“Snow Country” by Yasunari Kawabata

This article is also available in: Italiano

“Snow Country” is a magnificent written work of art in which the environment and the soul of the protagonists come together in a single and precise symphony in which the founding element is the pleasure and the suspension of time; the same condition as the snow, the same as the geisha.

Snow Country

The title country is paradise on earth on the west coast of Japan’s largest island, home to exquisite spas and delicate resorts. This is the scene on which the story of Shimamura, a rich and refined esthete, and Komako, a geisha of the baths, unfolds. Komako belongs to a very different category of geishas from that of the city: the courtesans of the snow country will never be able to become famous musicians or dancers. Their destiny is to mature amidst the enchantment and corruption of that secluded place, dedicated to the search for perfect rest. That of the protagonists is therefore an elusive and precarious love encounter.

The pleasure

The book is a magnificent written work of art in which the environment and the soul of the protagonists come together in a single and precise symphony in which the founding element is the pleasure and the suspension of time; the same condition as the snow, the same as the geisha. Contrary to what remains in the average imagination, in fact, the latter are not comparable to “prostitutes”, but to entertainers who, by virtue of their great grace, knowledge of the musical arts and the use of the word, cheered the evenings of rich men seeking pleasure; the latter, however, should be understood more as a mental and spiritual pleasure and not as a sexual outlet.

Snow Country

This can also be seen from the position of the obi, the belt of the kimono, whose knot for the oiran, the “real prostitutes” is placed in front, while for the geishas it is behind the back, a very uncomfortable position and which meant that it was rarely undone. Komako, however, is not part of the “standard” geishas, but of the onsen, the “spa geishas”. The latter, unlike the others, did not have the opportunity to perform in large receptions, but had to spend their whole life delighting travelers destined to spend there just the time of their vacation, a quick and subtle moment, wrapped in pleasure and suspended in the time.

Suspended beauty

As in Kawabata’s other work, the whole environment and nature bring the reader back to the same concept, expressing themselves however with even more grace: in the first part it snows, while at the end of the novel autumn arrives and the leaves fall, two moments that more than ever are linked to the meaning of the text. The snow is in fact as beautiful as it is deciduous, as it is destined to melt shortly after showing its beauty, while the leaves fall with extreme grace and elegance on the lawn, showing themselves more beautiful than ever in their last moment. The Shimamura and Komako relationship looks just like snow: incredibly beautiful to look at, yet ready to melt the instant it gets too hot. Their relationship will in fact be a continuous succession of moments of absolute grace, intimacy and kindness (considered one of the most attractive elements of a woman in the Japanese world), which however will never lead to anything more, thus representing the suspension of real time. in a moment of absolute beauty destined to end. To symbolize the leaves in autumn there will instead be the relationship with Yoko, another young girl from the village whose beauty Shimamura will understand only when her leaf is destined to fall.

Snow Country

Although I personally appreciated more “The sound of the mountain “,” The Snow Country “is without a shadow of a doubt one of the masterpieces of world literature for how it manages to represent to the reader all the moods and thoughts desired by the author, all with an elegance and refined grace, typical of Kawabata. A booklet of 145 pages that will immerse you in a Japan of such overwhelming beauty that it is suspended in time.

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