A neglected manuscript by the late Nobel laureate Yasunari Kawabata turns out to be an unpublished novella adapted from a Hungarian play.
The 22 handwritten pages dating from the 1920s had been kept at the municipal Kawabata Literature Hall in Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture. Kawabata, whose works include "The Izu Dancer" in 1955 and "Snow Country" in 1956, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968, becoming the first Japanese to receive the award.
Curators were aware the manuscript existed but had not studied it in any detail. All they knew was that it was an adaptation of "Liliom," a work by Hungarian author Molnar Ferenc (1878-1952) which served as a basis for the Broadway musical and movie "Carousel."
Kawabata (1899-1972) titled his adaptation as "Hoshi o Nusunda Chichi" (Father who stole a star).
The manuscript, which was purchased in 1995 from a secondhand bookstore in Tokyo, will be displayed at the Kawabata Literature Hall from July 21.
It was certified as genuine by Harumi Fukasawa, a researcher of Kawabata and teacher at Wayo Kudan Junior and Senior High School in Tokyo.
Fukasawa said the pages, each with 400 characters, were likely penned between 1922 and 27, based on Kawabata’s handwriting and "katakana" inscription for "Ferenc Molnar."
She says the adaptation was likely based on the play's English-language edition. It remains a mystery why Kawabata, one of Japan's most acclaimed writers, never published it.
The original story unfolds as Liliom, a carousel barker, falls in love with Julie. When Julie falls pregnant, Liliom commits a crime to get money to care for the baby, and then takes his own life.
Years later, he is allowed to return to Earth for one day to do a good thing for his daughter. He steals a star from the sky and offers it to his now teenage daughter.
Kawabata adapted Ferenc's novel focusing on the scene in which the father and the daughter are united. He also changed the title to convey the father's parental love.
Fukasawa said Kawabata was financially strapped in those days and may have decided to adapt the novel that was winning international acclaim at the time.
Kaori Kawabata, Yasunari Kawabata's son-in-law and professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, is grateful.
"I am very glad. Taking an interest in other literature of his time, Kawabata completed a work which goes beyond translation, which makes me feel his ardor for modernism."
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