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Shvoong Home>Books>Palm of the Hand Stories Review

Palm of the Hand Stories

Book Review   by:M Shandar     Original Author: Yasunari Kawabata
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The 'Palm-of-the-Hand' stories, most of which are just 2-4 pages long, are set against a backdrop of day-to-day Japanese life in cities, small towns and the countryside. Each story is a miniature gem, rich in poetic imagery and concocted with an economy of words that does not detract from Kawabata's natural art of storytelling. Included in the collection is a heavily abridged version of Snow Country, one of the novels that Kawabata is best known for and which contributed to his becoming the first Japanese recipient of the Nobel prize for literature. The simplicity of Kawabata's construction belies the complexity of each story, be it about love or death, time or loneliness. It is as if Kawabata has taken a longer story and dissected away all extraneous detail without diluting the power of his message or the appeal of its presentation. Generally profound, and at times surreal, haunting, amusing or disturbing, the Palm-of-the-Hand stories represent a diverse description of miniature scenes: interactions between lovers, sensations of loss or longing, or ruminations on the pursuit of happiness.
The 70 stories collected here span 50 years of output from 1923 to 1972 and thus reflect the considerable changes in Japan during this period. On rare occasions it seems that the translation may have failed to convey the true spirit of the story. Perhaps this perception arises because some stories will, necessarily, have reduced impact outside of the cultural crucible of Japan. Nonetheless, these are a minority and remain interesting for the very same reason that they are not entirely clear. The remainder have an impact disproportionate to their length. A true master of his craft, Kawabata’s descriptive narrative and realistic characterisation are capable of provoking emotional reaction in spite of the shortness of his tales. Few writers are capable of saying so much in pieces of such brevity. These short and bittersweet portraits of Japanese life are sublime.
Published: September 10, 2005   
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