I’m still working my way through all the books I bought back in October of last year, so far I read eight of them, also since the beginning of the year I bought only one book, so I am making some dent in my TBR.
I bought this book for two reasons: the beautiful cover and the fact that I think I am not reading enough (meaning hardly any) literature from Asia. Finally, the red spine tempted me and I took it off the shelf, what helped to convince me was also that it seemed short. And it was in terms of pages, but it did take me a few days to read.
I have not read anything else by Yukio Mishima, so I’m not sure how representative this book is of his style, but if it is then I have a feeling I will not be the biggest fan. The book tells a story of Etsuko, who after the death of her husband moves in with her father in law, Yakichi. We meet Etsuko when she is in Osaka shopping, the family lives in a village or a suburb close to Osaka. She is mesmerized by the sudden rain and crowds of people.
Gradually we discover Etsuko and her husband’s history, her relationship with Yakichi and the rest of the family living in the house, as well as her feeling for Saburo, the young servant. Etsuko was jealous to a point of obsession, she wanted to completely possess her husband and nothing hurt her more than his affairs. Nothing was a greater pleasure for her then tending him on his deathbed when he was helpless and at her mercy. Now she seems to have transferred her feelings to Saburo, who is blissfully unaware of the situation, unlike the rest of the family.
The book alternates between sensual descriptions of nature and surroundings and almost violent representations of Etsuko’s emotional state. Even though she tries not to show her emotions externally, they are raging inside her. But we also see that Etsuko is not weak, she suffers, she longs, she obsesses but she is not weak.
To be perfectly honest I could not get into the mood of this book and I am still wondering if it was due to the cultural differences or more to do with bad timing (I read it in January, which was generally a difficult reading month for me). I found Etsuko’s actions inexplicable, her passion almost childish, her relationship with Yakichi and her husband toxic. I could not find a single thing I could sympathize with.
What I did find interesting though was Yukio Mishima and his history. He may not have been a man after my own heart, but he was a man of Rennaisance. Mishima in his very busy life was an author (considered for Nobel Prize in 1968), a poet, playwright, actor, model, film director, as well as a nationalist (this is the sticking point for me) and founder of Tatenokai, a private militia dedicated to traditional Japanese values. He also organized a coup attempt and when that proved unsuccessful he committed suicide by seppuku. Prior to that, he composed his death-poem as the tradition demands.