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House of the Sleeping Beauties: And Other Stories [Paperback]

By Yasunari Kawabata, Edward Seidensticker (Translator) & Yukio Mishima (Introduction by)
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Item description for House of the Sleeping Beauties: And Other Stories by Yasunari Kawabata, Edward Seidensticker & Yukio Mishima...

From Japan's first Nobel laureate for literature, three superb stories exploring the interplay between erotic fantasy and reality in a loner's mind.
"He was not to do anything in bad taste, the woman of the house warned old Eguchi. He was not to put his finger into the mouth of the sleeping girl, or try anything else of that sort." With his promise to abide by the rules, Eguchi begins his life as a member of a secret club for elderly gentlemen who have lost their sexual powers. At an inn several hours from Tokyo they indulge in their last pleasure: lying with beautiful young girls who are sleeping nude when the men arrive. As "House of the Sleeping Beauties" unfolds in Kawabata's subtle prose, the horrified reader comes to see that the sexual excitement is a result not of rejuvenescence, but of a flirtation with death.
The three stories presented in this volume all center upon a lonely protagonist and his peculiar eroticism. In each, the author explores the interplay of fantasy and reality at work on a mind in solitude-in "House of the Sleeping Beauties," the elderly Eguchi and his clandestine trips to his club; in "One Arm," the bizarre dialogue of a man with the arm of a young girl; in "Of Birds and Beasts," a middle-aged man's memories of an affair with a dancer mingled with glimpses of his abnormal attachment to his pets.
All of these stories appear in English for the first time outside of Japan. "Of Birds and Beasts," written in the early 1930's, is one of Kawabata's earlier works, while "One Arm" and "House of the Sleeping Beauties," the latter hailed by novelist Yukio Mishima as the best of Kawabata's works, are among his later works.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   160
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.5" Width: 5.5" Height: 8.5"
Weight:   0.5 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Feb 6, 2004
Publisher   Kodansha International
ISBN  4770029756  
ISBN13  9784770029751  

Availability  0 units.

More About Yasunari Kawabata, Edward Seidensticker & Yukio Mishima

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Yasunari Kawabata was born in Osaka in 1899. In 1968 he became the first Japanese writer to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. One of Japan's most distinguished novelists, he published his first stories while he was still in high school, graduating from Tokyo Imperial University in 1924. His short story "The Izu Dancer," first published in 1925, appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in 1955. Kawabata authored numerous novels, including Snow Country (1956), which cemented his reputation as one of the preeminent voices of his time, as well as Thousand Cranes (1959), The Sound of the Mountain (1970), The Master of Go (1972), and Beauty and Sadness (1975). He served as the chairman of the P.E.N. Club of Japan for several years and in 1959 he was awarded the Goethe-medal in Frankfurt. Kawabata died in 1972.

Yasunari Kawabata was born in 1899 and died in 1972.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Literary
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Short Stories > General
4Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > Japanese

Reviews - What do customers think about House of the Sleeping Beauties: And Other Stories?

Love and Death  Sep 20, 2006
These strange and haunting stories of strange love are written with a disturbingly quiet and even hand. It's a genius read. Kawabata is the master of beautiful disaffection. His characters do not feel pain when you think they should, and one recoils, but is drawn back in to the stories. At the core of Kawabata's work is a pessimism about the value of life itself-even while the protagonists are involved in secret obsessions. Fascinating, beautifully written, haunting.
Pushing the envelope  Aug 31, 2006
This is an excellent story, although it is a little different from much of Kawabata's work. I gave this book four stars only because of the bizarre nature of the "other" stories. The main story is outstanding, written with wonderful detail and descriptive prose. It is an intriguing story that will hold your attention until the end. It is well worth purchasing the book for that story alone. Kawabata has a way of examining human feelings and exposing those elements that are common to all people. His characters often have me visualizing concrete individuals that I have known, including myself. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a touch of eroticism that stimulates both the higher and lower recesses of human nature. I would caution readers that the introduction by Yukio Mishima contains spoiler material, and should perhaps be read after reading the first story.
The terror of lust by the approach of death  Nov 9, 2004
Kawabata's magisterial short novel is a beautiful but sad reverie about life and death, young and old, sex and coming impotence.

