By Luciana Leitão
It’s a story of love, peaceful yet doomed love, between a wealthy dilettante (Shimamura) and a geisha (Komako). Set in Japan, at an isolated mountain hot spring, Snow Country is usually considered Nobel Prize-winner Yasunari Kawabata’s masterpiece.
Shimamura escapes from the bustling city of Tokyo by train to an isolated mountain hot spring, covered on a snow blanket. It is there that he meets Komako, a geisha who gives himself to him.
It seems a story set in a distant time and place, a romance that instills a sense of deep sadness, as the story unfolds. The scenery doesn’t help, as it’s set in the middle of the isolated beauty of the west coast of Japan. But the relationship persists throughout several years, with Shimamura making frequent travels to meet Komako, even though you always feel it won’t last.
The book moves on, with these encounters, and the inconsistent behaviour and feelings of Komako, and Shimamura’s reflexion on them. Beautifully written, with a skilled poetic prose, this is a book to be enjoyed carefully and over time.
Kawabata takes time to describe several scenes, which he believes merit his reflexion, be it the changes in nature during the change of seasons or the thorough description of the scenery in which the story takes place.
These carefully thought of and skilfully written descriptions make us travel to those snowy mountains and take time to dwell into the Japanese culture, in that time and specific places. The interactions between the two protagonists are vague and frequently not very clear, leading us to immediately feel that this is a relationship is doomed, right from the start.
This is not a book to flip and turn pages, as you’re curious about the next scene. This is a book to read, breath, think and watch, as these impossible encounters take place, amid a beautiful scenery. Snow Country is a photograph taken, in a distant time and place, of two impossible lovers.