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Yasunari Kawabata

Biography

Yasunari Kawabata was born in Osaka in 1899. His family was an old family but not very well-off. His father and mother both had health problems and both died of tuberculosis before Kawabata was three. He went to live with his grandparents, while his older sister went to live with their aunt. As a child he was both a keen reader and interested in painting. However, by the time he went to middle school, he had abandoned painting in favour of writing. When he was sixteen, his grandfather died. His grandmother and sister had already died. He went to study English literature in Tokyo and then went on a walking tour across the Izu peninsular. He meet a group of travelling entertainers and this meeting became the basis of his first story. At Tokyo Imperial University he helped found a literary magazine but also had an unhappy love affair. After his first year at university, he switched to Japanese literature. After university he co-founded another literary magazine, where he published some of his earliest stories. He also worked in the cinema and was a scriptwriter on Kurutta ippêji (A Page of Madness), a film which was thought lost till rediscovered in 1971 and which I can thoroughly recommend.

In 1926 his first story was published and had considerable success but did not bring him much financial success. The following year, his wife had a baby who died soon after birth. They did not have any more children. His first book was published in 1927 and the couple moved to Tokyo. In Tokyo Kawabata became very much involved in the literary life, both frequenting cafés and being involved in numerous literary magazines. He also taught literature. For the rest of his life, he did much to foster the work of other writers, helping many writers and, during World War II, arranging for the publication of works by writers who died during the war. He also set up a library which soon expanded into a publisher. He was also writing himself, producing many stories as well as novels, of which Yukiguni (Snow Country) is probably the best-known though he himself preferred Go Sei-gen kidan (The Master of Go). He started having health problems and was becoming addicted to sleeping pills. In 1968 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, the first Japanese writer to be so honoured. In 1972, he was found dead from gas poisoning in the apartment he kept for writing. Though no note was found, it was believed he had killed himself.

Other links

Yasunari Kawabata
Yasunari Kawabata
Yasunari Kawabata (1899-1972)

Bibliography

(only books translated into English)
1927 伊豆の踊子 (The Izu Dancer; The Dancing Girl of Izu)
1929 浅草紅_ (The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa)
1937 雪國 (Snow Country)
1952 山の音 (The Sound of the Mountain)
1952 千羽鶴 (Thousand Cranes)
1954 名人 (The Master of Go)
1958 富士の初雪 (First Snow on Fuji)
1961 眠れる美女 (The House of the Sleeping Beauties and Other Stories)
1961 みづうみ (The Lake)
1962 古都 (The Old Capital)
1965 美しさと哀しみと (Beauty and Sadness)
1969 美の存在と発見 (The Existence and Discovery of Beauty)
1983 Miniature Masterpieces of Kawabata Yasunari
1988 掌の小説 (Palm-of-the-Hand Stories)
1998 竹取物語 (The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter)
1999 Tales with Two Souls: A Variety in Time and Culture