Monday, December 28, 2015

The Sound of the Mountain

The Sound of the Mountain, a novel by by Yasunari Kawabata, was originally published in serial installments between 1949 and 1954. This translation has a 1970 copyright date.

from the back of the book:
By day, Ogata Shingo, an elderly Tokyo businessman, is troubled by small failures of memory. At night he associates the distant rumble he hears from the nearby mountain with the sounds of death. In between are the complex relationships that were once the foundations of Shingo’s life: his trying wife; his philandering son; and his beautiful daughter-in-law, who inspires in him both pity and the stirrings of desire. Out of this translucent web of attachments, Kawabata has crafted a novel that is a powerful, serenely observed meditation on the relentless march of time.
favorite quote:
[at the funeral of Toriyama] There were no longer many people who knew about Toriyama and his wife. Even though a few might survive, the relationship had been lost. It had been left to the wife, to remember as she pleased. There were no third parties to look back upon it intently. (p.68)
I was particularly struck by the passage describing the painting A Stubborn Crow in the Dawn: the Rains of June by Watanabe Kazan. I can't find that art work online, but I think it may have looked a little like this:

The Sound of the Mountain was adapted for film in 1954. The film is lovely, a delight to watch. I've also read Snow Country by this author and enjoyed it.


  1. It sounds like a story that should be read by anyone who fears losing their memory. That's a lovely painting, even if it may not be the one referenced in the book.

    1. It is a reflection on memory and how each of us remembers things differently even with shared experiences. All memory is subjective, and each of us has a different perspective.