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giovedì 1 dicembre 2011

Japanese Literature Challenge 5, my review: The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima

I've had a blog for only a week, and I've already found so many interesting things: sites, blogs, challenges, blog hops. When I found out about this, hosted by Bellezza, I just couldn't resist. I've always been interested in Japanese literature and culture in general, and this interest has grown and swelled up to a point where the word "interest" is not enough anymore. It has become something bigger and stronger, and if I hadn't studied English and Russian at University (learning also French at school and Swedish by accident and keeping in mind and heart my mother tongue, Italian ) I would certainly have studied the Japanese language. Who knows anyway, Marguerite Yourcenar started when she was in her 70's, so: never say never. This year I have read many Japanese books, more precisely:

Kafka on the Shore - Haruki Murakami
Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami
Hard-boiled Wonderland & the End of the World - H.Murakami
After the Quake - Haruki Murakami
Dance dance dance - Haruki Murakami

The Setting Sun - Osamu Dazai

The Key - Yunichiro Tanizaki
Diary of a Mad old Man - Y. Tanizaki

The Ring Finger - Yoko Ogawa
Profumo di ghiaccio - Yoko Ogawa

Asleep - Banana Yoshimoto
Hard-boiled & Hard Luck - Banana Yoshimoto
Argentine Hag - Banana Yoshimoto

Trastulli di animali - Yukio Mishima
The Sound of Waves - Yukio Mishima

The Sound of Waves

Shinji is a poor fisherman who lives with his mother and younger brother on a small island, where the sea - with its sounds and colours - is always present, pacing and shaping the rhythm of everyday life and acting as a source of spiritual strength. Everything is very much the same, day after day and season after season, until Hatsue returns to the island. She is the daughter of the richest man in the village, and the news of her arrival spreads quickly. Many young men, including Shinji, begin to like her. When Hatsue and Shinji fall in love, they have to face malicious gossip and jealousy until Hatsue is forbidden to see him. This separation strengthens their love and after many vicissitudes and through the intervention of different secondary characters, Shinji outshines his rivals and the lovers will be engaged to get married. The Sound of Waves is a simple, lyrical love story, offering evocative descriptions of the sea and detailed sketches of lives on the island. There are passages of extraordinary beauty, especially one: a blend of eroticism and innocence, taking place when Shinji falls asleep by the fire at the Temple, and wakes up to find Hatsue naked, waiting for her clothes to get dry. Their desire for each other struggles with the respect they have for their love as something too pure and sacred to be consumed there and then, and their decision to wait draws them irretrievably close. Shinji is described as a very down-to-earth person, probably not particularly smart yet strong and loyal. He is not used to ponder on his emotions, or to experience feelings he can't explain or relate to something clear and precise. It is with increasing amazement that he realizes something is happening to him.

"Shinji always went to sleep easily, but last night he had the strange experience of lying long awake. Unable to remember a day of sickness in his life, the boy had lain wondering, afraid this might be what people meant by sick."

"Shinji was not at all given to brooding about things, but this one name, like a tantalizing puzzle, kept harassing his thoughts. At the mere sound of the name his cheeks flushed and his heart pounded. It was a strange feeling to sit there motionless and feel within himself these physical changes that, until now, he had experienced only during heavy labor."

The charm of this novel lies in the haunting presence of the sea and in the awakening of Shinji to love and manhood, in his acceptance of the new feelings blossoming so suddenly within him. Despite having a simple plot and a happy ending (unusual in Mishima), there's an aura of solemnity surrounding Shinji and his sudden growth to manhood and love which makes everything vibrant and almost holy. Shinji and Hatsue represent a pure and simple way of life in harmony with nature, far from the the corruption and complexity of society, represented in the book, among other things, by gossip and prejudice. Their purity and endurance will be stronger and eventually succeed, and in this perspective the happy ending is not as simple as it may look at a superficial level. They are both "creatures of the sea", Hatsue winning a diving competition and Shinji outstanding a terrible thunderstorm. Their moral natures and respect for traditional values make them keepers and defenders of the island's beauty and austere simplicity. A truly beautiful book, where apparent simplicity conceals some of the author's ideals and beliefs.

7 commenti:

  1. I love Haruki Murakami and Banana Yoshimoto, I will have to look for the other authors you mention! I studied Japanese for one year a long time ago, I recommend it. I also love to study languages, but unfortunately I only know a few words/phrases of Italiano. Ciao!

  2. Hi Anja, nice to meet you! I love Haruki Murakami, too. The first book I read by him was South of the Border, West of the Sun, and after many years I still remember it very well.
    I know B. Yoshimoto less, but I want to read more of her things. She's sensitive and delicate.
    Ciao e grazie! :)

  3. I also love Murakami, Mishima and Kenzaburo Oe-I am glad I found your blog via the Japanese Lit Challenge and am happy to be a new follower so I can enjoy watching your blog develop

  4. when I started Blogging a little bit over a year ago, the Japanese Lit challenge was my first & still my favourite. Also loving the list of writers you've here, have thoroughly enjoyed the works of Ogawa, Murakami, Tanizaki, etc. mean to read Dazai & Yoshimoto soon.

  5. What a wonderful blog you have here! I like your writing style, so open and easy, and I love the photograph behind the page I'm reading. You have such a large pile of Japanese literature read already, many on my list which I have yet to read myself. From your list, Kafka on The Shore is quite possibly my favorite. Anyway, so glad that you've joined up for the Japanese Literature Challenge. I can see we have much in common from our love of books, to love of countries such as Italy and Japan. (Oh, and I took many classes of Russian literature when I was in college. Wonderful stuff!)

  6. Thank you so much! I'm really happy you like my blog and suggestions! Kafka on the Shore is surely one of my favourite books, and Hardöboiled Wonderland too. I also liked Dazai very much. I didn't know him until I saw the Japanese film "Villon's wife", based on a short story by Dazai. I will write a post about both the film and book I've read.... there are so many things I want to write about!
    The background photo is a still picture from the film In the Mood for Love, by Wong Kar-wai.
    I will keep reading your lovely blogs too!
    Thanks again