Kawabata Among The Sleeping Beauties

22 Jun 2012

川端 康成 Kawabata Yasunari

Recently I finished a story by a Japanese novelist named Yasunari Kawabata. House of Sleeping Beauties (眠れる美女Nemureru Bijo) is a short novel about a sort of brothel that caters to very old men. These men pay to sleep next to young, naked women who are drugged with a very potent sleeping medicine. The girls are in a temporary coma and cannot wake. It is assumed that the men can no longer become erect, so there is no sex. This is the rule of the house. The protagonist of the story sleeps with different girls on different nights. The varying scents, textures and physical nuances of the girls cause him to recall peculiar memories of past lovers, his daughters and other pretty things.

I had never heard of Kawabata growing up. In 1968, he was the first Japanese writer to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. He was good friends with the renowned Yukio Mishima. Kawabata killed himself in 1972.  After reading a few of his stories, it seems  that Kawabata enjoys connections between death and sex. I want to read more of his work.

--She had been stripped of all defenses for the sake of her aged guest, of the sad old man. She was naked, and would not awaken. Eguchi felt a wave of pity for her. A thought came to him: the aged have death, and the young have love, and death comes once and love comes over and over again.