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Has there ever been a stranger novelist than Yukio Mishima On the one hand, he was a body building Nationalist, who advocated bushido, the samurai code he also, as many know, committed seppuku, which is a ritual form of suicide involving disembowelling and beheading You don t, it is fair to say, get that kind of thing with Julian Barnes and Karl Ove Knausgaard.On the other hand, Mishima was undeniably a cultured man, who spoke English and dressed in the English fashion he was a bisexual who Has there ever been a stranger novelist than Yukio Mishima On the one hand, he was a body building Nationalist, who advocated bushido, the samurai code he also, as many know, committed seppuku, which is a ritual form of suicide involving disembowelling and beheading You don t, it is fair to say, get that kind of thing with Julian Barnes and Karl Ove Knausgaard.On the other hand, Mishima was undeniably a cultured man, who spoke English and dressed in the English fashion he was a bisexual who acted in films and wrote plays as well as novels and short stories It is almost as though he embodied the conflict that of the traditional and reserved vs the modern and progressive that until very recently so dominated most of the great Japanese literature, and about which his own work, especially Spring Snow, is also concerned.In what is perhaps a nod to Murasaki Shikibu s monumental Tale of Genji, Spring Snow is primarily focussed on a preternaturally beautiful young man As with the shining prince, everyone who meets the central character, Kiyoaki Matsugae, is struck by his attractiveness and the awareness of his good looks and the effect it has on other people makes him somewhat spoiled and conceited Further, although he is the son of a nouveau riche couple, who dress in Western clothes, he was actually raised by a once prosperous aristocratic family, in order to ensure that he is well versed in traditional Japanese ways and has an elegant bearing This upbringing means that Kiyoaki is, in a sense, caught between two different eras he isn t fully a traditionalist he doesn t revere the Emperor, for example , nor is he entirely modern he is elegant, as his parents desired, but his elegance, and decadence, means that he is unfit for the modern world for instance, out of indolence he neglects his schooling.I imagine that it is clear already that my opinion of Kiyoaki is not especially positive He is not bad per se, but he is tremendously arrogant and self obsessed Of course, you could excuse some of his flaws on the basis of his age Kiyoaki is a teenager and so arrogance and self obsession are pretty much part of the deal, but, even so, the behaviour of most teenagers does not lead to the ruin of numerous people I should point out, however, that I do not think that the reader is meant to like him I believe that, as a product of two conflicting eras, or ways of life, the effete and ineffectual Kiyoaki is, for Mishima, a necessary failure as a human being For me, it is telling that his servant Iinuma, the one character whose attitude would have, I think, most closely resembled Mishima s own in terms of his feelings about loyalty, duty, etc , is disappointed in him, and even, at times, disgusted by him Iinuma looked down at his face, at the sensitive darting eyes with their long lashes the eyes of an otter and he knew that it was hopeless to expect him to swear the enthusiastic oaths of loyalty to the Emperor that a night like this would have invoked in any normal young Japanese boy Kiyoaki s eyes were now wide open as he lay on his back staring at the ceiling, and they were filled with tears And when this glistening gaze turned on him, Iinuma s distaste deepened As I read the novel for the second time, I was baffled by the popular opinion that it is a moving love story, or even the greatest of all love stories Yes, it details a troubled relationship between two young people the aforementioned Kiyoaki and the equally beautiful Satoko, the daughter of the noble family who raised the boy but it is a strange kind of love that continually rejects someone and then suddenly wants that person at the point at which it has become impossible to have them Perhaps Satoko does love Kiyoaki, but there is abundant evidence that the same is not true for the young man For example, the first thing he says to his friend Honda, when an ill looking Satoko is unresponsive towards him, is I don t think Satoko will sleep with me any Does that sound like love to you No, it sounds like someone who is a bit of a dick Don t get me wrong, I ve not always been a nice guy where girls are concerned, so you could say I m in no position to judge But on the basis of the principle of it takes one to know one I m calling Kiyoaki out.Moreover, although there are seemingly insurmountable obstacles to their relationship, I don t necessarily buy the star crossed lovers