Awakened by Beauty: Remembering Yasunari Kawabata (1899-1972)

Screens from the Edo period in the exhibition “A Sensitivity to the Seasons: Summer and Autumn in Japanese Art” at Metropolitan Museum of Art

Why is the nature so beautiful, indeed extravagantly so? Yasunari Kawabata, Japanese novelist and winner of the 1968 Nobel Prize in Literature, shares his perspective, filled with the quintessential Japanese respect for nature:

When we see the beauty of the snow, when we see the beauty of the full moon, when we see the beauty of the cherries in bloom, when in short, we brush against and are awakened by the beauty of the four seasons, it is then that we think most of those close to us, and want them to share the pleasure. The excitement of beauty calls forth strong fellow feelings, yearnings for companionship, and the word ‘comrade’ can be taken to mean ‘human being.’

Brief Bio of Yasunari Kawabata

Yasunari Kawabata was born in 1899 in Osaka, the son of a highly cultivated physician. After the early death of his parents he was raised in the country by his maternal grandfather and attended the Japanese public school. From 1920 to 1924, Kawabata studied at the Tokyo Imperial University, where he received his degree. He was one of the founders of the publication Bungei Jidai, the medium of a new movement in modern Japanese literature. Kawabata made his debut as a writer with the short story, Izu dancer, published in 1927. After several distinguished works, the novel Snow Country in 1937 secured Kawabata’s position as one of the leading authors in Japan. In 1949, he published two classic serials Thousand Cranes and The Sound of the Mountain. Four years later, he was made a member of the Art Academy of Japan. The Lake (1955), The Sleeping Beauty (1960) and The Old Capital (1962) were his later works, and of these novels, The Old Capital is the one that made the deepest impression in the author’s native country and abroad. In 1959, Kawabata received the Goethe-medal in Frankfurt, and in 1968, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature “for his narrative mastery, which with great sensibility expresses the essence of the Japanese mind.”

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