The Birdcage Archives

Friday 11 March 2011

The Sound of the Waves

Hello Gentle Reader

I must be a writers rug, in which the writing bug has come and snuggled close or has bitten me. Either way, I am doing yet another blog. This time, a book review about the short novel or perhaps novella by the very famous and controversial author Yukio Mishima. Now here's an interesting question is Yukio Mishima, better known for his novels, stories, and plays || OR || is he better known for his rather controversial suicide Seppuku? What is Seppuku you may ask gentle reader; it is the Japanese form of ritual suicide. More or less this ritual suicide noted as "stomach-cutting," is performed by Samurai who follow the code of Bushido honor code, and commit this suicide as a form of dying with honour rather then fall into enemy hands. It was also however a form of capital punishment -- but that’s not what this is about. Yukio Mishima in 1970's committed this suicide ritual, to preserve his honour after he had failed his attempt at a coup d'├ętat most likely seeing this as a form of dishonour, Yukio Mishima chose to die with honour. However doing his failed attempt at the coup, Yukio Mishima was not the only one to commit suicide. In fact, one of his partners in this political form of extreme even radical activism, also committed this ritual. The young man Masakatsu Morita, however did not cut himself deep enough to be fatal, but the wound itself must have been horrible. The reason this poor young man attempted to commit this suicide was because he had tried three times and unsuccessfully failed to behead Yukio Mishima as is the proper action (ritually speaking), however Mortia did die. But it was by his own beheading, by another of the partners in this act.

Yukio Mishima if I recall correctly, came from a family of Samurai -- which probably helped influence this act. However I think in another way his death is a form of symbolism of Ancient Japan mixing in with the new western influenced Japan of his day and age after World War II. These very theme's are present in his books (I have previously read "Confessions of a Mask," by Yukio Mishima). This gesture, if you ask me, gives me the impression that Yukio Mishima's death was more than just a way of dying in a honourable fashion -- fashion being the wrong term may I add; but also a cultural symbol to both Japan and The Western world that Japan's values, rituals, and culture is uniquely its own, and that Ancient Japan lives inside of its citizens.

"The Sound of The Waves," on the surface is a simple love story. However beneath this simple love story, surrounds a world of complexity. Beneath the minimalist style, is a complex landscape. By the way -- I am aware that I am getting of track here; Yukio Mishima's minimalist style if you ask me, is much different then that of Samuel Beckett's style. Beckett's style is heavily repitious and often you can find the same set of words, being repeated in different phases but each one going back to the same first line in some cases. Yukio Mishima on the other hand showers his novel with the superficial surface details -- even facts to a degree. When describing the distance of a boat, he may not say: "The boat seems to be twenty-five yards away," Yukio Mishima may just state for planning: "The boat is twenty-five yards away."

Is there such a life in this world that is simple? Is there such a thing as simple love? When a mouse scurries to get that sunflower seed that has fallen on the pavement by a garden or by a field or a park, does that mouse not have to go through obstacles and trails, in order to claim that prize that it so much as well desires. Hiding from people, running from cats or other predators, when the mice finally reaches that prize does that mouse not see the seed as a form of a gift or something that has well been earned -- and then the mouse is ran over by a car. Because I'm sick like that.

Welcome to the world of Yukio Mishima, where even in the simplest form, of the simplest love story, is there an undercurrent of emotions, complexities, cultural values evident, and a culture still uniquely its own.

We are introduced to the main protagonist Shinji Kubo, a simple fisherman apprentice. His mother is a diving woman -- I think a Ama (I'll explain in a bit). Shinji has a younger brother, whose name is Hiroshi. Shinji's life is simple. He has no father, for his father was killed by an American bomber when he was out on a boat. In the years since Shinji and Hiroshi were young their mother took care of them, by her living as a diving woman.

Ama is a form of diving in which woman dive without any form of scuba gear or air tanks. They may however now in modern days use wet suits, fins, and goggles -- of course that is depending on the region, and also if its a tourist attraction. The Japanese tradition holds truth that this form of diving is two thousand years old. I first read about this form of diving from national geographic. I can't seem to find the article online or the magazine myself, to tell you the year and the issue number -- I have so many, it would take me a long time to find. I should however one day with free time, catalogue them. Any how, so this form of diving, is where woman dive for pearls; but also food, such as seaweed, octopus, oysters, lobsters and other forms of food from the sea. I'd say that this form of diving is strictly a Japanese tradition I think, but I could be wrong. Oh I am wrong Korea has a form of diving woman called Haenyo. Which thinking back about it now that might be what the national geographic wrote about. So in this novel Shinji's mother made a living off of this, and supported her two sons of this living until Shinji is able to support his family -- his mother does dive of course as well still.

Shinji's life appears simple and he is content with his peaceful living. However one day at twilight when he reaches the shores at night after a day of fishing he sees a woman, that he has never seen at any time before. Soon after we learn that this woman is Hatsue, who is the daughter of the wealthiest man on the island in which Shinji lives. The reason why Shinji has never before seen this woman, before is because she was being trained as a pearl diver in another island. However after her brother’s death, her father brings her back. We are next introduced to the arrogant, stuck up, and other wise rude and selfish man by the name Yasuo Kawamoto. Yasuo Kawamoto runs the "Young Men's Association," (I hope I got that right) which Shinji also attends. Though he is quite quiet, at this and simply enjoys listening to the chatter and other conversations and of course gossip.

Gossip is the villages main attribute, in this book. Gossip is how the villagers find their pleasure in such world. Like it was stated by a character (if memory serves correct it was Shinji's mother who said it) "People are always minding other peoples business." Sounds oh so familiar, to me. When I find that I live with someone who deems it "their," reasonability to mind others business for them, because they are not "fit," to mind it themselves.

This is how things go from interesting to bad for this love affair of a poor fisherman and the wealthy daughter. Shinji doesn't know it, but he's also has the admiration, of someone else, close to him. The lighthouse keepers daughter, greatly admires and loves Shinji but see's herself as ugly. One day she see's Shinji and Hatsue walking arms linked by the lighthouse. Jealous and in a fit of rage, she decides to exploit the arrogant Yasuo by telling him that Shinji has taken the virginity of Hatsue. Jealous and enraged Yasuo makes the situation take his advantage as much as possible. Rumours spread, and gossip as anyone knows can spread like wild fire. Our loves become Romeo and Juliet. For the rest of the details read the damn book yourself.

Here's what interests me with Yukio Mishima. What is it with him? He's not a particularly great author by any means -- yet again I have to read an author who is a great author or is it more appropriate to say read a author? Well either way you get the point. But there is something about his minimalist style, that just works for me. Something about his, simple form and simple descriptions, and simple this and simple that, but with such complex undertones that seem to make up for lack of character psychoanalysis and motivations. There is just something about Mishima that I just like. I won't say he is as influenced by Western Culture as Haruki Murakmi or Kenzaburo Oe even, but I would say he shows, great influences of western writing, however, he also shows great, control over traditional Japanese form. Perhaps that is where his minimalism style comes from.

But this is a lovely love story. Everyone loves a nice love story once and a while. Of course, when I told my sister that it was a love story she laughed at me and said: "And soon you'll be reading Harlequin Romances." Which I scoffed at saying that Yukio Mishima had nihilistic tendencies and committed suicide, which the witty witch remarked: "Go figure you would read a romance by an author who commits suicide."

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading books illegally is thievery and wrong.*

M. Mary

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