interpretation of the story because the couple, Kiyoaki in particular, cause their own problems and create those obstacles themselves Having said that, I guess you could argue that fate or destiny is also an obstacle to the couple s love, and this is certainly not something that Kiyoaki and Satoko can control As you may know, Spring Snow is part of a tetralogy called The Sea of Fertility Each book in the series deals with reincarnation and predestination In Spring Snow, the first volume, there are numerous hints and suggestions that what is happening, specifically to Kiyoaki, is, in a sense, meant to be For example, he keeps a dream journal, and one of his dreams involves Satoko clinging to his coffin there are repeated references to his demise, and a general sense of foreboding hangs over the novel There s no doubt that he s heading straight for tragedy I ve got to use every ounce of my strength to stop him fulfilling his destiny In this way, Satoko and Kiyoaki s relationship is tragic, because they never had a chance However, if you want to appeal to predestination then you can t really talk about Kiyoaki at all, because without free will he becomes a non entity As a reviewer, in order for discussion to be possible, I want to take him on face value.One may ask then, if Kiyoaki is so unpleasant, and Spring Snow is not the tragic or tear jerking tale of adolescent love it is billed as, why should you read the book Well, first of all, it is always engrossing whether one sympathises with Satoko and Kiyoaki or not, one is, crucially, still interested in their fate Further, although the narrative isn t exactly full of high octane action, Mishima, unlike many of the other historically important Japanese novelists, does serve up a steady amount of excitement and surprise and tension In contrast, something like Tanizaki s acclaimed novel The Makioka Sisters may be wonderful, but it is at times interminably slow and uneventful I can t imagine that, when reading that book, there are people that have stayed up late into the night, desperate to reach the end of a chapter, so as to find out what happens next, but I can certainly see that being the case with Spring Snow.I wrote at the beginning of this review that Mishima to some extent embodied the conflict that he wrote about, that of the traditional and the modern ways of life what is most interesting about Spring Snow is that this conflict, this tension, is not only apparent thematically, it is in the style too So, while the prose is undeniably graceful, as you would expect from a great Japanese novel, it lacks simplicity indeed, Mishima s style, with its extended metaphors, extreme emoting, and psychological depth, is, I would say, closer to Western writers, like Flaubert, Proust, and Dostoevsky, than Kawabata or Tanizaki I would also argue that Mishima s characters are easier to understand and relate to for a Western audience again, one may not like their behaviour, or admire their motivations, but they arefamiliar to us Kiyoaki is a brat, for example, but we all have known brats Satoko is perhapsa mystery,like the enigmatic women you find in Kawabata, but even her actions can be viewed in terms of a young girl having the hots for a great looking guy.Yet for all that, the biggest selling point is just how beautiful Spring Snow is it really is breathtaking at times As with Flaubert s Madame Bovary, the prose is actually so beautiful that it is, in a sense, diverting, so that, like when in the company of a beautiful woman one becomes incapable of judging her behaviour, readers tend not to pick up on how unsavoury the behaviour of the characters actually is Also like Flaubert, Mishima s prose is sensual, and highly detailed In my review of Madame Bovary I called the Frenchman a hyperrealist, by which I mean he makes the real or ordinary seem extraordinary, and I would apply the same term to Mishima There are numerous passages in the text that one could highlight as evidence, but one that particularly struck me was Kiyoaki holding the train of the princess dress Beautiful, elegant, imposing, she was like a flower at the moment of its perfection Princess Kasuga s hair had the blackness and sheen of fine lacquer Seen from behind her elaborate coiffure seemed to dissolve into the rich white skin textures of the nape of her neck, leaving single strands against her bare shoulders whose faint sheen was set off by her d collet she held herself erect and walked ahead with a firm step, betraying no tremor to her trainbearers, but in Kiyoaki s eyes that great fan of white fur seemed to glow and fade to the sound of music, like the snow covered peak first hidden, then exposed by a fluid pattern of clouds I love that It isn t a one off either, Mishima throws this kind of stuff out by the page Mad, bad, and dangerous to know he may have been, but he was a wonderful, sensitive writer THE SEA OF FERTILITYVolume 2 Runaway Horses