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jun 19, 2013, 12:56pm

154LolaWalserToday, 11:51am
Is there a thread for the third book?

Honda in India. Trippy descriptions of life-into-death everywhere. The translation, btw, seems to have gone off--change of translators? (Vintage)

On the tale overall so far--it is an interesting but oddly one-sided view of Japan of the times. One whole book went on fringe right-wing nationalist terrorists because, apparently, only extremes are authentic. "Unadulterated".

The notion bothers me no end. For one thing, it is immensely stupid. For another, applied publicly or in personal life, obviously it can only end up in destruction.

jun 19, 2013, 1:00pm

To my mind, the protrait of the 'extremist' Isao meant much more than its context, which may be a stupid thing to think given Mishima's exit. But, yes, as a portrait of someone seeking authenticity I think it was brilliant. Yielding to the political position that is far, far from my own, I read to follow Isao and cared nothing for his politics, rather given his concept of truth, his devotion to it.

jun 19, 2013, 1:51pm

He was a good character. It's not about caring or not for his politics, but how they locate in the big picture. For an entire book, they WERE the big picture. (Because it was Mishima's own peculiar obsession, inclination, preoccupation, whatever one calls it?)

Meanwhile, there's an interesting hint--but only a hint--to the actual big picture, to what was going on at the time, which was nothing less than wholesale destruction of the Japanese left, socialists, communists, anarchists, Christian reformers, syndicalists, the lot. Isao notices that he isn't tortured like the Communists--he and his conspirators simply aren't important enough. The sort of trouble they can make is nothing compared to what the left represents.

But we don't get a single left character, nor is Mishima anywhere voicing THAT clash. (Are there any significant leftist characters in any of his books?) The opposition happens entirely on the right--the conservative nationalists in power vs. the even more fanatical archaising nationalists.

As for Isao's philosophy--translated to us by Honda/Mishima*, it is obviously stupid, and not for just one reason, but, to consider "authenticity" at the moment. Why would conservatives be more "authentic" than modernisers? How can one type of opinion, temperament, ambition, outlook etc. be more "real" than any other? Clearly this is rubbish ("true Scotsman" bull, in short). All the Japanese were real Japanese like all people are real people. Marlene Dietrich AND Hitler and everyone in-between were real Germans. Clearly, the evaluation of "authenticity" is done for political purposes--or should I say genocidal purposes, because this is what extolling "purity" leads to. The "purifiers" sorting out the "real" from the "not-real" based on their rules and aspirations.

*Isao's word is "pure", "purity"; Honda (in translation at least) uses "real".

jun 19, 2013, 1:59pm

i can't argue your political and philosophical interpretation of the book...nor am I sure how to evaluate the book given Mishima's position--I like my authors invisible generally. The whole of it, the books within the history and the rebirth of Isao in life as a 42 year old writer is gruesome and bizarre..

jun 19, 2013, 7:19pm

Mishima seems to endorse Isao's approach to living and ending his life, more or less, though with a brittle layer of irony--poor boy, just inspires too much approval to think of himself as existentially authentic. Wants to flash like a Shinto blade, doomed to be reborn in muddy Buddhist fashion, and as a foreigner, yet. I feel like there's maybe a distinction to be drawn between Isao's kind of purity and authenticity, which is of a certain only open to fanatics, and "realness" (thanks for that, Lola), which is certainly open to a wider range of humans (though the absence of any leftist character is indeed troubling. Especially given the shared hatred of the big capitalists by left and right, you'd've thought there'd be room for such a thing. I guess the role of the emperor in Japanese far-rightism was one big obstacle to the emergence of any kind of fascist collectivism that could appeal to avowed socialists,* like happened in Germany and Italy). I feel like a lot of the women characters are drawn with a realness that one might not have expected from Mishima-the-caricature (though that Mishima would never have been a great writer, I suppose). Satoko, Keiko, even Mine are much more sympathetic and (in the former cases) formidable than "weak" male characters like Iinuma or Hisamatsu (maybe I'm mostly thinking of Iinuma, as the latter is more a kind of comic relief).

I feel muddied on where Mishima stands, in short, and like I'm trying to refrain from interpreting his intentions on the basis of what he done did in real life. But yes, removing that, and Mishima, from the text as much as possible seems like a wise move.

