chapter  Chapter Seven
27 Pages

Narcissus in Winter

WithRoy Starrs

Like The Sound of the Mountain, Sleeping Beauties may be regarded as a study in old age, and of sex and death in old age although in a very different mood to the earlier work. Sleeping Beauties is Kawabata's own 'withered moor', his Waste Land, a powerful vision of spiritual sterility. In the case of Sleeping Beauties, despite the protagonist's 'immoral' actions - indeed, because of them - he is, in fact, trying to gain admittance into exactly that fairy-tale realm of innocence. Seasonal correspondences are often meaningful in ironic way in Kawabata, as in traditional Japanese literature. Whereas the mood of The Sound of the Mountain is gently autumnal, the mood of Sleeping Beauties becomes increasingly that of bleak midwinter. The Kawabata male's redemption does not conform to any religious ideal; on the contrary, it is problematical in the extreme, tragic in its effect on the female partner and pathetic in its short-lived efficacy for the male himself.