Sleeping with sleeping girls ('a deathlike sleep') was 'a fleeting consolation, the pursuit of a vanished happiness in being alive.'
'The sleeping beauties are for an old man the recovery of life, but also a sadness ... that called up a longing for death. The aged have death and the young have love, and death comes once, and love comes over and over again.'

Kawabata's writing is subtle (the old man is tempted to breach the house rules) and intimistic (the descriptions of the ethereal bodies of the sleeping virgins).
But, as the great Japanese writer Yukio Mishima expresses it perfectly in his introduction, this book is a pregnant reflection on 'the terror of lust by the approach of death.'
A masterpiece.
3 Stories, 1 Theme - The loneliness and desires of old age  Sep 16, 2004
"House of the Sleeping Beauties and Other Stories" contains three variations on the same theme, encompassing the soul-sick loneliness of old age, and the longing for ideal companionship, one with no judgments or confrontation, but merely peace and the contentment that comes from loving someone. According to Kawabata, this longing increases with age, and one romances ghosts from the past, using the present to conjure up their memories from the depths of a forgetting mind.

The leading story, "House of the Sleeping Beauties," is among the best, most powerful Kawabata stories I have ever read. It shows an author in full command of his style, able to arouse a startling depth of emotion using a limited palette of words and scenery. The story is simple in conception, disturbingly erotic in nature, and stunning in execution. An old woman runs a brothel for impotent old men, housing unnaturally sleeping virgins who have no performance expectations of the old man, nor incriminations for their inabilities. The old men may lie with them, hold them and drink in their youth and beauty free from the hard reality of their own impotence. The sleeping girls will never know who was with them, or what was done. The only forbidden act is sex.

The story is pure eros without sex, the desire of the impotent. The leading figure in the tale, Eguchi is "still able to function as a man," unbeknownst to the brothel keeper. He knows what it is to desire more than the girls are willing to give, and the tension between his desires, the rules of the house, and the depressing reality of Eguchi's future impotence combine and take form under Kawabata's guiding hand. With each girl he sleeps next to, Eguchi wanders through his memories, remembering his youth and the girls he shared it with. Such a story can only come to one ending, and reality comes crashing into his fantasy. A stark and gripping tale.

The remaining stories, "One Arm" and "Of Birds and Beasts," suffer in the aftermath of the powerful "House of the Sleeping Beauties." "One Arm" in particular is a disappointment, perhaps due to its too-surreal situation, and an old man who borrows a young woman's arm (given quite willingly) then proceeds to romance and fall in love with the limb. As with "House of the Sleeping Beauties," this is eros without sex, desire without lust, but it lacks the honesty and fantasy/reality blend that makes the former story so strong.

"Of Birds and Beasts" is good enough, and a better story than "One Arm." Completely lacking in eroticism, this is another tale of an old man who seeks companionship, this time in all sorts of dogs and birds. His house is full with his menagerie, and he and his lone maid tend to the creatures with something less than love. Each new animal holds his attention for a few weeks at most, before it is filed away and forgotten in the background. Like "House of the Sleeping Beauties," each new animal summons up memories, this time of the birds that the old man kept accidentally killing, then buying a new set. A sad and lonely story to be sure, but with the same emotional depth one expects from Kawabata.

"House of the Sleeping Beauties and Other Stories" is worth buying for the lead story alone, which is widely considered amongst Kawabata's finest. Author Yukio Mishima ("The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea") considered it his personal favorite. Edward Seidensticker's translation is subtle and enjoyable, far superior to his somewhat heavy handed translation of "Snow Country."
Disturbing, but potentially dated  Apr 22, 2003
"House of Sleeping Beauties," and the other short stories in this collection, all deal with the themes of idolization of virginity, degradation, fetishization of the body, and so forth. While this may be food for thought for early and even late 20th century readers, the 21st century reader might not get as much out of it. As with many modern Japanese works, Yasunari Kawabata transcends any cultural barriers by focusing on things that are alien in any settings, and themes that are universal to anyone who has ever struggled with any sort of "hang up" about [anatomy].

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