First Snow on Fuji – Yasunari Kawabata

First Snow on Fuji


The “I” in me seems to have disappeared. Or perhaps I ought to say that a different “I” has been living inside me.”

This book was supposed to be my very first Kawabata. But as fate or rather a clumsy and lethargic online courier service would have it, I had to somehow make peace with his full length novels. Nonetheless, I’m glad at these destined turn of events, for if it had not been Kawabata’s elaborate prose, I would have never found the mysticism of silence that subtly encompassed his literary characters. The empty spaces through which the author becomes an audience and the reader transforms into a writer while discovering ambiguous resolution to magnify the inhabitation of silence. The “I” dissolving in the vortex of time, the soul of its individuality lost in the responses of the past and an altered “I” labouring through a sea of words, the vulnerable emotions crippled by the veracity of the present and the chimerical future.

The mind is most powerful in the sanctuary of its silence; the still waters are the deepest and in the gloomy calmness of the chest, the vigorous thumping of the heart deafening the present voices with the sinister shadows of the past. The mystifying tales from this country, that country seeping through the shadows of waning love, speckled on the white flowers, the sweetness of Takako’s desire burdened by the lassitude of loneliness. The silence of an abandoned love travelled from the stony mounds in the Scottish Highlands into the empathetic “wife-swapping” humour. When love finally abandons its marital abode, the endless nothingness encumbering the sanity of marriage desires an impossible spontaneity to bypass beyond morality, seeking a respite in illusion of the “first man” being a mere clandestine strange “third man”. The agony of discovering another person residing within you, shackled by the reams of probity and silenced forever by the fear of perversion is everlasting. Is it immoral to emancipate the buried “other self” that thrives in obedience to the weariness of regret? “The discovery that two women existed within her- occurring as it did after she committed an immoral act – was strange and of course it caused Takako pain.” The beauty of a fleshy earlobe mislaid by silence of miscommunication and entrenched expectations between the moist strokes of a tongue and the desired reality of sex and love. Can the stillness of death validate a person’s happiness through the chaos of life? Or is it that the universal idiom of life decides whether the dead led a contented life or not? The element of perversion negating the allusions of a burdened mind, the frightening prospects of the quiet existence of the other woman within her, affirmed Kiriko with the changed portrait of herself, the sweet agony of guilt reaching unexplored depths of Kiriko’s life where her husband didn’t. Kawabata’s word swell with peculiar silence as yellow leaves flutter like butterflies on a row of trees. The mysteries of human mind amalgamate with the incongruous path of nature, the inattentiveness of the stolen purse vanishing in the sorrow of fallen leaves. Human passion and memories swept like the delicate leaves by the winter wind, slowly swirling in the vacant mind, erasing the cerebral chaos bit by bit by the clever strokes of silence eventually leaving it bare like the majestic ginkgo trees on the hilly path near Soeda’s house.”Do you think the trees at the bottom of the path always lose their leaves first?”

The past is a dream dwindling within the passage of time, the fragments of lacerated memories dispersed in the reality of the present. “Memories are something we should be grateful for, don’t you think? No matter what circumstances people end up in, they’re still able to remember things from the past.”The voices of poignant illusions searching the a piece of the fragmented memory steadily flow from the tales of Yumiura , the woman’s poignant words lingering between the nothingness of fantasy and sincerity. The egotistical past does not belong to anyone, only to the mind who has the courage to carry its burden into the youthfulness of the present and liberating it through spoken words of its own.

It isn’t only a matter of being pretty or ugly – there has to be a woman inside one…..I think that there was a girl inside me. If there hadn’t been a war that girl would probably have stayed clamped down inside, but we had a war and thanks to it she was able to push out into the world…’
While gaping into the face that was crawling towards a second childhood, the ghost of Momosuke ponders on the remarkable manner in which the nature bestows itself a gift of happiness. Can prolonged beauty of life expunge the ugliness of the past? When can a transformed nature go back to its natural state? Or can it ever?