Spring Snow is volume one of Yukio Mishima s tetralogy The Sea of Fertility When the book opens the year is 1912 and the setting Meiji Japan, which has given way to Taisho democracy , an environment is that of a fading Japanese aristocracy resigned to accept into its midst the creep of a westernization of it s culture Adolescent law student Shigekuni Honda is an impassive friend to Kiyoaki Matsugae, a baron s son of distant samurai descent Honda s future seems preordained Kiyoaki is a d Spring Snow is volume one of Yukio Mishima s tetralogy The Sea of Fertility When the book opens the year is 1912 and the setting Meiji Japan, which has given way to Taisho democracy , an environment is that of a fading Japanese aristocracy resigned to accept into its midst the creep of a westernization of it s culture Adolescent law student Shigekuni Honda is an impassive friend to Kiyoaki Matsugae, a baron s son of distant samurai descent Honda s future seems preordained Kiyoaki is a dreamer who is gripped by the sense that life s slippery fineness is running through his fingers and away from him second by second He longs to chase the impossible, to bend the world into the shape of his ideals.Kiyoaki s desires eventually encounter the beautiful Satoko Ayakura Although they have been friends since early childhood, they have grown into a mutual indifference of each other When Satoko gets engaged to a prince, Kiyoaki is suddenly consumed by an inspired passion for her, and the two fall into an illicit affair that proves the undoing of them both She get pregnant and then gets an abortion Honda accepts the job of go between for the lovers, but can only watch as Satoko renounces the world and exiles herself to a remote, wintry nunnery Kiyoaki drives himself to pneumonia in a hopeless effort to retrieve her Dying, clutching Honda s hand, Kiyoaki murmurs that they will meet again someday, beneath the falls Although it sounds a bit melodramatic, in truth the book is amazingly well written, with subtleties, implications, and consequences of environment both human and cultural that cause the reader to marvel at Yukio Mishima s abilities A master at work.The closest equivalent I could suggest for compaison is the love story of Romeo an Juliet also a story of star crossed lovers The story is filled with symbolism, imagery and melancholy This Knopf hardcover edition was printed in 1972 and is the first American Edition issued as part of a set of all four books The cycle consisting of Vol 1 Spring Snow Vol 2 Runaway HorsesVol 3 The Temple Of DawnVol 4 Five Signs Of A Gods DecayThe series, which Mishima began writing in 1964 and which was his final work, is usually thought of as his masterpiece Mishima s ritualistic suicide in 1970 will always overshadow his work #FREE EPUB ⚠ Spring Snow ã Tokyo,The closed world of the ancient aristocracy is being breached for the first time by outsiders rich provincial families, a new and powerful political and social eliteKiyoaki has been raised among the elegant Ayakura family members of the waning aristocracy but he is not one of them Coming of age, he is caught up in the tensions between the old and the new, and his feelings for the exquisite, spirited Satoko, observed from the sidelines by his devoted friend Honda When Satoko is engaged to a royal prince, Kiyoaki realises the magnitude of his passion A brilliant first salvo in the Sea of Fertility tetralogy, setting up questions of reincarnation, cultural continuity, and faith while working as a stand alone novel I m curious to continue my journey through these books they are an odd mixture of the researched nostalgia of the Ferrante series and the self sufficient decade spanning approach of the Rabbits or the Zuckermans I always enjoy reading Mishima, but the gentleness and frequent, Austenian humor of Spring Snow surprised me It s A brilliant first salvo in the Sea of Fertility tetralogy, setting up questions of reincarnation, cultural continuity, and faith while working as a stand alone novel I m curious to continue my journey through these books they are an odd mixture of the researched nostalgia of the Ferrante series and the self sufficient decade spanning approach of the Rabbits or the Zuckermans I always enjoy reading Mishima, but the gentleness and frequent, Austenian humor of Spring Snow surprised me It s a love story, a hate story, simple in its conceit a 19 year old man drives away a woman two years older, then realizes he may love her once she s engaged , but full of Mishima floruishes dead animals, lengthy Mann like discourses on Buddhism, turbulent longing, constant risk of death Most interesting, perhaps, is the fact that the book s supporting character, Honda, is barely in the action, yet will take on the mantle of the series going forward Ambitious, and a pleasure It s also a brilliantly researched look at the practices and customs of 1910s Japan Mishima, like other great