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Spring Snow: The Sea of Fertility, 1 [Paperback]

Yukio Mishima
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 14 1990 Vintage International (Book 1)
Yukio Mishima’s Spring Snow is the first novel in his masterful tetralogy, The Sea of Fertility. Here we meet Shigekuni Honda, who narrates this epic tale of what he believes are the successive reincarnations of his friend, Kiyoaki Matsugae.
 
It is 1912 in Tokyo, and 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. Shigekuni Honda, an aspiring lawyer and his childhood friend, Kiyoaki Matsugae, are the sons of two such families. As they come of age amidst the growing tensions between old and new, Kiyoaki is plagued by his simultaneous love for and loathing of the spirited young woman Ayakura Satoko. But Kiyoaki’s true feelings only become apparent when her sudden engagement to a royal prince shows him the magnitude of his passion — and leads to a love affair both doomed and inevitable.

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Review

“Perfect beauty. . . . A classic of Japanese literature.”
Chicago Sun-Times
 
“Mishima was one of literature's great romantics, a tragedian with a heroic sensibility, an intellectual, an esthete, a man steeped in Western letters who toward the end of his life became a militant Japanese nationalist.”
—Jay McInerney, The New York Times

From the Back Cover

"Mishima is like Stendhal in his precise psychological analyses, like Dostoevsky in his explorations of darkly destructive personalities."

-- Christian Science Monitor

"[The Sea of Fertility] is a literary legacy on the scale of Proust's."

