The Old Capital

The Old Capital

3.77 (3,422 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author)  , Translated by 

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The Old Capital is one of the three novels cited specifically by the Nobel Committee when they awarded Kawabata the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968. With the ethereal tone and aesthetic styling characteristic of Kawabata's prose, The Old Capital tells the story of Chieko, the adopted daughter of a Kyoto kimono designer, Takichiro, and his wife, Shige. Set in the traditional city of Kyoto, Japan, this deeply poetic story revolves around Chieko who becomes bewildered and troubled as she discovers the true facets of her past. With the harmony and time-honored customs of a Japanese backdrop, the story becomes poignant as Chieko's longing and confusion develops.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 182 pages
  • 140 x 206 x 13mm | 227g
  • Shoemaker & Hoard, Div of Avalon Publishing Group Inc
  • Berkeley, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 1593760329
  • 9781593760328
  • 25,430

Review quote

"J. Martin Holman...has generally struck an excellent balance between accuracy and the need to create a certain level of evocative possibility. Holman is to be congratulated for making available in English a number of striking works by this now-classic Japanese author."
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Rating details

3,422 ratings
3.77 out of 5 stars
5 25% (848)
4 38% (1,299)
3 29% (999)
2 7% (224)
1 2% (52)

Our customer reviews

I also posted this review on my book weblog <a href="">here</a>. (I took care to give no obvious spoilers about the story) <b>Title:</b> The old capital <b>Author:</b> Yasunari Kawabata <b>Format:</b> paperback <b>Pages:</b> 182 <b>Year published:</b> original 1962, my edition 2006 <b>Language:</b> English (original Japanese title "Koto") <b>ISBN number:</b> 9781593760328 <b>Back cover text:</b> Set in the traditional city of Kyoto, The Old Capital tells the story of Chieko, the adopted daughter of a kimono designer and his wife. Since her youth, Chieko was told that the childless couple kidnapped her in a moment of profound desire. When Chieko learns unsettling truths about her past, her life of love and affection is thrown into disarray. This delicate novel traces the legacy of beauty and tradition from one generation of artists to the next as they navigate, with an ambivalent mixture of regret and fascination, the complex world of postwar Japan. This simple story of chance, art, and devotion resounds with deep spiritual and human understanding. Yasunari Kawabata is widely recognized as one of the most significant figures in modern Japanese literature. The Old Capital was one of three novels specifically cited when he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968. <b>First alinea:</b> Chieko discovered the violets flowering on the trunk of the old maple tree. "Ah. They've bloomed again this year," she said as she encountered the gentleness of spring. The maple was rather large for such a small garden in the city; the trunk was larger around than Chieko's waist. But this ancient tree with its course moss-covered bark was not the sort of thing one should compare with a girl's innocent body. The trunk of the tree twisted slightly to the right at about the height of Chieko's waist, and just over her head it bent even farther. Above the bend the limbs extended outward, dominating the garden, the ends of the longer branches drooping with their own weight. <b><i>Review:</i></b> <b>Story:</b> At first you get to know things about Chieko's life. She does emphasize she was a foundling (left behind by her parents or stolen away, she is not sure about then), but it doesn't seem to play such a large role at the beginning. At some point though, Chieko meets someone from her past and finds out what has happened to her real parents. What I like about this book, is that what happens after that is realistic - I mean that no unbelievable things happen (like going away from her current parents and trying to "make" the life she has not lived because her current parents raised her, and then all ends well - stuff like that). It was a quiet story, very peaceful. It also doesn't have a "definite good" ending, as many 'Western' books have, but it's more of a "Japanese ending" (which is what I call it, because I've noticed it in so many Japanese (literature) books I've read), meaning it is not exactly an open ending, but it's leaning towards a closed ending and towards an open ending, and it also doesn't have a "storybook good ending", but can end "badly" or "undecided". Another thing is that the story takes place in Kyoto. The author really uses a lot of locations and customs in Kyoto. I've been there a few times and have also read <a href="">Geisha</a> by Liza Dalby (which is a really interesting book about Kyoto and the geisha) and <a href="">Mineko Iwasaki's autobiography</a> about being a geisha in Kyoto, so I was able to place the locations or at least recognize the names and such. I can imagine people unfamiliar with it might get a bit confused, but there's always the internet for pictures XD <b>Writing style:</b> It's a really good translation! The translator did make corrections to his earlier translation, according to his introduction, so if you read the first edition it will probably contain a lot of slightly different sentences. But I think that a good translation is when you cannot reproduce the original (when you know both languages) by back-translating almost word-for-word (even when you have not read the original). The first alinea contains a lot of description, which is not really the case in the rest of the book, but the writing style is similar. <b>Rereadability:</b> Yes :)show more
by S. Broers
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