Yasunari Kawabata (Beauty and Sadness) was the first Japanese writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Dandelions was left unfinished when he committed suicide in 1972.

In the small town of Ikuta in early spring, the yellow flowers are proliferating along the riverbank and creating a wild luminosity of color. This metaphor crops up in the story of two young lovers. Kuno's lover, Ineko, is committed to a mental hospital after suffering from "body blindness," a condition in which she loses sight of physical objects in her periphery, including her lover's body during sex. Much of the novel revolves around the relationship between Kuno and Ineko's widowed mother, simply referred to as "Mother." The two spend a night together in a rundown inn after leaving Ineko in the hospital. Ineko's painful story is revealed through their dialogue and flashbacks: her father was a military officer in World War II who wanted to kill himself after Japan's humiliating defeat. He was saved by a mysterious girl--likened to a sprite--and later fell to his death while horseback riding along the ocean. Ineko witnessed his death and internalized the trauma. The night in the inn, Mother and Kuno argue about who or what is ultimately responsible for the past.

The novel ends prematurely, yet thematically, and still feels like a whole, worthwhile experience. Michael Emmerich's translation renders the novelist's prose style as poetic. It's hard to know if Dandelions is better or worse off for its incompletion. As it stands, the novel is a deeply absorbing meditation on love, madness and the sinuous designs of fate. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

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