Thousand Cranes

Narrated by: Brian Nishii
Length: 3 hrs
4 out of 5 stars (126 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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.

Critic Reviews

"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)

What listeners say about Thousand Cranes

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Painfully beautiful

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.

13 people found this helpful

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Compelling Story...

of "the sins of the fathers being visited on the sons." Love, lust, suicide. Everything you want in a Japanese classic.

3 people found this helpful

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Not for me.

I think perhaps I am the wrong audience for this book. I found it to be demeaning and misogynistic. I know it represents another time and culture but the treatment of the women in this book took me out of the story and made me dislike the protagonist. I could not connect with either the story or the characters.

2 people found this helpful

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Decent

This book reminds me of European classics, similar to the works of Jane Austen or George Elliot or Virginia Woolf. By this, I mean, it has its interests in the writing, the narration and how it is all kept together. However, the book itself is very upper-crusty as is expected and difficult to relate too. Also, probably due to the time difference. However, unlike some other classics, it struggles to suspend the disbelief with how outrageous some of the ideas are. The writing is superb, the metaphors are often good, but sometimes seem to fall flatter in translation that I would be willing to bet doesn't happen in it's original Japanese.

You might enjoy much of the emphasis on the ceremonial and intricacies of Tea, especially in Japanese culture. It goes fairly in depth about the symbolism and much of the process is speared together with the story quite well. This also saves the book quite well from perhaps being a bit dull. The writing, symbolism and ceremony is the primary greatness of this book in my opinion.


This is enough to have me consider more of Kawabata's books, but isn't a personal or extraordinary Novel for me.

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Generally fantastic

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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Compelling but incomplete biography

Any additional comments?

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.