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Yukio Mishima was many things in his life; an author was only one of them. In general, I have more respect for him as a personality than I do for his individual books. I could go on all day about the man himself, but my praise of this or that novel is usually conditional, and when I find myself thinking of books to re-read just for enjoyment's sake, he usually isn't near the top of my list. I think that these stories are some of his highest-quality work, though, and I can recommend them without any reservations, not just to enthusiasts of Japanese culture or the sort of magnificently sick aesthetic that Mishima represents. The title story, although as coldly inhuman as much of Mishima's work, still seems pyschologically accurate. The second story, Three Thousand Yen, is disarmingly and uncharacteristically sweet, but tempered by a more characteristic ending. Patriotism is probably the standout of this standout, with flawless prose, again backing Mishima's vision with a realistic setting. 'Pearl' is clever, and 'Onegata' is another very polished story, a good candidate for anthologization. 'Swaddling Clothes' is a personal favorite, wickedly barbed and haunting. The greatest strength of this collection is that Mishima never seems to be repeating himself - he explores his central themes from different angles, in a variety of styles, and provides something of outstanding artistic merit.
I bought this book for 25 cents at a book sale hosted by the University of Georgia's History Department. By the hand writing inside I can tell that it had belonged to the man who taught Chinese History. I read the title story back then, but put the book down to read others. I finally picked up the book again withing the last couple of days and was blown away by Mishima's billiance. I have to agree with an earlier Reviewer that Seidensticker's translation do not go as smoothly as Keene's Morris's and Sargent's, but were good nonetheless. This book has a wide range of storire from the title story which deals with a young woman who loses her sister in law and two children at the beach. The children drown the sister in law has a heart attack when she sees the bobbing body of one of the dead children. The young mother not only suffers this great los, but as time heals the scars she feels great fear and sorrow that the memories of her children are slipping away. There are also a couple of strange stories. Thermos Bottles deals with a man who while in San Francisco runs into a former geisha who he had been intimate with. He had left the woman when she said that she was pregnant with his child, but he doesn't believe her. I won't go into more detail lets just say it is strange. The most disturbing story in this book to me is Patriotism. In which Mishima writes of a young officer commiting seppuku two days after the feb 26 incident. Mishima goes into vivid detail of the excruciating suicide. Good but disturbing stuff.
Mishima writes very stark stories of spiritual emptiness. My favorite is the story Ten Yen about a young couple who must resort to desperate economic measures, the young woman must prostitute herself to earn them money. Mishimas ascetic style is not necessarily uplifting but it does make for an interesting aesthetic intensity. These short stories are each very uniquely populated but that single focus is never lost. They feel quickly executed but perfect like ink drawing, an art where you get one chance only to make a perfect gesture. Existentialism as practiced in the orient. For Mishima authenticity was ritually sought after but the world he wanted to live in was one relegated to the past. Art was no substitute for his imagined and longed for spiritual kingdom though he tried to live as though it was, at least for awhile.
Mishima writes with amazing clarity of thought. His sentences are among the clearest I have ever read. I feel at a loss of words, a "poverty of emotion," as Mishima might call it, in trying to write about Death in Midsummer. The only thing I can say - to even try to do him and his book justice - is READ IT!!!
Ten stories by Mishima Yukio; three of which are translated by Edward Seidensticker, two by Ivan Morris, three by Donald Keene, and two by Geoffrey Sargent. Personally, I don't care for Seidensticker's style -- his translations always seem so lifeless -- and reading through his three stories [including the "Death in Midsummer" of the title] was nearly torturous. My favorites of this set of short stories were "The Seven Bridges" [Keene, trans.] and "Patriotism" [Sargent, trans.], a look at the last days of a soldier and his wife. Mishima's stories often lack a traditional plot, focusing instead upon the slow development of a single scene, or on emerging human emotions and motives. Death is a recurring theme in all of his work, and is portrayed with a terrible beauty and admiration. Recommended.
this personally selected collection of short stories shows mishima at his best. from a surreal no play to gentle stories of mourning and loss, this is all great stuff which translated beautifully. my only reservation would be the story "patriotism", which details the ritual suicide of a young couple- ick. compelling, but not for the weak stomached.
My months-long hiatus from my Mishima immersion, well-rewarded by reading The Three-Body Problem, is happily at an end. It's wonderful to re-encounter the voice and sensibility of this master, especially in never before encountered short form: Death in Midsummer, an early (1953, translated for New Directions in 1966) volume of 10 stories steeped in love, loss, honor, horror, absurdity, ambiguity and nature in all its narrative colour as only Mishima can achieve. The eponymously-titled opening work traces the emotional resonance of a triply-tragic seaside sojourn. Three MIllion Yen follows a young couple on their trip through a department store and adjacent funhouse ride, with a reveal as to their livelihood completely out of left field. Thermos Bottles is a subtle dance of betrayal and childhood-instilled fear of abandonment. The Priest of Shiga Temple and His Love is a hallucinatory tale of obsession: the desire for love versus the attainment of enlightenment. The Seven Bridges follows superstitious geishas seeking the answers to their prayers, if on;y they can traverse the seven bridges without having to speak. Patriotism, a visceral depiction of honor-bound Seppuku by a soldier and his wife. Dojij is in fact a play, one of many Mishima wrote. The title comes from an existing play in the Noh tradition. This was the first time I'd encountered a Mishima dramatic work. Words meant to be intoned aloud attain a quantum level of new evocative power I would have presumed of Mishima; also a hilarious tale of a magic wardrobe. An Onnagata is a male actor known for female roles. This story is a behind-the-scenes tableau of projected and implicit sexuality, of ritualized personae. The Pearl is another dinner party farce gone terribly wrong (who knew Mishima could be so dark and so funny?). Swaddling Clothes is an incisive study of abandonment and class struggle. A blessed reunion.
Yukio Mishima, der hochproduktive und hochbegabte Schriftsteller, dessen Bücher die Japanische Literaturtradition erstmalig in vollem Umfang der westlichen Welt verfügbar machten, und dessen Leben ein so spektakuläres Ende nahm, ist in Deutschland bei weitem noch nicht so umfangreich übersetzt, wie ihm englischsprachigen Raum; es ist schade, was einem hier für ein Lesegenuss vorenthalten bleibt, denn die hier vertretenen Geschichten sind ohne Ausnahme Meisterwerke von sprachlicher Ökonomie einerseits und emotionaler Intensität andererseits. Mishima war sein Leben lang gefangen zwischen moderner literarischer Tradition auf der einen, und seinem Jahrtausende alten Japanischen Kulturerbe auf der anderen Seite, und seiner Kurzprosa ist diese Ambivalenz deutlich anzumerken. Diese Geschichten sind nach westlicher Tradition aufgebaut, behalten jedoch immer einen Beigeschmack ursprünglicher Exotik, was sie zu einem sehr reizvollen Leserlebnis macht. Es geht um Menschen, deren jahrelang versteckter Schandfleck plötzlich an die Oberfläche tritt, die von lange Vergessenen Erlebnissen heimgesucht werden, oder deren geordnetes Leben durch einen Schicksalsschlag aus den Fugen gerät:
Die Geburtstagsfeier einer älteren Dame wird zu einer giftspeienden Hexenjagd, als ein Schmuckstück verschwindet, und sich jahrelange Freundinnen plötzlich gegeneinander wenden ("The Pearl"), ein jung verheiratetes Ehepaar muss sich an zweifelhafte Methoden gewöhnen, um ihren Traum eines bürgerlichen Lebens finanzieren zu können ("Three Million Yen"), die Affäre eines verheirateten Geschäftsreisenden in San Francisco verfolgt ihn auch nach seiner Rückkehr zu Frau und Kind ("Thermos Bottles"), das asketische Leben eines älteren buddhistischen Mönches endet mit einem Schlag, als er eine schöne Frau erblickt, deren Bild danach jegliche Meditation und innere Einkehr unmöglich macht ("The High Priest and his Love"), und die brillante Titelgebende Geschichte beschreibt den schrittweisen Zerfall unangetasteten Eheglücks, nachdem zwei der drei Kinder bei einem Badeurlaub ums Leben kommen. Eingefügt ist auch eines von Mishimas Kurzdramen, die er für das No-Theater schrieb, das aber als reine Textlektüre nur erahnen lässt, was bei einer Inszenierung möglich wäre.
Acht verschiedene Übersetzer haben sich hier an Mishimas angeblich sehr reichem Stil versucht, und man erhält eine ungefähre Idee von den Möglichkeiten dieses Autors. Bis man diese Edition mit einer deutschen Fassung vergleichen kann, wird wohl noch etwas Zeit vergehen - ein Verlust ist das keinesfalls.