Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Spring Snow

Spring Snow

Spring Snow / Yukio Mishima
Haru no yuki. English
New York : Vintage International, 1990
Translated by Michael Gallagher
The Sea of Fertility, bk. 1
Originally published: 1968
389 p.

Spring Snow is set in Tokyo in 1912, when the hermetic world of the ancient aristocracy is being breached for the first time by outsiders -- rich provincial families unburdened by tradition, whose money and vitality make them formidable contenders for social and political power.

I read this in November on a plane in about 3 hours. Generally three hours on a plane is a forgotten blip in the grand scheme of a person's life (barring thunderstorm or underwear bomb), but Spring Snow is one of those books that makes the time you spend reading it incredibly memorable.

This is the first book in the Sea of Fertility tetrology, and each one features a character so passionately driven by one thing that it ends up killing him. In Spring Snow, this character is Kiyoaki, and he is driven to death by his love for his childhood companion Satoko. This isn't, however, a gushing love story. It's told with Mishima's characteristic elegance and delicately pieced together with themes of dreams, reincarnation, Buddhism, and family.

The books in this set also paint a portrait of Japan over the first half of the 20th Century, when the country underwent major changes. The first novel takes place around 1912 at the end of the Meiji period. The nobility that holds power through rank and tradition is facing an unpredictable future, and this plays a role in the events of the story.

I'm not loving how this review is turning out, so I'm going to wrap it up... but I really do love this book. I should say that a little bit of knowledge of novels contemporary to this one or a sense of the major points of modern Japanese history is really helpful in enjoying this book, but if you're a fan of the art and history of modern Japan, this is definitely something you need to read.

1 comment:

  1. great post-I really hope to read the Sea of Fertility Tetralogy this year-I read Mishima's The Sailor Who Fell From the Sea Last year-my reaction was mixed-


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