Where in lies the beauty of a gravestone? Is it in the expensive embellishments carved onto its cold exterior? Or is true beauty of the gravestone found in the permanent remains of an impermanent life that is safeguarded in the tenderness beneath? When death engulfs me, I shall be cremated, my ashes floating on soft watery whirls, but if given a chance would I desire a nameless rock to be my grave, the remains of my diminished existence resting peacefully under the shadows of the rock. The anonymous rock becoming a symbol of a seamless life and in its stillness blossoms a romance of a lover’s promise in the sweetness of love’s agony. The fragrance of the white chrysanthemum in the rock scattered through the art of the gravestone and the memory its resident with every autumn bloom. I don’t think it is foolish to dream about one’s gravestone for it is the only permanent signature of transient life. “But then, do seamless gravestones really exist?”

The beauty of rain is what I have admired since the naivety of my childhood. “The sound of the rain and the sound of raindrops aren’t the same.” Human feelings fleet between active and passive participation overwhelmed by the concern for the loved one and relieved by its passivity when the adversities befall on strangers. That’s why, when the rain thunders, its drops falling in unison, the reverberation of raindrops deafens the chaos in its silence and that of the rain deafens the silence with its chaos. The falling rain cascading through its rippled melodies is indeed beautiful, but the silence of a snow fall is divine. Moments before it begins to snow, there is cautious stillness prevailing through the environment. The air becomes heavier as if it had been stubbornly clutching the rambunctious noisy wind and chastening the birds from chirping. And as the clouds serenely move, there comes from the emptiness of the sky, the very first snowflake, its frostiness daintily melting in the warmth of your palm. Beneath this pristine white blanket resides the ephemeral life in sheer silence consumed by the existence of nothingness budding within the sleepy splendour. The first snow on Fuji draped by wispy folds of clouds, the memories of first love blurred by the muddled blend of snow and clouds , the warmth of a lover’s body vaporized in the steam of the bathhouse bathing Jiro and Utako in the silence of a deficient reunion. The speckled images of a love vanished among the thunderous past of a war, crippling the efforts of stubborn mind to assemble lost pieces of its memories and reconcile the face of the person to the embryonic emotions. A heart that has mislaid its thoughts in the shadowy provinces of futile communication, the clarity of snow magnifies when forgotten words trek sentimental mountains where the trepidation of hateful responses are broken by the happiness of love. Similar to the divinity of Buddha that is present everywhere, but unseen; the salvation of a parental love dances fiercely in the falling snow, the music from the strings of a biwa capturing a woman’s happiness in this ephemeral world. The boat-women leading Murasaki to the sound of her father’s music as the oars cut through the preciousness of snowy waters. The path to Bodhisattva laid in the silence of a longing love.

Speaking about his own literature, Kawabata had once said that his literary works were an embodiment of ‘emptiness’. Kawabata perceives a spiritual union between humans and nature assembling under the umbrella of universality. The seeds of emptiness that Kawabata sows within the spaces of his prose, cultivating rows of human sentiments fleeting through the whispers of capricious universe magnifies as a compassionate mother bestows words to her son’s stories from blank pages fluttering with her thoughts. The grains of emptiness swell in Proustian atmospherics where the reader becomes the writer scripting the language of communication lessening the burden of silence. The accomplices of silence gesture Akifusa with a surreptitious language of their own. Is verbal starvation intolerable? If words do indeed violate the sanctuary of silence, then it is perverse to attain absolute silence. Where does the institution of language, the solidarity of voices reside within the unfathomable vacuum of a soul? Is silence a whore of circumstances or the pious salvation to attain the sanguinity of a virginal mind? Silence is ethereal. Similar to a ghost, the chill of the silence eerily asserts its fertile presence but its reflection shies away from human sensibilities.

A silent death in an endless word. ( A quoted obituary of Kawabata)

A man spends his life clarifying his thoughts, his actions and pacifying his buried sentiments with the obligation of a restrained survival. The language of words, the world of communication caught between the conflict of past and present, memories disseminating through the flirting powers of silence encumbering the fleeting beauty of life. And, thus it is only in the permanence of death that humans liberate themselves from obstinate prejudices and shackled sentiments. If life is forever carrying the burden of spoken words, why is death obliged to further carry this burden? May be that is the reason why Kawabata did not leave any written notes behind after his suicide. It is this very power of silence that I hold onto dearly for in its tranquil core I find the loudest voice for my perplexed thoughts.



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