The Decay of the Angel Kindle ☆ of the PDF/EPUB


The Decay of the Angel A strange, swift landing to the Sea of Fertility tetralogy, and a book that can t help but be altered by the fact that Mishima s strange, ritualistic suicide occurred the day after he handed it in, on the date on the last page of the mansucript There is a lot to like in this volume, which cleverly inverts the reincarnations of Kiyoaki by questioning whether this particular rendition a sociopathic ship watcher named T ru Yasunaga, a character w virtually no inner life is a complex imposter T A strange, swift landing to the Sea of Fertility tetralogy, and a book that can t help but be altered by the fact that Mishima s strange, ritualistic suicide occurred the day after he handed it in, on the date on the last page of the mansucript There is a lot to like in this volume, which cleverly inverts the reincarnations of Kiyoaki by questioning whether this particular rendition a sociopathic ship watcher named T ru Yasunaga, a character w virtually no inner life is a complex imposter The middle of the book, Toru s journal, is an interesting return to the first book, set in 1970s Japan, as the lead, Honda, battles old age But there are shortcomings here the book moves too fast, accepting its strangeness as a matter of course, and cutting short the intriguing push and pull between Honda and his adopted son, who have so much in common It s almost as if Mishima himself is in dread of his aged narrator, whose gradual disintegration is treated rather grotesquely The ending, however, is excellent something we ve waited for for 4 booksfor 60 years of plot.As an overall project, The Sea of Fertility is fascinating to consider flawed, weird, autobiographical, ambitious I enjoyed my journey through its lush, barren pages To be as honest as possible, I must run the risk of not making any sense this is simultaneously my favorite and least favorite book in the series Parts of it were hugely gorgeous the prose was pure and had an almost cleansing aura to it, and I felt alive while reading it However, I wanted to strangle Mishima for writing some other parts that I felt were not only uncalled for but intentionally annoying to read I m looking at you, several descriptions of harbor boats I know that Seidensti To be as honest as possible, I must run the risk of not making any sense this is simultaneously my favorite and least favorite book in the series Parts of it were hugely gorgeous the prose was pure and had an almost cleansing aura to it, and I felt alive while reading it However, I wanted to strangle Mishima for writing some other parts that I felt were not only uncalled for but intentionally annoying to read I m looking at you, several descriptions of harbor boats I know that Seidensticker is apparently revered as some sort of translator god in the Japanese world, but I couldn t help but feel he edited it sentence by sentence with his mindset alternating between How do I make this as beautiful as possible with How can I make this as tedious as possible Where has Honda come to, then He was first the friend of Kiyoaki Matsugae, then the lawyer of Isao Iinuma, and finally the friend voyeur of Ying Chan Now he s the guardian of Toru, a diabolical young teenager who in wanting to see himself as superior to everyone else decides to be evil Honda s journey has been as remarkable as it has been beautiful, and according to him that may be for the better It would appear that beauty is perhaps one of the most undefinable things in the universe It is pain, fragility, distance, youth, and above all death When you put it together, it seems to be that it becomes the art of suicide to kill yourself before you really grow up Beauty, then, becomes nothingthan the physicality of your being, your existence, as an independent entity a transcendental adolescence, and by killing yourself at that stage, your life becomes synonymous with that beauty Hell, if that was Kiyoaki s objective, I think he did a bang up good job.The last twenty pages are worth reading it all again for, though It makes me want to go back and read the first one again, if only that There s a throwback to a scene from the end of Spring Snow, where Honda, at wits end, decides to visit someone he hasn t seen in sixty years The discussion that ensues chills me Memory is like a phantom mirror It sometimes shows things too distant to be seen, and sometimes it shows them as if they were here Has this all, then, been but a dream No, it wasn t all just a dream That would be silly Mishima isn t some nutjob with a pen well, okay, maybe he was but let s be honest with ourselves here Mishima might actually be testing us with this one He wasn t a Buddhist, but there s definitely something weird going on in the last installment, and the writing itself betrays a sort of unsettling of his own philosophy There might be a good reason why Mishima chose to stage his coup right after finishing this final piece Perhaps it is not Honda but Mishima who arrives with the reader where there is no memory to the place where the noontide sun of summer flows over an empty garden What s this one about, do you suppose There is in all translations of Mishima s work I have read by a host of translators a fundamental woodeness or clunkiness of description, especially in his philosophical flights In Japan he is often referred to as a stylist with a penchant for archaic Japanese word forms So it could be that Mishima s use of archaisms means he doesn t translate well into English I don t know But this fourth volume of The Sea of Fertility tetralogy seems to me in the firs What s this one about, do you suppose There is in all translations of Mishima s work I have read by a host of translators a fundamental woodeness or clunkiness of description, especially in his philosophical flights In Japan he is often referred to as a stylist with a penchant for archaic Japanese word forms So it could be that Mishima s use of archaisms means he doesn t translate well into English I don t know But this fourth volume of The Sea of Fertility tetralogy