Books: Sunflowers for Comfort

THE SOUND OF THE MOUNTAIN by Yasunari Kawabata. 276 pages. Knopf $6.95.

Every autumn in the U.S., faithful as falling leaves, rumors fly that either Norman Mailer or W.H. Auden has won the Nobel Prize. It is hard to know why. The old gentlemen of Stockholm who award the prize have a way of bypassing big and/or distinguished names in favor of astounding alternatives. But not since Icelander Halldór Laxness was plucked from above the tree line in 1955 has there been such total befuddlement as greeted the 1968 award to Novelist Yasunari Kawabata.

After the startled press made hurried inquiries, the world...

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