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Posted April 2, 2007
The Sound of the Mountain, by Yasunari Kawabata, touches on a surprising amount of modern-day issues. It is a rather lengthy novel, almost three hundred pages that can perhaps be described as a near-tragic drama. The author seems to be directing the book at a middle-age to older audience, especially parents that have experienced the trials and tribulations of watching their children grow. The story centers on a man by the name of Ogata Shingo, aged sixty-two, and his obsession with his failures as a husband and father, and the reality of his own mortality. The book is largely written in haikus or Japanese poems which helps bring the novel into a better place when the story seemingly becomes too dark along the way. Shingo is struggling from the onset of the book until the last page with memory lapses, and suffers from nightmares where he interacts with dead friends and associates from his past. He is unhappy with his wife, and is struggling to maintain a decent relationship with his daughter, who has recently moved back home with her two young daughters after leaving her husband. At the same time, he is haunted by the knowledge that his son, who after returning from war a changed man, is having extramarital affairs, and because of this, and his poor relationship with his own daughter and wife, turns his attention to his daughter-in-law, whom he both pities and somewhat sexually desires. But the novel isn¿t solely about the problems of Shingo¿s family. It creatively combines a mixture of family drama with heavy metaphorical comparison between Shingo¿s personal problems and nature. Shingo hears sounds and notices minute details from plants, trees, and of course the mountain the book is titled after, that he believes gives clues or signs about what lies in his future. Because no one else hears or sees these signs, Shingo is left to ponder their meanings on his own, which cause him great personal turmoil. Along with this turmoil, the novel centers on Shingo¿s guilty feelings that stem from his belief that he was not an involved enough husband and father, and has thus been a huge factor in the problems his own children are experiencing. The book moves along nicely for its length, but its heavy use of haikus and metaphors may cause the reader to backtrack more than once to search for hidden meanings. It is the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and its author was the first Japanese writer to have ever received the award. I found my opinion of the novel to be somewhat complex. After reading the jacket of the book it seemed to be a very straightforward, interesting novel, compared to other Japanese writings I have read. However, once the book really got going I found it hard to follow at times, and a bit on the depressing side. Perhaps the best way to describe it is imagine watching a film about a senior citizen having a later-than-usual mid-life crisis while possibly struggling with symptoms of Alzheimer¿s disease. Throw in the man¿s children, one who is a cheater and a poor excuse for a husband, a daughter-in-law who is too submissive and sweet to have to tolerate this husband, and a daughter whose own marriage has ended and is living at home arguing with her parents like a spoiled teenager, and you have a good idea about how dark this novel can become at times. What I did find impressive about the novel was the creative metaphorical uses between nature and life and death. It seemed there was just the right amount of these metaphors to bring the book back up to a tolerable positive level whenever I felt it had become too serious to enjoy.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.