation as Kikuji works to achieve awareness. In both substance and delivery, Thousand Cranes is as subtle and minimal as a Japanese painting." (AudioFile)
"A novel of exquisite artistry...rich suggestibility...and a story that is human, vivid and moving." (New York Herald Tribune)
“Kawabata is a poet of the gentlest shades, of the evanescent, the imperceptible. This is a tragedy in soft focus, but its passions are fierce." (CommonWealth)
It's hard to review this book without resorting to the sort of cliche you'd expect in a review of a Japanese novel, i.e., that it's a delicate haiku, a subtle watercolor painting, a poetically melancholy glimpse of life. The thing is, Thousand Cranes really is all of these. Kawabata's writing is almost unbearably delicate; all of the emotions and crises are merely hinted at, as subtly as possibly, and so made perhaps more deeply moving. The story itself also has a painful and elusive quality: it is the story of a young man struggling to find a life and a love distinct from those of his late father's. Every word in the book is highly symbolic and yet undeniably human. In short, I was really impressed with the writing and will definitely look for more by the same author.
As for the reader: Brian Nishii certainly knows how to pronounce the Japanese names correctly, which is very important -- very often, audiobook narrators will mispronounce foreign words, which can be quite jarring if you happen to know what the language is supposed to sound like. Other than that, Nishii does an OK job. Some of his characterizations sounded a little off to me, and his pauses were a little too short on occasion, but the overall result is perfectly acceptable.
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