*but like, BAD ones.

Redigeret: jun 19, 2013, 10:09pm

Mishima seems to endorse Isao's approach to living and ending his life, more or less, though with a brittle layer of irony

I'm very curious about how much of overlap or identification there is, because while his sympathy for Isao is evident, he is also critical of him. Right, his own end confuses the matter further, I'm not sure how all that computes into the novel.

For myself, I don't see the lack of leftist characters as troubling as such, to me it gives an interesting insight in how Mishima viewed Japanese society, what he identified as the polarising influences. "Progress" came to Japan in the guise of foreigners, foreign development, foreign custom, foreign liberalism, and the fault lines, to those of Mishima's turn of mind, even in the sixties of the 20th century seem to lie more in the mould of the West's Renaissance and Baroque "ancients vs. moderns" wars, than "left vs. right".

Am I right in thinking he would have been happiest in a feudal "Japan for Japanese" situation, preferably as a samurai? I don't know why, but I keep feeling this is too simplistic, that something more complex is going on, that the feudal dream is really nothing but a desperate dream, an effort to simplify life--and he knows it.

jun 19, 2013, 10:02pm

Yeah, I guess I don't mean troubling on, like, affirmative-action grounds, but troubling because the idea of a Japan where the struggles of the age are played out between the hereditary elite on one hand and the yamato damashii fanatics on the other seems dystopian and not true to life.

But you are right about ancients vs. moderns, although I remember tomcat telling us at some point all about how very enamoured Mishima was with Western decadence as well. I feel like he'd have done well in the Edo period--kendo in the morning, bathhouse in the evening, no foreigns. (Although a simplistic, desperate dream, like you say--from my understanding, although Westerners were excluded, there was more intercourse between Japan and Asia in the Edo period than ever before, so it's not like it was some pure-land, hermetically sealed society.) Maybe a bit more appealing than real blood and guts samuraiery, like in the warring states era, and dying of dysentery or falling off a boat and drowning on the way to conquer Korea? It seems like both Mishima and Isao faced the catch-22 that the man of action rarely gets to choose or beautify the circumstances of his death.

jun 19, 2013, 10:21pm

how very enamoured Mishima was with Western decadence as well

If it's capital-D artistic and literary Decadence, it fits perfectly--the Decadents were the crustiest bunch of anti-progressivist, anti-liberal, backward-looking traditionalists imaginable--when they weren't outright card-carrying fascists. Shooting up drugs and buggering children in precious velvet and silks while some slave's lyre gently weeps is the sort of fantasy that goes better with the decline of great pagan civilizations than some scruffy schoolteacher's socialist agit-prop for a fair minimum wage.

jun 20, 2013, 4:25am

On further reflection, I think the book fails when it comes to Honda. He would have been the one to provide SOME balance, SOME thoughts given to impending catastrophe, SOME (how DO I italicize?) sympathy for the left in a time of economic suffering...

jun 20, 2013, 6:23pm

Yeah, it seems like a bit of manufacturing consent on Mishima's part.

jun 20, 2013, 7:36pm

However, let us not despair when the two shortest books lie before us. Onward, whatever the lunacy, I say!

jun 20, 2013, 7:38pm

But no, I don't agree with the man.con.crit. it's Mishima and his narrow concerns that he universalizes. Lola is right, but not within the Mishima context. Let's say, Lola is right in such a way that Mishima loses the Nobel vote. But he is a writer of fiction and his requirements are his own for us to take or leave.

jun 20, 2013, 8:38pm

It's good having a writer around to force us to examine our privilege as readers.

jun 20, 2013, 9:10pm

I've no idea what you are going on about.