writers, has a way of implanting memories in our heads, echoes of other lives How this magic happens is a mystery but when it does, you feel somehow denser inside,solid Spring Snow left me with that feeling, of having increased my gravity and weight, with the lyrical descriptions, history, characters, ceremonies, letters, political intrigue, birds and emerald rings and emerald snakes, and silk kimonos, andAt its heart, this is a doomed love story, about t Mishima, like other great writers, has a way of implanting memories in our heads, echoes of other lives How this magic happens is a mystery but when it does, you feel somehow denser inside,solid Spring Snow left me with that feeling, of having increased my gravity and weight, with the lyrical descriptions, history, characters, ceremonies, letters, political intrigue, birds and emerald rings and emerald snakes, and silk kimonos, andAt its heart, this is a doomed love story, about two beautiful people Kiyoaki Matsugae, and Satoko Ayakura whose outward beauty match their inner turmoil This excerpt from Kiyoaki s dream diary is an allegory of the storywhich is an allegory within allegory, The very night before, he had dreamed of his own coffin, made of unpainted wood It stood in the middle of an empty room with large windows, and outside, the pre dawn darkness was shading to a deep blue it was filled with the sound of birdsong A young woman clung to the coffin, her long black hair trailing from her drooping head, her slender shoulders wracked with sobs He wanted to see her face but could make out nothan her pale, graceful forehead with its delicate peak of black hair The coffin was half covered with a leopard skin bordered in pearls The first muted glow of the dawn flickered on the row of jewels Instead of funeral incense, a scent of Western perfume hung over the room with the fragrance of sun ripened fruit Kiyoaki seemed to be watching this from a great height, though he was convinced that his body lay inside the coffin But sure as he was, he still felt the need to see it there by way of confirmation However, like a mosquito in the morning light, his wings lost all power and ceased beating in mid air he was utterly incapable of looking inside the nailed down coffin lid And then, as his frustration grewandintense, he woke up And Satoko,her words had a cold, proud glitter that could not tolerate the intrusion of a third party In her own mind, she had fashioned their sin into a tiny, brilliant, crystal palace in which she and Kiyoaki could live free from the world around them A crystal palace so tiny that it would balance on the palm of one s hand, so tiny that no one else could fit in Transformed for a fleetingly brief instant, she and Kiyoaki had been able to enter it and now they were spending their last few moments there, observed with extraordinary clarity in all their minute detail by someone standing just outside There is a movie, but from the preview it seems to have only caught the surface But still Spring Snow is a masterpiece or at least the beginning of one, as it is the first in a cycle of four novels called the Sea of Fertility I hope that the other books are as good as this one, but it s going to be a hard act to follow It is hard to put words to the beauty and melancholy that Mishima pours into this first of his great tetralogy The symbolism, the imagery, the characters everything here is drawn with a fine pencil and eye for detail The characters reappear in the following books but not as you might expect This is one of the great monuments of Japanese literature in the 20th C my other favourite is Soseki s I am a Cat and it is truly a pleasure to read and savour. A book can be either of two things a key to open locked doors which lead to unique experiences we have not encountered or are impossible for us to attain while the other is a mirror to show us who we are or remind us of ourselves and the past we have not forgotten One stirs excitement, the other nostalgia This time it took the shape of the latter The book served as a mirror to me, reminding me of a befuddled young man blind to the workings of his heart, prone to exaggerating the simple nuan A book can be either of two things a key to open locked doors which lead to unique experiences we have not encountered or are impossible for us to attain while the other is a mirror to show us who we are or remind us of ourselves and the past we have not forgotten One stirs excitement, the other nostalgia This time it took the shape of the latter The book served as a mirror to me, reminding me of a befuddled young man blind to the workings of his heart, prone to exaggerating the simple nuances in the actions of a woman devoted to him, a woman he doubted because of childish fears But I am not here to talk of myself, I am here because the pain it stirred in me forces me to write.Kiyoaki, a beautiful yet lethargic young man, is at odds with his equally