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FICTION : THE OLD CAPITAL by Yasunari Kawabata; translated by J. Martin Holman (North Point: $15.95; 176 pp.).

July 19, 1987|Kevin Keane

Yasunari Kawabata, winner of the 1968 Nobel Prize, is often cited as one of the representative Japanese novelists of the modern era, especially in light of his concern with the conflict between tradition and modernity.

"The Old Capital" is set in post-war Japan and, as the translator points out, is filled with a melancholy feeling about Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan. In this simply told tale Chieko, the adopted daughter of the owner of a dry goods shop in Kyoto specializing in kimonos, discovers that she has a twin sister called Naeko and that their real father died when they were just babies. The story concerns how the two sisters, Chieko's adoptive parents and the other characters deal with this discovery. The characters' dilemma serves to illuminate Kawabata's thoughts on544436076and change.

Although the dialogue is a bit too formal (even for the gentle dialect of Kyoto) and there is an occasional awkward turn of phrase, J. Martin Holman has done a competent job of translating this beautifully written novel and capturing the delicate flavor of Kawabata's style.

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