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Palm-of-the-Hand Stories (掌の小説, tenohira / tanagokoro no shōsetsu) is the name Japanese author Yasunari Kawabata gave to more than 140 short stories he wrote over his long career, though he reputedly preferred the reading tanagokoro for the 掌 character. The earliest story was published in 1920 with the last appearing posthumously in 1972. The stories are characterized by their brevity – some are less than a page long – and by their dramatic concision.
Although scattered individual stories had previously appeared in English, in 1988 Lane Dunlop and J. Martin Holman published the first substantial volume of English translations, a total of 70 stories drawn from the period of almost 50 years from 1922 until Kawabata's death in 1972, as Palm-of-the-Hand Stories. Dunlop and Holman's collection was reissued by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux under the North Point Press imprint in 2006.
In 1998, Holman's translations of another 20 of the palm-of-the-hand stories that had been published originally in Japanese before 1930 appeared in the book, The Dancing Girl of Izu and Other Stories, published by Counterpoint Press.
Palm-of-the-Hand Stories was turned into an omnibus movie that was premiered in October 2009 at the Tokyo International Film Festival and officially released in March 2010 under the same name. The movie features four short stories (“The man who does not laugh,” “Thank you,” “Japanese Anna,” and “Immortality”) from the novel and each was directed by a different director.
“The man who does not laugh,” directed by Kishimoto Tsukasa, is the story of a poor writer (Fukikoshi Mitsuru) living in an apartment located in a back alley with his sick wife (Natsuo Yuuna). Feeling that her death is close, he brought her to a mountain filled with cherry blossom trees as per her request.
“Thank you,” directed by Miyake Nobuyuki, is the story of a prostitute (Nakamura Asami) named Kikuko who recalls being sold in a town at a young age along with the bus driver known as Mr. Thank You.
“Japanese Anna,” directed by Tsubokawa Takushi, is the story of a man (Fukushi Seiji) whose wallet was stolen by a young girl named Anna (Kiyomiya Liza). He learns that she was an orphan of Russian aristocracy and stayed in the inn next to her room, spying on her.
“Immortality,” directed by Takahashi Yuya, is the story of an old man named Shintaro (Okumura Koen) took shelter under a cherry blossom tree from the wind and rain. He relives the days when his girlfriend (Kashi Yu), Misako, committed suicide under the same tree.
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