beautiful childhood friend Satoko An inexperienced boy when it comes to the desire inside him, he constantly misinterprets and confuses the actions of the young woman who is thoroughly taken with him His melancholy attitude doesn t help his cause and he loathes balefully in the estranged pool of his own work That is until he learns of Satoko s engagement with a prince, thus the object of his hatred and bewilderment is snatched from him, suddenly out of reach It is such a curious thing that when something we have ignored for so long is suddenly unavailable to us, we find it infinitelydesirable The fickle human heart with its itinerant impulses shifts its gear and so the idea of unattainability forces us to acknowledge the taken for granted, the sudden spotlight makes the dull suddenly novel And it is in this manner that young Kiyoaki realizes the gravity of his passion for Satoko Doomed from the very start, an affair begins between the childhood friends In this shared consciousness of tragedy, their love flourishes At the very core of this tragic romance Spring Snow serves as Yukio Mishima s statement against elegance Being a military man of action, he felt that the Japanese strayed from the righteous way of the Samurai and have alarmingly become slaves of pleasure, smitten with exterior beauty, apathetic to the real world, too taken by the West, too modern He envisioned a traditional Japan with its graceful simplicity, austere values, and unceasing nationalism and love for the Emperor The character Kiyoaki is a warning to the people of Japan, a cautionary tale to show the rottenness that elegance is bound to instill in the indolent souls of its time This very idea is what prompted Mishima to stage a coup d tat in 1970 to restore power to the Emperor But he failed and thus committed ritual seppuku However before his death, he was able to complete his tetralogy, the Sea of Fertility, which features Spring Snow as the first of four books With this in mind, I believe it to be quite irresponsible to fully interpret an incomplete picture To understand his real intentions, I have to complete the journey by reading the other three works Yet as a standalone it is rather fascinating to see something that was meant to alarm, instead take one s breath away with sheer elegance And so by embodying the object of his scorn, Mishima ironically succeeds in mirroring the very relationship of Kiyoaki and Satoko The path we re taking is not a road, Kiyo, it s a pier, and it ends someplace where the sea begins All at once subtle, tender, and painful, this novel manages to evoke a somber tinge of passion in the otherwise luscious backdrop of Taisho Japan Indeed, like spring snow, a furtive loveliness envelops the landscape of its pages but intertwined with this beauty is a faint cry of desolation, a quiet deadliness that can only enhance its icy elegance 4 and a half stars.When I read a translated book, I m always very conscious that what I m reading is not necessarily what the author meant to write I m reading a book that s very much like what the author wrote but not really the same I have no idea what Mishima s book is like in the original Japanese, but if this translation is anything like it, the beauty of the prose in Japanese must be devastating.The story of Kioyaki and Satoko is, in and of itself, not remarkable forbidden loves, especi 4 and a half stars.When I read a translated book, I m always very conscious that what I m reading is not necessarily what the author meant to write I m reading a book that s very much like what the author wrote but not really the same I have no idea what Mishima s book is like in the original Japanese, but if this translation is anything like it, the beauty of the prose in Japanese must be devastating.The story of Kioyaki and Satoko is, in and of itself, not remarkable forbidden loves, especially in highly hierarchical and ritualized society, such as Imperial Japan on the cusp of modernization is nothing new, nor are bildungsroman about the often painful transition between boy and man But the prose The delicate, poetic and incredibly evocative prose turns this story into a dream like journey in 1912 Japan, a world fascinated with the West but still holding on to deeply rooted traditions.It has to be read slowly, to really let oneself bask into the elegant melancholy of Mishima s writing It is dense at times, but so sensual and crisp that you forget how silly Kioyaki and Satoko are They are both so beautiful and so spoiled, selfish and conceited that you wish someone would give them a good slap or two until they snapped out of ruining each others lives But Mishima writes them in a way that makes it impossible not to want to know what happens to them It comes as no surprise that there is tragedy at the end of the path they follow But what an interesting path And as gorgeous as the writing is, it reminded me of a really pleasant but too