I was asked by Granta to write a short piece about a Japanese book I admire – I chose ‘Snow Country ‘by Yasunari Kawabata, a book I read a decade ago while living in Japan.
I’ve loved this novel for many years. It is a romance without any romance and a love story without much love. Quietly, quietly (with language that seems so fragile), it dismantles the things we hope for. Is beauty a thing that lasts? No, it’s a thing that wastes and decays. Will romantic love fulfil us? No, not really; we can never escape ourselves enough to give another the love they want. Don’t we, at least, belong to a glorious natural world? Again, not really; even as we admire its glory we find ourselves separate from it.
Snow Country takes place in a hot spring resort somewhere in the western mountains of the Japanese mainland . . .