“SNOW COUNTRY” by Yasunari Kawabata

“A girl of twelve or thirteen stood knitting apart from the rest, her back against a stone wall. Under the baggy ‘mountain trousers’,  her feet were bare but for sandals, and Shimamura could see that the soles were red and cracked from the cold. A girl of perhaps two stood on a bundle of firewood beside her patiently holding a ball of yarn.”

“Following a stream, the train came out on the plain. A mountain, cut at the top in curious notches and spires, fell off in a graceful sweep to the far skirts. Over it the moon was rising. The solid, integral shape of the mountain, taking up the whole of the evening landscape there  at the end of the plain, was set off in a deep purple against the pale light of the sky. The moon was no longer an afternoon white, but, faintly coloured, it had not yet taken on the clear coldness of the winter night. There was not a bird in the sky. Nothing broke the lines of the wide skirts to the right and the left. Where the mountain swept down to meet the river, a stark white building, a hydroelectric plant perhaps, stood out sharply from the withered scene the train window framed, one last spot saved from the night.
The window began to steam over. Tha landscape outside was dusky, and the figures of the passangers floated up half-transparent.”

“If Komako was the man’s fiancee, and Yoko was his new lover, and the man was going to die – the expression ‘wasted effort’ again came into Shimamura’s mind. For Komako thus to guard her promise to the end, for her even to sell herself to pay doctors’ bills – what was it if not wasted effort?”

” ‘I can’t complain. After all, only women are able really to love.’ She flushed a little and looked at the floor.
‘In the world as it is,’ he murmured, chilled at the sterility of the words even as he spoke.
But Komako only replied: ‘As it always has been’. She raised her head and added absent-mindedly: ‘You didn’t know that?’ ”

Yasunari Kawabata, the 1968 Nobel Prize winner, committed suicide in 1972 at the age of 73.


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