liberally applied perfume it could get a bit overwhelming, and then I d have to read the passage again to make sure I knew what was going on.I will be looking for the rest of the Sea of Fertility tetralogy, which follows Kioyaki s friend Honda The deep friendship between the two young men leads Honda to believe he meets successive reincarnations of Kioyaki and tries to save him from his karma If the other three books are as good as Spring Snow , they arethan worth the time Yukio Mishima felt the Japanese government needed to return to a system based on the samurai code He was descended from samarais and believed that this code, advocating complete command of one s body and soul combined with a complete loyalty to the emperor, was necessary for Japan to return to prominence He formed his own army in 1970 and attempted a coup d tat With a few friends he overpowered the commandant of the Ichigaya Camp the Tokyo headquarters of the Eastern Command of Japan s Sel Yukio Mishima felt the Japanese government needed to return to a system based on the samurai code He was descended from samarais and believed that this code, advocating complete command of one s body and soul combined with a complete loyalty to the emperor, was necessary for Japan to return to prominence He formed his own army in 1970 and attempted a coup d tat With a few friends he overpowered the commandant of the Ichigaya Camp the Tokyo headquarters of the Eastern Command of Japan s Self Defense Forces and tied the commandant to a chair Mishima then stepped onto a balcony outside the commandant s office and gave an impassioned speech to the government troops to join his cause He was jeered and mocked off the balcony He returned to the commandant s office and committed seppuku, a ritual suicide The friend he had chosen to slice his head from his body at the end of the ritual could not complete his responsibilities and another friend stepped in to end his pain Mishima had been planning his suicide for almost a year For those with agruesome bent you can find pictures of his severed head on the internet Mishima was only 45 on November 25th, 1970 He had been a successful actor, kendo master, and of course writer Mishima wrote 40 novels, 18 plays, 20 books of short stories, and at least 20 books of essays, one libretto, as well as one film Like Fitzgerald, he dashed off a lot of work for quick cash, but even if those inferior works are discarded, he still had an impressive body of work for a man who died so young He had just finished the final volume in The Sea of Fertility tetralogy, of which Spring Snow is the first, before his suicide Spring Snow is a novel of pride, misplaced loyalty, blackmail, intrigue, lust, selfishness, sacrifice, and misery It is the story of star crossed lovers, steadfast friends, political mishaps, and conniving servants The setting is 1912 Tokyo in the inner circle of imperial court Our hero is Kiyoaki, who was born so beautiful he stirred the blood of women from 8 to 80 He was a young man of 19 whom women wanted and men wanted to be like Those people too enad with him soon found themselves rebuffed Honda, a fellow classmate of Kiyoaki observed this tendency and modified his approach to Kiyoaki forsaking fawning for aloofnessHe knew only too well how Kiyoaki reserved his keenest displeasure for any excessive show of friendshipNow his name is HONDA not HONDO It must be the fact that Hondo was one of my favorite John Wayne movies when I was a kid combined with the fact that I really liked Honda, by far my favorite character in the book, that I kept changing his name in my head to Hondo Kiyoaki as a young lad of 13 was asked to participate in a ritual ceremony that brought him in close proximity to the princess He missteps and disrupts the trail of her ermine coatPrincess Kasuga s lavish use of French perfume extended to her train, and its fragrance overpowered the musky odor of incense Some way down the corridor, Kiyoaki stumbled for a moment, inadvertently tugging at the train The princess turned her head slightly, and, as a sign that she was not at all annoyed, smiled gently at the youthful offender Her gesture went unnoticed body perfectly erect in that fractional turn, she had allowed Kiyoaki a glimpse of a corner of her mouth At that moment, a single wisp of hair slipped over her clear white cheek, and out of the fine drawn corner of an eye a smile flashed in a spark of black fire But the pure line of her nose did not move It as as if nothing had happenedthis fleeting angle of the Princess s face too slight to be called a profile made Kiyoaki feel as if he had seen a rainbow flicker for a bare instant through a prism of pure crystalThis scene stays with Kiyoaki for the rest of his life He considered it one of the most defining moments of his life, which makes it all theinexplicable why it takes him so long to realize the extraordinary beauty of his life time friend