I'm interested in figuring out Mishima's optics and dioptrics, is all.

jun 21, 2013, 5:24am


Redigeret: jun 21, 2013, 9:04am


jun 21, 2013, 4:51pm

Haven't read anything in the last few days. Still interested in Keiko; I feel like I'm on the cusp of a mystery.

jun 22, 2013, 5:38pm

You may, in fact, be on the cusp of a tooth...

jun 25, 2013, 2:05pm

The whole section on the party is good Mishima. I seem to be most impressed by his little character epigrams.

jun 26, 2013, 12:25pm

I wanna talk about 31 but I have the feeling I'm the only one reading at this exact juncture .... Iinuma's back, you guys! And the Marxists receive brief and uncomplimentary mention! And things are heating up between Honda and Ying Chan ....

jul 24, 2013, 6:36pm

I am now two chapters into The Temple of Dawn, and I am struck by two things: the chapters seem to be longer and the setting is not Japan.


jul 24, 2013, 7:14pm

Donald Richie and John Nathan talk about Mishima

BBC's 1985 short docu, The strange case of Yukio Mishima was most interesting, but unfortunately I can't find it online. Mishima spoke pretty good English, with a Brit accent.

And, for a true fan, there's Paul Schrader's Mishima: a life in four chapters. (There's a crisper upload but without the English...)

I get now the reactions of the Japanese public David (dcozy) spoke about.

Redigeret: jul 24, 2013, 7:29pm

Authors' physical voices weird me out, kind of. Has anyone ever heard Robertson Davies's (fake ...?) English accent? 'Twill haunt me to the grave.

jul 24, 2013, 8:35pm

Mishima's voice is worth hearing. Did you know he was only 5'1"? He agreed to marry only a woman shorter than himself (not a tall order by a long shot).

jul 25, 2013, 3:04am

Short man syndrome. Makes sense.

jul 25, 2013, 1:52pm

I wasn't going to be the one to say it... ;)

Still, hardly a cheap shot, he's on record as being VERY bothered about his looks.

None of which diminishes the beauty of his books to me. I wish I could judge them in Japanese, very intrigued by what Nathan said about his command of language.

jul 25, 2013, 2:03pm

I guess I am adding Mishima to my list of awful jerks who happened to write good stuff. Someday I will read him! I have always been kind of interested in Japanese culture, but am kinda pig-ignorant about it. James Clavell is probably more my speed...

jul 25, 2013, 2:30pm

He seems sort of sweet to me, actually. Ken Ogata gives him a lot of charm in Schrader's movie.

But, oddly, there's something very un-Japanese about him, possibly precisely because he was so frantic about Japan-ness, bushido etc. In the BBC documentary you could sense the toe-curled embarrassment of the Japanese commenters--why was he so loud, so histrionic, that PEACOCK...

jul 25, 2013, 3:03pm

I find him kind of sweet as a character, but I can't imagine being pals with (or god forbid, married to) him.

It's a great observation about the peacocking, though. Mishima couldn't be much more different from Haruki Murakami, but I think they've received a bit of the same treatment by the culture-at-large: Mishima's stridency and Murakami's kind of McSweeney's-ready introspection, soft playing to the Western audience, whatever it is, I think it comes across as a kind of self-promotion in Japan, with the effect not only of sucking all the air out of the room but also of making the author (in either case) a kind of representative face of Japan to the outside world, one which people find inaccurate and would wish to dissociate themselves from.

jul 25, 2013, 4:29pm

As opposed to Ryu Murakami...

jul 25, 2013, 4:30pm

Is there an autobiography of Oh Sadaharu?

jul 25, 2013, 5:17pm

And what a voice he had!

aug 2, 2013, 10:19pm

I finished Temple of Dawn and wonder whether the villa is an exemplar of a temple of the dawn. Anyway this novel develops the theme of the ubiquity of freaks and maybe asks whether we all are. I wonder whether the last minute, just in time twin is going to have a triple mole on her side.

Where did Honda get his freakishness? Was that something developed or are we just supposed to accept something that the author slipped in while he was doing something else, like explaining the human universe between lives.

The last volume is winging its way towards me now, if Barny is to be believed.


aug 3, 2013, 4:20am

This has been the worst group read ever, and I have been the captain. Just last night I was thinking of writing Sam and assuring him that I was planning to resume with Temple of Dawn in September. But I bred anarchy. Each has gone their own way.
Robert, your #34 would do well as a blurb for the book. At least parts of it.

aug 6, 2013, 4:58pm

We can still finish strong! Or limping. Or in a wheelbarrow.

aug 6, 2013, 5:31pm

Later today, or tomorrow, or maybe next week I will start a thread, if one hasn't already been started, for the last book in which I will cite the back cover of my trade paperback edition. I read the first third of it last night.