I was so thrilled with the outcome of the rejuvenated book club, as several members posted blogs on reading last month’s book. I can’t say that many of you enjoyed Trollope’s novel and I can state that I was not entirely happy with it either. Soon I will make my blog post on The Fixed Period and share my insights there.
For our end-of-summer book I’ve selected Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata’s novel The Lake (Japanese, 1954). I teach Kawabata’s “The Izu Dancer” in one of my World Literature courses but I have heard that The Lake is quite different from his usual writing, as it is less subtle. Moreover, it deals with adolescent sexuality (much like “The Izu Dancer”), and I’d like to consider this work alongside others I have read recently that deal with a similar theme, such as Henry James’s The Other House and Vladimir Nabokov’s Ada. Also, I frequently teach Death in Venice by Thomas Mann — Kawabata’s novel may be a great work to put into conversation here.
One synopsis (from Amazon) of the novel is as follows:
The Lake is the history of an obsession. It traces a man’s sad pursuit of an unattainable perfection, a beauty out of reach, admired from a distance, unconsummated. Homeless, a fugitive from an ambiguous crime, his is an incurable longing that drives him to shadow nameless women in the street and hide in ditches as they pass above him, beautiful and aloof. For their beauty is not of this world, but of a dream-the voice of a girl he meets in a Turkish bath is “an angel’s,” the figures of two students he follows seem to “glide over the green grass that hid their knees.” Reality is the durable ugliness that is his constant companion and is symbolized in the grotesque deformity of the hero’s feet. And it is the irreconcilable nature of these worlds that explains the strangely dehumanized, shadowy quality of the eroticism that pervades this novel.
In a sense The Lake is a formless novel, a “happening,” making it one of the most modern of all Kawabata’s works. Just as the hero’s interest might be caught by some passing stranger, so the course of the novel swerves abruptly from present to past, memory shades into hallucination, dreams break suddenly into daylight. It is an extraordinary performance of free association, made all the more astonishing for the skill with which these fragments are resolved within the completed tapestry.