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A fascinating discovery, Kawabata’s unfinished final novel Dandelions is a great master’s last word
A fascinating discovery, Dandelions is Kawabata's final novel, left incomplete when he committed suicide in 1972.
Beautifully spare and deeply strange, Dandelions explores love and madness and consists almost entirely conversations between a woman identified only as Ineko's mother, and Kuno, a young man who loves Ineko and wants to marry her. The two have left Ineko at the Ikuta Clinic, a mental hospital, which she has entered for treatment of somagnosia, a condition that might be called “seizures of body blindness.” Although her vision as a whole is unaffected, she periodically becomes unable to see her lover Kuno. Whether this condition actually constitutes madness is a topic of heated discussion between Kuno and Ineko’s mother: Kuno believes Ineko's blindness is actually an expression of her love for him, as it is only he, the beloved, she cannot see.
In this tantalizing book, Kawabata explores the incommunicability of desire and carries the art of the novel, where he always suggested more than he stated, into mysterious and strange new realms. Dandelions is the final word of a truly great master, the first Japanese winner of the Nobel Prize.
Best known in the West for such novels as Snow Country, Beauty and Sadness, and A Thousand Cranes, Yasunari Kawabata was born in Osaka in 1899. In 1968 he became the first Japanese writer to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Michael Emmerich is an associate professor in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of California. He is the author of “The Tale of Genji”: Translation, Canonization, and World Literature and the translator of numerous books from the Japanese.
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