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.