Book Clubbing - In Translation
Mishima is famous, infamous really, for the events of his life. A poet, dramatist, novelist, and essayist, he wrote over 40 novels, volumes of short stories, 18 plays, screenplays, and even acted in several films. All his major novels have been translated into English. He was under serious consideration for the Nobel Prize several times, but never won.
His infamy is not related to this artistry. In 1970, Mishima and members of his private right-wing militia, infiltrated a Tokyo military installation. After making a speech to assembled soldiers, he committed ritual suicide, seppuku, in the Commandant’s office.
The library owns a biographical DVD that paints a picture of his life, accomplishments, and death: Mishima a Life in Four Chapters.
The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea was made into an English language film starring Kris Kristofferson and Sarah Miles in 1976. The setting was changed from Japan to England. It is a dark and tragic tale.
Now that we have gotten my confession out of the way, let us speak of Spring Snow.
Spring Snow is the first novel of a tetralogy, The Sea of Fertility. It was published in book form in 1969 in Japan and quickly translated into English. The story takes place between 1912 and 1914, in and around Tokyo. Eighteen-year-old Kiyoaki Matsugae, descendant of a proud Samurai family, is an alienated, emotionally remote, only son of wealthy parents. With little or no ambition and few friends, but endowed with striking and extreme personal beauty, Kiyoaki begins an ill-advised torrid affair with Satoko Ayakura, the slightly older daughter of a distinguished, but economically struggling, noble family. Satoko is betrothed to a prince of the royal Japanese family.
And so the Kiyoaki-Satoko affair is both treasonous and dangerous. The denouement is life-changing for all. (Spoiler alert) Kiyoaki perishes, Satoko becomes a Buddhist nun, the friends and servants suffer and conspire.
The lovers begin their affair with a secretive winter rickshaw ride through the snow. Images and references to snow continuously appear in the text, like a motif of an opera. In chapter 52, well into the affair, we read:
IT WAS A MORNING when light flakes of snow danced in the brisk wind that swept over the plain of Yamato. They seemed too fragile even for spring snow, but were rather more reminiscent of a swarm of summer insects. When the sky remained overcast, they disappeared against the clouds. Only when the sun shone through did one become aware of the powdery, swirling snow. The cold in the air was worse than it would have been on a day of heavy snow.
As he [Kiyoaki] lay with his head on his pillow, he considered how he could prove his ultimate devotion to Satoko …”And this year, 2016, it snowed in our own Mercer County on the first day of spring. Hmm….
And what did the Book Group think of Spring Snow? Here are some responses...
Nicole P. – “Although I think of myself as fairly widely read, Spring Snow