Kawabata Yasunari's Tanpopo: A Critical Analysis

Date
2014-01-15
Authors
Ikeda, Janet
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
Abstract
In 1968 Kawabata Yasunari became the first Japanese novelist to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Subsequently, he traveled to Oslo to accept the prize and from then on became a major public figure in the literary world. No longer just a well-known writer in Japan, Kawabata's life proceeded to accelerate toward an international sphere of activities with demands for personal appearances, trips abroad and a constant stream of attention from the press. After his acceptance of the Nobel Prize he spent a semester at the University of Hawaii as a guest lecturer in the spring of 1969. It is there he wrote an essay entitled "The Existence and Discovery of Beauty"1 while staying at the Kahala Hilton. With much of his time absorbed by traveling and lecturing it is not remarkable that little time was left for just writing. In fact, the serialization of what was to become Kawabata's last novel, Tanpopo (Dandelions), was begun in June of 1964 and abandoned while still incomplete in 1968 after the announcement of the Nobel-Prize recipients. Tanpopo remained-temporarily unfinished until Kawabata's unexpected suicide in 1972 when it was left to rest eternally incomplete. In this paper I shall examine Kawabata's last work in the original Japanese, as no English translation is yet available, and attempt to determine whether Tanpopo, despite its incompleteness, can be viewed as a substantial work of Kawabata.
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