Recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1968, the novelist Yasunari Kawabata felt the essence of his art was to be found not in his longer works but in a series of short storieswhich he called "Palm-of-the-Hand Stories"written over the span of his career. In them we find loneliness, love, and the passage of time, demonstrating the range and complexity of a true master of short fiction.
Nobel laureate Kawabata is best known in the West for such novels as Snow Country and Thousand Cranes, yet his short stories, written over 50 years, seem to contain his essence as a writer. Here sensitively translated are 70 of them, most written in Kawabata's youth and usually no more than a page or two in length, though the last one, ``Gleanings from Snow Country,'' is somewhat longer and was written just before Kawabata's suicide in 1972; it is a miniaturization of the highly praised novel of the same name. The tales are variously realistic, allegorical and fantastic; and, as in the novels, the principal themes are love, loneliness, social change, man's relation with nature and death. Each story exhibits some sharp and often subtle perception of life (in Kawabata's world, stillness can ``resound'' and men listening to a woman's laugh can experience ``a strange kind of aural jealousy''); and each, like a haiku or classic Zen painting, suggests far more than it states. (July)