Researchers have confirmed that a previously unknown short story printed in a Fukuoka newspaper in 1927 was in fact written by Yasunari Kawabata, Japan’s first Nobel Prize-winning author. While known for his award-winning novel Snow Country, Takumi Ishikawa and Hiroshi Sakaguchi stumbled upon Utsukushii! (“Beautiful!”) while searching the newspaper’s archives, and had it verified as one of the author’s earliest works.
Utsukushii! was first published in four installments in April and May 1927, when Kawabata was 27 years old and The Dancing Girl of Izu had just been released. The short story tells of an industrialist who buries a young girl in the same grave as his disabled son after she has a fatal accident while visiting the tomb. The father writes “A beautiful young boy and beautiful young girl sleep together” on the gravestone shared by the pair. Observers note empathy for the weak and loneliness as the significant themes, as they often appear in Kawabata’s later works.
Ishikawa notes that Utsukushii! showcases the “sprouting of the author’s worldview,” which becomes more evident throughout his career, as well as the similarity to another short story by Kawabata, Utsukushiki Haka (“Beautiful Grave”), published in 1954. Utsukushii! had never been registered as part of the author’s body of work, but now that it has been verified, scholars see it as a valuable piece of writing in re-examining the literary master.
A number of Japanese literary discoveries have taken place recently, with just last week seeing the first publishing of another Kawabata short story. Titled Hoshi o Nusunda Chichi (“The father who stole a star”), the manuscript was written in 1924, just after he graduated from Tokyo Imperial University. It was never published at the time due to poor book sales, but is now available in the literary magazine Shincho. Prior to that, in November 2012, another unknown until-now manuscript was discovered, this time from Kobo Abe, another celebrated Japanese author.
[via Gulf Today]
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