Japan: Spiritual Bridge

He is called a "human treasure" by his fellow Japanese, and few authors have so compellingly evoked the subtle, precise beauty of his homeland. His prose is clear, deceptively simple; yet the images scattered through his narratives link together to produce deep, sudden insight into the souls of his characters — and of Japan. Until last week, however, Yasunari Kawabata was all but unknown in the West. Then, to the surprise of many, he was awarded this year's Nobel Prize for literature for his contributions, as the citation put it, to the...