Spring Snow Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Audible Audiobook, Unabridged
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The first novel of Mishima's landmark tetralogy, The Sea of Fertility.
Spring Snow is set in Tokyo in 1912, when 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. Among this rising new elite are the ambitious Matsugae, whose son has been raised in a family of the waning aristocracy, the elegant and attenuated Ayakura. Coming of age, he is caught up in the tensions between old and new -- fiercely loving and hating the exquisite, spirited Ayakura Satoko. He suffers in psychic paralysis until the shock of her engagement to a royal prince shows him the magnitude of his passion, and leads to a love affair that is as doomed as it was inevitable.
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|Listening Length||14 hours and 31 minutes|
|Audible.ca Release Date||December 22 2010|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #41,468 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#1,241 in Classic Literature (Audible Books & Originals)
#2,011 in Literary Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#2,723 in Historical Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
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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. Kiyoaki, inexperienced, prideful, and naïve, desires to reciprocate this passion only when it becomes taboo, and then he falls headlong into a brilliant and lavish darkness full of gauntness, full, blush moons, and supple waves. Their consummation is sweet but tinctured with doom.
Had the two had a grander purpose than getting drunk off this surfeit of poisonous love, had their hearts and minds been bound to something to divert them from their egocentricity, the story would have been far different. But in the end, as Romeo and Juliet's love dies, the love of Satoka and Kiyoaki dies.
However, unlike Shakespeare, Mishima denies the reader the succor of suicide. Satoka is left a tonsured, Buddhist nun, while Kiyoaki dies of pneumonia. The end of beauty is filled with emotion, but the beautiful are ineffectual, useless, and cannot ever perform substantive act that will secure their happiness or seal their fate (definitely not in the case of Kiyoaki, perhaps in the case of Satoka). However, beauty does not completely fade at the death of their love as Kiyoaki leaves his dream journal to his even-keeled, logical, and diligent friend, Honda. In this way beauty lives on, but exists not as truth but as germ or infection. Beauty dies, destroys, and spreads its seed. It is the spring snow, quiet, pure, each multi-tendriled snowflake delicate, unique, an unusual attenuation heralding the end of spring, girded by the assumption that another spring will come only for the deadly beauty of the quiet, pure spring snow to come again, to take root, and surreptitiously and gracefully destroy idle youth.
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. I shan't say that it will "change your life," since that's cliche and more often than not utterly wrong, but I daresay that you will have an indelible impression made upon your mind. At first, you may not notice it, but as time passes, you will find that you remember large parts of Spring Snow on countless occasions, and you will find yourself recalling parts of it as examples of great beauty and purity, and reflexively applying them to your own life. And then you will cheer Mishima as quite possibly the last romantic on Earth. That is exactly what happened to me.
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.