JAPAN: Aging Disgracefully

After the death of Marilyn Monroe in 1962, Japan's Nobel-prizewin-ning novelist Yasunari Kawabata (Snow Country) said: "If it was a case of suicide, then it was better to see no notes left behind. A silent death is an endless word." When Kawabata, at 72, took his own life last month, that observation of a decade ago became his own epitaph: he left no notes.

Endless words have a way of expressing boundless guilt. No one can say whether or not the author's death was intended to be a comment on the loneliness of Japan's elderly—a subject Kawabata had written...

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