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.
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"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.
College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.
of "the sins of the fathers being visited on the sons." Love, lust, suicide. Everything you want in a Japanese classic.
Jung Chang and Jon Halliday depict Mao as a power-mad monster, a supremely cunning psychopathic gangster boss. One could say it's a hatchet job, but they have a lot of evidence to back up their depiction, including many of Mao's own statements. Without the recognition of Mao's psychopathy, it would be hard to account for quite so many corpses and shattered lives, so much deliberate and prolonged torment. Their story is compelling, linked causally one episode to the next. The one main thing missing from their account is the ideological fervor that must have animated so many cadres, along with sheer terror and intimidation.
The story itself is beautiful. It is engaging, and requires a certain amount of participation on the reader's part to follow what's in between the lines. I still need to process and ruminate.
The performance was fine, but not spectacular. Japanese names seemed (to my uneducated ear) correctly/authentically pronounced. However, not much distinction was made between the voices of the female characters, and Brian Nishii's representation of the female voice feels forced.
There may be a case to be made for reducing the emotion/expression in the character's voices. Here, however, the characters fell a little flat, not charged with the emotional content the words carry.
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