His hair was in disorder and he was barefoot it was a

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Unformatted text preview: t Age 313 This was the genius of our ancestors, that by cutting off the light from this empty space they imparted to the world of shadows that formed there a quality of mystery and depth superior to that of any wall painting or ornament.11 Kawabata Yasunari expressed perhaps more poignantly than anyone the shattering despair felt by so many Japanese at war’s end when he wrote: “I have the strong, unavoidable feeling that my life is already at an end. For me there is only the solitary return to the mountains and rivers of the past. From this point on, as one already dead, I intend to write only of the poor beauty of Japan, not a line else.”12 Even though he asserts that the defeat in war has driven him to it, Kawabata was by artistic temperament drawn to write about the “poor beauty of Japan,” both the land and its people. In spite of his Neoperceptionist and modernist dabblings in the late 1920s and the 1930s, Kawabata is probably more Japanese in what is generally understood as the traditional sense than any other modern novelist. As we saw in the last chapter, he is often regarded as a writer of haiku-like prose who uses the spare, aesthetically polished language of poetry to sketch his settings and evoke his moods. One is, for example, always keenly aware in a Kawabata novel, as in the poetry by ancient courtier masters, of nature and the seasons, or more precisely, of the particular nature and seasons of Japan that have shaped the temperament of its people. In 1968 Kawabata became the first Japanese recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature. In his acceptance speech, entitled “Japan the Beautiful and Myself ” (“Utsukushii Nihon no Watakushi”), Kawabata dispelled any doubts there may have been about how thoroughly rooted and immersed his art was in the traditional culture of Japan. The speech is one of the finest and most moving paeans to Japanese culture ever composed. Although it deserves to be reproduced in full in a book of this kind, a few brief passages must s...
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