Sound of the Mountain
Dennis Washburn, Jane and Raphael Bernstein Professor in Asian Studies and Professor of Comparative Literature and of Film and Media Studies, House Professor, Living Learning Communities

My personal interest in very long-form fiction by women writers (i.e. The Tale of Genji) tempts me to recommend Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan tetralogy, which I recently finished. However, Western works dominate these Good Reads lists, so I’d like readers to consider two great Japanese novels. The first is The Sound of the Mountain by the 1968 Nobel laureate Yasunari Kawabata. Restrained and exquisitely beautiful, I consider this Kawabata’s masterpiece. Published in 1954, it may be considered a literary equivalent to Ozu’s great film from the same period, Tokyo Story. The second is Silence by Shusaku Endo. This magnificent historical novel, based on real-life figures from the mid-17th century, tells the story of a Jesuit priest secretly entering Japan after the violent proscription of Christianity to try to revive the Catholic mission there. Martin Scorcese is directing a film version of this novel, which is tentatively scheduled for release later this year.