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Wednesday, January 7

House of sleeping beauties by Yasunari Kawabata

Or let me tell how reality gets to be seduced by dreams, which is more than fascinating in the fiction world where you can easily picture life in metaphor.

House of sleeping beauties is one of Yasunari Kawabata's stories that feels rather concerned with the beauty of language and unadorned feelings than the story itself. However, the tale is interesting as well- Eguchi is an old man who seeks after the revival of his soul and youthful sensations by paying to share his bed with a sleeping girl. What triggers his curiosity in the beginning, turns into a sort of numbing addiction that makes Eguchi end up going to the place more often than expected.

"For Eguchi when he came to this house, there was nothing more beautiful than a young face in dreamless sleep. Might it be called the sweetest consolation to be found in this world? No woman, however beautiful, could conceal her age when she was asleep. And even when a woman was not beautiful, she was at her best asleep." (p. 64)

At first, the thought of such an unusual situation is hard to welcome. Then, the beauty of the language and the unexpectedness of it all catch you unprepared and you find yourself enjoying the story for its richness. House of sleeping beauties is about the mysteries of both life and the human mind. If feels as if Proust repeatedly took his madeleine from his famous sweet, indulging episode, next to him, first looking into its perfect shape, then taking a soft bite into the lemony, almondy flesh. Eguchi does not force memories upon himself, but lovingly embraces all recollections of past women and adventures into the bed that seems to shelter them all. His wife, daughter and former mistresses take turns into crawling from down the memory lane into his present, reminding him of decisions he took or the way he reacted to the beauty around. Repentance has never felt sweeter than in the presence of a naked, sleeping young woman. To a certain extent, there are traces of Nabokov's Humbert in the way the old man craves for young flesh and even a shred of late-blooming love as yearned for by the anonymous character of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Memories of My Melancholy Whores.

It is one story that feels hard to tolerate. Sharing the bed at sleeping hours with another is among the most intimate gestures and sometimes, people sleep better alone. Dozing off in the warm presence of a sleeping, as in drugged, young woman, taking time to slip into her scent and learn by heart the curves and edges of her body at rest, could be intriguing or, on the contrary, a bit edgy. It is a matter of perspective and tastes. However, if you decide to see the story for what it is -pleading with the ruthless passage of time- then you shall find beauty lying not only in Eguchi's presence but all around yourself, your recollections of youth and the inner urge to stall time at all costs.

The kind, soft gestures of women asleep, the way old age marvels at the folding grace of youth and Kawabata's simple, penetrating language and imagery are definitely an incentive to take time to luxuriate in the comfort of this story, in and out of your own skin, peeping into the warm beauties that serenely sleep at the end of your fingertips. Inside the story and your minds.
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