Satoko Only after his friends at school see her and react extravagantly to her charms does Kiyoaki for the first time see her as a woman and not as an annoying child She is acerbic, sarcastic, intelligent, and head over heels in love with Kiyoaki Her wit and his pride contribute to the continued cross purposes of their relationship Honda proves himself time and time again helping Kiyoaki with insane plans to get unsupervised time with Satoko He rejects her and then wants herthan everHis own heart seemed to him to be much like an arrow stripped of the flashing white feathers that gave it direction The minor characters provide twisty plot turns that add inspiring flavor to the plot Jaw dropping, unexpected moments of blackmail with a dash of spicy intrigue keep the pages turning even when the main characters are off the stage Beautiful descriptive passages, bits of Zen, and an ending that Shakespeare would certainly approve of lead me to say HIGHLY RECOMMENDED Set near Tokyo in 1912 In Spring Snow Kiyoaki Matsugae is sent as a child be raised on the estate of a Count where he learns all the worst habits of a decadent court He is slothful, he preens in the knowledge of his superior looks When 18 years of age he is so self involved the familiar disaffectedness of many Mishima protagonists that even when kissing the woman who loves him he thinks only of how he feels He s an affected asshole who takes a conscious pleasure in cruelty.Thiswas fur Set near Tokyo in 1912 In Spring Snow Kiyoaki Matsugae is sent as a child be raised on the estate of a Count where he learns all the worst habits of a decadent court He is slothful, he preens in the knowledge of his superior looks When 18 years of age he is so self involved the familiar disaffectedness of many Mishima protagonists that even when kissing the woman who loves him he thinks only of how he feels He s an affected asshole who takes a conscious pleasure in cruelty.Thiswas further proof of the hidden, savage essence of the elegance he had cultivated for so long p 257 Kioyaki s friend is the upstanding Shigekuni Honda He adores Kiyoaki A hard working young man who loses himself in thoughts of the niceties of European Natural Law and the Laws of Manu, which at the time of the action, the author tells us, were the foundation of Indian law He also has an abiding interest in historiography, particularly how he and his peers will be viewed by future generations This dovetails with the theme of reincarnation which links the four books of The Sea of Fertility cycle The vast Matsugae estate is imposing It is still the period of mourning for the late emperor who was called Meiji in life So the cherry blossom festival as it turns out will be observed, though on a smaller scale than usual An imperial prince attends with his wife and other visitors Their route through the blossoms is girded by a red and white curtain, presumably for purposes of privacy The Western house is filled with geishas A platform for their cherry blossom dances is built in the garden Later, there will be a banquet and a film shown based on a Dickens novel.Amid it all Kiyoaki is adrift Satoko is there in all her finery but it s somehow not enough What is he waiting for In thrall to his own beauty, his pride, Kiyoaki is at odds with himself, contradictory in his impulses He is lost, no decisiveness aside from a snowy rickshaw ride with Satoko, which was her idea comes from him His is a rapt passivity Meanwhile, he stubbornly let s go of Satoko when she is courted by an imperial prince, and thinks good riddance.Devoid of worry or annoyance, free of all anxiety, Kiyoaki at nineteen liked to see himself as a cold and supremely capable young man He felt that he was now past some watershed in the course of his life p 163 But he isn t Unable to read his own emotions, he takes grief for delight his strength of will, as he terms it, when tearing up a letter from Satoko unread, he begins to sense may be cowardice, for she is just about to marry the imperial prince What a muddle he s in Though an aristocrat he has known social isolation much of his life Thus, his misreading of people and situations always in a manner that plays to his own falsely elevated sense of self worth.Long ago he had resolved to recognize his emotions as his only guiding truth and to live his life accordingly, even if meant a deliberate aimlessness That principle had now brought him to his present sinister feelings of joy, which seemed to be the brink of a racing plunging whirlpool There seemed to be nothing left but to throw himself into it p 177 I won t go into Kiyoaki and Satoko s love affair or the novel s tragic denouement Suffice it to say that Kiyoaki s comeuppance is quite a spectacle and Honda is there to puzzle over it The book has a very long fuse The last 200 pages are far better than the first 200 Despite this uneven start, this is the strongest Mishima novel I have ever read