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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Kawabata Yasunari

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To purchase Dandelions

Title: Dandelions
Author: Kawabata Yasunari
Genre: Novel
Written: (1972) (Eng. 2017)
Length: 129 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Dandelions - US
Dandelions - UK
Dandelions - Canada
Les pissenlits - France
  • Japanese title: タンポポ
  • Left unfinished at Kawabata's death
  • Translated by Michael Emmerich

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Our Assessment:

B+ : atmospheric, effective dialogue-heavy novel

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Japan Times . 19/5/2018 Damian Flanagan
Literary Review . 6/2019 Lesley Downer
Le Monde . 15/3/2012 Nils C. Ahl
Publishers Weekly . 2/10/2017 .
TLS . 30/3/2018 Eri Hotta

  From the Reviews:
  • "Much of the novel has the feeling of a play (.....) Memories merge into dreams, and dreams create their own reality. Do internal emotional crises determine both what we choose to believe and what we choose not to see ? (...) This is a highly suggestive piece by Kawabata that attempts to probe the wider human condition." - Damian Flanagan, The Japan Times

  • "Cet ultime livre de Kawabata est également une mise en scène de la littérature. Inachevée ? Infinie." - Nils C. Ahl, Le Monde

  • "As much a philosophical dialogue as a work of fiction (....) Though Kawabata’s vision for this novel was never fully realized, the beauty and wisdom seeping out of every sentence still infuse it with enormous emotional potency." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Most of Dandelions revolves around exchanges between pairs of people, a back and forth of dialogue and interaction. The characters struggle -- in a positive, active sense -- to get a handle on their subjects and concerns -- as does the novel as a whole, its unfinished state just further reënforcing that feeling. (Kawabata published much of this work piecemeal over the course of several years, starting in 1964, but did not complete it.)
       The story itself is relatively simple: Kizaki Ineko's lover, Kuno, and her mother have just brought Ineko to the Ikuta Clinic, a psychiatric institution in Ikuta. Ineko suffers from 'somagnosia', a type of agnosia -- the sufferer literally losing sight of things right in front of them. ('Somagnosia' appears to be a (fictional) neologism, but similar conditions do exist; it is also referred to as a kind of 'body blindness' here.) After leaving Ineko at thee clinic, Kuno and Ineko's mother decide to spend the night in Ikuta, at a local inn -- and spend much of their time in conversation; along the way, there are also some scenes from earlier times, such as when Ineko first experienced her unusual experience, losing sight of a ping pong ball (and just the ball) while playing table tennis.
       Ineko did suffer a trauma as a young girl, witnessing the death of her father in a horrific riding accident. The way he died -- more or less vanishing from in front of her -- strongly suggests that her condition is somehow rooted in this event. Kuno suggests:

That's the sort of sickness somagnosia seems to be, right ? An effort not to see part of of yourself, of a loved one, of life. A blindness that stems from some deep wound.
       Kuno wants to marry Ineko, and believes he can handle her, and her illness, while her mother thinks it is better for her to be secluded in the clinic -- obviously also concerned that her (physical) intimacy with Kuno is one of the reasons her condition has come to the fore. For much of the time, Kuno and Ineko's mother debate the nature of her condition and how it might be addressed. The discussion also focuses on the peripheral: the omnipresent, town-defining ("They are an expression of Ikuta's character") dandelions -- such a contrast to Tokyo ("You hardly see any dandelions in Tokyo these days", Kuno notes) -- or the bells on the clinic grounds (part of an old temple compound) that the patients are allowed to sound five times a day, and whose ringing Kuno and Ineko's mother repeatedly analyze, wondering who (including possibly Ineko) is striking the bell, trying to diagnose by the sound alone
       Scenes and discussion also return to earlier experiences, with Kuno trying to explain his close relationship and devotion to Ineko, and Ineko's mother reflecting on that, as well as the death of her husband, and her previous experiences with Ineko's condition. Both try to understand Ineko's condition, mystified by it and how it manifests itself -- and, in the case of Ineko's mother, deeply concerned about the possible consequences (whereas Kuno feels fit to handle them).
       Ineko herself is largely absent -- completely so in the present-time action, with the novel opening after her mother and Kuno have dropped her off, and she is already tucked away behind the clinic walls. While there are scenes from the past in which she does figure -- Ineko in conversation with her mother when she first experiences losing complete sight of a specific object, for example -- she is otherwise almost entirely presented as a projection of the two main characters, culminating in a vision-conclusion that is almost the antithesis of her own condition. Kawabata very effectively makes her the central figure in his novel in this way -- suggesting that the novel is also, among other things, very much about the way we see and regard intimately loved-ones.
       An unusual sort of story, Dandelions impresses in its evocation of person(s), feeling (especially for others), absence, and loss. Just as the characters are still flailing a bit for understanding, so too the incomplete novel struggles some in finding a final form -- but that's okay, too; it works quite remarkably well as is, too.

- M.A.Orthofer, 8 December 2017

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Dandelions: Reviews: Kawabata Yasunari: Other books by Kawabata Yasunari under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Kawabata Yasunari (川端 康成) (1899-1972) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1968.

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© 2017-2024 the complete review

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