-- National Review

Translated from the Japanese by Michael Gallagher


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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
4.9 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beauty is a terrible thing June 5 2001
By Hume An
Format:Paperback
Mishima, in his writing, is often preoccupied with aesthetic beauty. His characters slaver after it, long to assume it, and when apprehension is discovered to be forever out of reach, they long to remove this aesthetic beauty, this otherwordly perfection from the earth vis a vis a dramatic spectacle, which in turn becomes beauty itself.
Along with this obsession with beauty is a suspicion or a questioning of the intrinsic utility of beauty. What is the purpose of perfection if such perfection is ineffectual and even inimical to the human condition apart from the fact that beauty is beauty is beauty . . . ad nauseum?
In many ways Mishima uses Spring Snow as a means of inverting the sentiment of Keats' notion of "Beauty is truth, truth is beauty . . ." However, unlike the spectacle that beauty evokes in some of Mishima's other writings (and even his life), the bubble of spectacle never pops in Spring Snow, instead, beauty ferments and spreads like cancer.
In this novel, Mishima's main characters, Satoka and Kiyoaki, are destroyed by their beauty, their elegance, their noble breeding. Kiyoaki is analogous to Hamlet in his diffidence and his psychic inertia. Moreover, his brilliant physical beauty compounds the aforementioned with an overly large measure of pride, which, along with noble breeding, hermetically seals him into a jar of dreams, self-doubt, anomie, and ennui. Satoka, likewise, is beautiful, perfect, and her perfection carries and transmits a self-possessed, cold, and almost painful glare to the public eye. However, to Kiyoaki, Satoka is a smoldering woman of passion, full of riddles and intrigue.
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Format:Paperback
Yukio Mishima's SPRING SNOW is the first novel of his tetralogy "The Sea of Fertility", an attempt to trace the decay of Japanese values in the hundred years or so after its opening to the West. I found it a decent read, though the book is certainly flawed.
On the surface the novel appears to a simple tragic love affair taking place in 1911. Kiyoaki, a son of a marquis and finishing high school, enters a complicated relationship with Satoko, the daughter of a count he boarded at during his early childhood. He cannot decide whether he truly loves or despises her until she is engaged to a royal prince, at which point series of events make their lives fall apart. Kiyoaki is supported all the while by Honda, his best friend and a law student who is discovering at this time Western philosophy. In the background the Meiji emperor has just died and his successor swept into power, and provincial nobles are attempting to legitimize themselves in Tokyo while the fortunes of the old center of power decline.
Mishima's style is quite alluring, but the finest aspect of the novel is its characters. Kiyoaki is fantastically portrayed, a deluded romantic who unwittingly serves the forces of history tearing apart Japanese nobility. There is always a conflict between despising him and pitying him. Satoko is more of a mystery, but this seems to be intentional, an expression of some unknowable female otherness. Honda is the intent observer, trying to make sense of the tragedy befalling his friend and his society.
The translation by Michael Gallagher is generally readable, though I occasionally wondered if bits were added to Mishima's text in order to explain aspects of Japanese culture to English readers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mobius strip Jan. 26 2004
Format:Paperback
This is the beginning of the posthumous work of Mishima. You will follow the lives of four people who got reincarnated in different time and in different place with Honda. His flowing and elegant style hits the highest and psychological descriptions, that even characters did not realized themselves so well, are so elaborated and sometimes scare us. It seems like weaving beautiful tapestry and you can feel the person of genius and bliss for enjoying the output of the genius. But you may lost at the end like this story and come back to this story again and again.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent Oct. 8 2003
Format:Paperback
Mishima is one of the most descriptive writers of modern Japan. His texts tell the stories of the upper class, nevertheless, you will not find a better description of a Japanese garden or house.
"The trees that encircled the now-darken garden, the tiled roofs of the mansion itself beyond, even the maple hill-the reflection of all this, and more, had been fixed in jagged outline, compressed into the circle of water that was defined by the rim of the basin."
Approaching some of Mishima's greatest senteces is equivalent to appraiching a Michelangelo, Picasso, or Rembrandt painting. That is what makes his writing so captivating and tantalizing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime perfection in literature.... July 18 2003
By casey
Format:Paperback
This is probably the most beautifully rendered work I have ever had the pleasure to read. Mishima's sense of photographic realism in describing turn of the (last) century Japan is matched only by the precision psychological portraits he paints of his ornately drafted characters. While borrowing from western literary tradition, (Shakespeare in this one) Mishima will forever stand as a giant amongst modern authors, Japanese or no. Once Mishima's words enter your bloodstream, you will be forever haunted by his craft. More than reccomended- required.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Modern Literary Masterpiece
This is the first work of Yukio Mishima's works that I have read. His writing style is beautiful. By passionately describing every aspect of the area where the scene takes place,... Read more
Published on April 26 2003 by Randyll McDermott
5.0 out of 5 stars Please do not "See just the trees, but not the forest"
"See just the trees, but not the forest" is an old Chinese saying, meaning to comprehend, and thus evaluate, things only from partial angles and views. Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2003 by Yaojung Yang
5.0 out of 5 stars Please do not "See just the trees, but not the forest"
"See just the trees, but not the forest" is an old Chinese saying, meaning to comprehend, and thus evaluate, things only from partial angles and views. Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2003 by Yaojung Yang
5.0 out of 5 stars Please do not "See just the trees, but not the forest"
"See just the trees, but not the forest" is an old Chinese saying, meaning to comprehend, and thus evaluate, things only from partial angles and views. Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2003 by Yaojung Yang
5.0 out of 5 stars Please do not "See just the trees, but not the forest"
"See just the trees, but not the forest" is an old Chinese saying, meaning to comprehend, and thus evaluate, things only from partial angles and views. Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2003 by Yaojung Yang
5.0 out of 5 stars Please do not "See just the trees, but not the forest"
"See just the trees, but not the forest" is an old Chinese saying, meaning to comprehend, and thus evaluate, things only from partial angles and views. Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2003 by Yaojung Yang
5.0 out of 5 stars Read at once.
I've only read two Mishima books so far, am reading a third now, and intend to get through 'em all. Alas, I fear that none will be as good as the first one I read - Spring Snow. Read more
Published on May 29 2002 by Angry Mofo
5.0 out of 5 stars Spring Snow
An ellegant work that follows brilliantly in the Mishima conceit that beauty and youth are as intertwined as they are fleeting. Read more
Published on April 28 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars haunting
I just finished this first novel in the series. This is so much more than a tragic story of star-crossed lovers. Read more
Published on Sept. 13 2001 by Kelly
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