Major pieces of writing by Nobel laureate Yasunari Kawabata that inexplicably escaped inclusion in his collected works have recently come to light, thanks to the diligence of a graduate student at Hitotsubashi University.
Yoriko Ishikawa, 33, found that at least 41 novellas and essays had not been included in the 37-volume complete collection of Kawabata’s works published by Shinchosha Publishing Co.
She came to this realization while studying the works of Kawabata (1899-1972) at the National Diet Library, as part of her research into Kawabata’s contemporary, Yoichi Nakagawa (1897-1994), and their friendship.
The 41 writings include “‘Tanizaki Junichiro-shu’ o Yomu’” (On collection of Junichiro Tanizaki’s works), a review run in the Miyako Shimbun newspaper in 1925, and a letter addressed to writer Shigeru Tonomura in 1961.
Of those, few researchers knew of the existence of two stories on the theme of Tokyo’s Asakusa district even though they had been highlighted in magazines soon after they were written.
One of them, “Asakusa Nikki” (Asakusa diary), published in Ooru Yomimono in 1931, is set in Asakusa after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and written in the form of a prostitute’s diary. The writing deftly conveys the subtleties of her emotions and humorous outlook on life while trying to remain calm.
“Asakusa Nikki” is believed to be a serialized novel, with three other installments having been published in separate magazines.
Kawabata had referred to it as one of his favorites, but the newly found piece, believed to be the final chapter, was not included in his collected works.
The other Asakusa-themed story, “Kyo no Tobira” (Today’s door), was published in 1926 in the Shukan Asahi Weekly Magazine. Set in Asakusa shortly after the 1921 great fire of Asakusa, the novella revolves around a romance between a free-spirited girl and a young man with intellectual aspirations.
Themes of the other pieces that came to light include a critique on the death of literary great Ryunosuke Akutagawa and an essay on beauty.
Rintaro Katayama, a professor at Tsurumi University specializing in Kawabata’s literature, called the discovery very valuable.
“Many scholars took part in compiling the collection, which was published about 10 years after his death,” Katayama said. “It was believed that the collection covered almost all his works. I was surprised to learn there were so many uncollected works.”
“Researchers should constantly prepare and examine fundamental material. By making such efforts, one can see what the literary world at the time was like. It is also very useful for the study of Japanese modern literature.”
Ishikawa will present her research results at the meeting of the Kawabata Yasunari Society on June 22. Details of her research will be published in the society’s annual review to be published in mid-June.
Kawabata’s works won him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968. He was the first Japanese author to receive the award.
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