Yasunari Kawabata (1899–1972) was a Japanese novelist. He was the first Japanese writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (1968.) Kawabata’s fiction is distinguished for his subtle psychological characterization and a lyrical style that is deceptively simple.
Kawabata was born in Osaka and had a lonesome childhood after the deaths of his parents and his grandparents when he was still very young. He published his first successful novel in his twenties. The novella Izu no odoriko (1925; The Izu Dancer, 1955) is still the most popular and widely read of his works in Japan. This semiautobiographical novel presents an itinerant student who meets a group of traveling performers and becomes enamored with their beautiful 14-year-old dancing girl.
Known as an experimental writer in the 1920s, Kawabata returned to traditional Japanese novel forms in the mid-1930s. His other famous novel, Yana no oto (The Sound of the Mountain, 1954,) set in Japan during the early 1950s, dramatizes the struggles of the aging businessman Shingo, who withdraws from the pressures of family to the sustaining memories of his past.