The Master of Go

Posted on August 26, 2009

Posted in Books

I had an absolutely great time reading Yasunari Kawabata’s novel The Master of Go (Meijin in it’s original japanese title). It was extraordinary in that the book started with the end, and you are left with getting to know the characters of the story. I have usually preferred non-fiction and it’s been a long time since I last read fiction. And yet another thing different about this book is the author witnessed and reported on the historical retirement game of the great master Honinbo Shusai, and yet wrote a fictional version of it which is this book. His name in the story was changed, as well as the name of the master’s opponent Kitani Minoru (changed to Otake). It is supposedly mostly accurate, with a dash of fiction. Perhaps that shows my bias. I may have liked the book for it’s historical significance.

As a Go player, my reading experience was somewhat enhanced. I enjoyed how the emotions of the characters were reflected in the game commentary that came with the story, and as I read through it, I carefully played the moves on my own Go board as well.


I am a big fan of the greatest Go player in the 20th century, Go Seigen, and watched him play against Honinbo Shusai in the film The Go Master. Kitani Minoru has been described to be Go Seigen’s rival and his character was in that film as well. So it’s really interesting to read about him this time, and it is Go Seigen who becomes the supporting character in the story.

I think it may be a long time before I’ll be surprised by another story of such beauty.