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Spring Snow: The Sea of Fertility, 1 Paperback – Apr 14 1990

4.9 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (April 14 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679722416
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679722410
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.8 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #56,416 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“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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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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Format: Paperback
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, he makes it feel like you are there, standing beside the main characters.
The main characters in Spring Snow are Kiyoaki Matsugae and Satoko Ayakura. Kiyoaki is the son of new money type of family. His peasant-born grandfather led the Matsugae family to greatness, and now they are a lower part of the nobility. To make their son elegant and refined, the Marquis and the Marquise Matsugae send their son, Kiyoaki to study with the ancient, noble Ayakura. It is there that Kiyoaki and Satoko meet. When the novel takes place, the two have never had any feelings for each other. But, the news that Satoko is engaged to marry an Imperial Prince causes Kiyoaki to realize that what was in front of him all along, Satoko, was the love of his life. So, they embark upon an affair.
I read this novel for pleasure, not for insight, and as such did not pick up on the underlying messages Mishima was trying to impart to the reader. However, this book is still a worthwhile read even if one does not fully understand it. The writing was very easy to read, and very beautiful; leading me to believe that the translator did his job well. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
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. I really didn't think people could still write like this in the 20th century. I mean, star-crossed, tragic love was an old subject by the time Shakespeare got to it - what made Mishima think he could write something new about it hundreds of years later? But something did, and I'm glad it did. For while there is a [very interesting] historical context to Spring Snow (tell me, what other book paints such a visceral portrait of early 20th century Japan?), the focus is on the love story. And no one writes love stories like Yukio Mishima. Somehow, it manages to avoid the gaping pitfalls of sentimentalism and melodrama, creating instead a world of great beauty and fragility that I was loath to leave when the book drew to its close.
If you read a biography of Mishima, you will likely find mountains of speculation concerning his various eccentricities (and that word is putting is nicely, methinks). Some will accuse him of right-wingery, others will rant about his "nationalism," etc. etc. etc. But I think that none of that applies. He was in no way a political person, just a hopelessly deluded romantic who still believed that romantic ideals had any place in modern society. This he applied to politics as well as to everything else. Spring Snow, fortunately, contains no politics, concentrating instead on romantic ideals as applied to the personal. The result is something that, while being Japanese through and through, is accessible to anyone. This book is worth reading for the marvelously poetic descriptions alone.
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