Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata
Yasunari Kawabata’s prose infiltrates our senses redolent of the delicate memories of tea, drifting with equanimity across the page; there is a languor that lulls us into a dreamlike state full of suggestion, powerfully soporific, quietly calming. ‘Thousand Cranes’, just like ‘Beauty and Sadness’, deals with relationships based on misunderstanding, on silent communication where the acts of simple symbolism guide the characters to reach for meanings that are both abstruse and inchoate, ends with death.
Kikuji Mitani is a man recently come into his station as an orphaned adult; a man whose memories constantly drift back to his childhood where his emotions vacillate between the powerful polarity of youthful belief and his struggle to mature into what his father once was. As with all Kawabata novels, the struggle to detach from the maternal forms a backdrop to the mental anguish and sense of dislocation. For Kukiji, his father’s once short-term mistress, Chikako Kurimoto, forms a lasting, faintly mendacious bond with him, her insouciance and propinquity finding an outlet in the marred, unseen blight of her breast:
“He thought of the birthmark that covered half her breast. The sound of her broom became the sound of a broom sweeping the contents from his skull, and her cloth polishing the veranda a cloth rubbing at his skull.”
It is Kurimoto, with her insistent, insidious steering of Kukiji towards finding a bride in an effort to spite a memory he has of his father’s longer relationship with the anguished Mrs Ota, who leaks into Kawabata’s prose like a slow poison; she is the cynosure of his world, an ever-present focus that he struggles to avoid.
The story is short, episodic, full of the symbolism of the Japanese tea ceremony; Kukiji is beholden to meet both Mrs Ota and her daughter, Fumiko; to assess the eponymous Inamura girl who is an ephemeral as the white kerchiefs that glide overhead the span of this novel. By mid-novel we understand that Kukiji has “bad memories of Kurimoto… I don’t want that woman’s destinies to touch mine at any point. It’s hard to believe that she introduced us.”. What remains is for him to part with his father’s past, to cast off his need for a sexuality that is, to Western mores painfully Odepidan and reach for his own identity. Yet, it is a struggle, for his own sense of identity is inextricably linked to understanding the sadness from which, in part, we all come, ““He and Fumiko, haunted by the death of her mother, were unable to hold back this grotesque sentimentality. The pair of Raku bowls deepened the sorrow they had in common.” Eventually he crosses the bridge from his childhood, recognises that he does know himself, understands the same path Fumiko must cross: “It was strange and subtle, the fact that the child should not know the body from which she had come; and, subtly, the body itself has been passed on to the daughter.”
Finally he sees that “It was strange to be told that death cut off understanding.” For understanding is what Kawabata’s story is all about.
There is a precision in Yasunari Kawabata’s narrative that shines with many hues. An author who rightly won the Nobel Prize for Literature, there is a mellifluous tone to his short novels that hides the vast depths; each character is broadly drawn with wide brushstrokes, their souls bared in tones and uncertain dialogue that become strong soliloquies in their thoughts… thoughts that Kawabata lays out with just the right amount of descriptive balance. The writing is painfully exquisite, melodic, it flows red and white from skies to cups glazed in history and memories, driving the reader to understand the sentiment of Kukiji’s procrastinating uncertainty in a tea service of tropes until, in the end all that remains is to watch as “the sun flowing over the branches sank into his tired eyes. And he closed them. The white cranes from the Inamura girl’s kerchief flew across the evening sun, which was still in his eyes.”
This Thousand Cranes book review was written by travelswithacanadian
Have you read Thousand Cranes?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
Thousand Cranes reader reviews
Preetham from India
The narration was very beautiful, but the ending was very abstract. Description of tea ceremony and the symbolism associated with it makes this novella very authentic and worth reading.
8.5/10 from 2 reviews
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
On a remote jungle island, genetic engineers have created a dinosaur game park. An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Now on...
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
Harry August is on his deathbed. Again. No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the kno...
For Kivrin Engle, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the four...
The Sixth World of Men
Walter E Mark
On the surface, the sixth world of men is a glorious world. It is a world of great technological advancement. It is a world that has been at peace for a hundred years. Whil...
The Lathe of Heaven
Ursula Le Guin
George Orr is a mild and unremarkable man who finds the world a less than pleasant place to live: seven billion people jostle for living space and food. But George dreams d...
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Tsukuru Tazaki had four best friends at school. By chance all of their names contained a colour. The two boys were called Akamatsu, meaning ‘red pine’, and Oumi...
The Chronicles of Fate and Choice
This is where it all began. Everything. Love, hate, good, evil, us and them. Before the Gods by KS Turner successfully breaks the genre rules to produce something unique, c...
A combination of previously unseen stories, favourites from Interzone and contributions to numerous anthologies, IMAGINED SLIGHTS showcases one of the most versatile and el...
A Scanner Darkly
Philip K Dick
Substance D is not known as Death for nothing. It is the most toxic drug ever to find its way on to the streets of LA. It destroys the links between the brain's two hem...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages: