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The Lake
By Yasunari Kawabata (Kodansha)

Though this edition of The Lake is little more than a repackaging of the same translation that's been in print for years, any excuse to discuss this underappreciated work is welcome. Kawabata was known for work (like the more-famous Snow Country) that was frighteningly melancholic in its use of deceptively straightforward surrealism, and The Lake is a fine example. Though only one story – that of a creepy and rather distasteful fugitive – is at work here, it's told via shifting narrative perspectives from different points in time. Kawabata's elegant use of dense detail and impressionistic ephemera results in thickets of dialogue and imagery that would muddle the plot in lesser hands. But Kawabata maintains a consistency of tone and a steadiness of tempo that makes The Lake a challenging first read that still yields rewards upon return visits.

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