seems to me in the first half worst of the batch One has no idea why the characters are alternately so goddamned indifferent then so cruel The novel s seems to be all surface Why is there mention of evil out of the blue like that What s evil I d like to be shown T ru s evil and not simply be told about it It would do wonders for the suspense Yet the motivations are often completely opaque Except at the end, there is little or no insight into character T ru is without parentage No past for him is ever given He lives alone without friends, motivated like most Mishima protagonists, entirely by a mix of na vet and cryptic self inquiry The day after Mishima finished this MS he committed suicide He was 45 Maybe that was his only alternative He certainly makes clear here, as in all his books to some degree, his absolute detestation of old age The book seems to me a farrago, a pastiche whose fragments are not without interest, but a novel they do not make Do you think that your hopes and those of someone else coincide, that your hopes can be smoothly realized for you by someone else People live for themselves and think only of themselves You whothan most think only of yourself have gone too far and let yourself be blinded You thought that history has its exceptions There are none You thought that the race has its exceptions There are none There is no special right to happiness and none to unhappiness There is no tragedy and there Do you think that your hopes and those of someone else coincide, that your hopes can be smoothly realized for you by someone else People live for themselves and think only of themselves You whothan most think only of yourself have gone too far and let yourself be blinded You thought that history has its exceptions There are none You thought that the race has its exceptions There are none There is no special right to happiness and none to unhappiness There is no tragedy and there is no genius Your confidence and your dreams are groundless If there is on this earth something exceptional, special beauty or special evil, nature finds it out and uproots it We should all by now have learned the hard lesson, that there are no electLike a knife So the last volume of The Sea of Fertility tetralogy It tells the story of an elderly Honda and T ru, a 16 year old he adopts after noticing that the boy had a certain characteristic that led the old man to believe he was in the presence of Kiyoaki s third reincarnation, the protagonist of Spring Snow, the first volume, which, despite my previous doubts, is still my favorite of the series This book is far from mediocrity, however, I can t say, even while having the same rating, that it matches the first installment s excellence I have to admit that I suffered I was expecting repulsion, mostly I didn t imagine I was going to be this disoriented, fluctuating between annoyance and boredom So I suffered for almost the entire book It only takes one allusion to abuse in any way, shape, or form in this case, toward the elderly for me to feel incredibly sad I can t describe the feeling when such situations stop being fiction In any case, Honda s vulnerability made me forget, from time to time, the disgust I felt in The Temple of Dawn, the previous volume My ultimate cause of suffering was the adopted son, who symbolized the vastly unoriginal juxtaposition of external beauty and internal ugliness Clich d to the point of boredom, if this isn t your first novel of the kind As I told someone before, I think I reached the limit and can t toleratestories involving handsome and aloof boys men who think girls women are shallow and fairly unnecessary if it weren t for lust Aside from that, T ru is the embodiment of evil In that sense, the story felt forced and rushed It took forever to start and then, quite abruptly, we find a diabolic adolescent whose mission in life is to injure among others his adoptive father By the end, we are given some explanations we all heard before but it was too late to revert the process I was already looking forward to a conclusion.Having read a fair amount of his books, Mishima remains a conundrum to me A delightful enigma endowed with the ability to attract and repel As ever, his writing is painfully poetic, and when it clashes with obnoxious ideas or disgusting actions, the counterpoint has an enthralling effect The search for beauty something that never leaves the sphere of the flesh, a word the author loves, as well as self respect still continues and everything that interferes with the narrator s visions of what s pure and beauteous is severely ridiculed The aversion to aging is almost insulting Moreover, the idea of rising against not a machine but a natural and inexorable process is an absurd way to experience life Too many signs of decay.This book was meandering toward the 3 star realm, but the last few chapters struck a chord The following quote is part of one brutal rebuke The little cloud of evil had found an implacable opponent All puffed up by illusions born of abstract concepts, you strut about as the master of a destiny even though you have none of the qualifications You think you have seen to the ends of the earth But you have not once had an invitation beyond the horizon You have nothing to do with light or enlightenment, there is no real spirit in flesh or in heart.Honestly, there was nothing special about the previous reincarnations either, as they were all brimming with selfishness, the most ordinary of qualities From a practical point of view, humanity is defined by a self absorbed, completely narcissistic nature nothingcommonplace A trite old joke with an air of uniqueness, with delusions of grandeur The truly remarkable is the opposite kindness, empathy, altruistic acts amid so much filth.April 2, 18 Later on my blog Note to self edit The Sea of Fertility Spring SnowRunaway HorsesThe Temple of Dawn Much like listening to Joy Division s Closer , there s an inescapable feeling of finality when reading the last novel of the quartet that goes beyond simply it being the last novel If you re at all interested in Mishima or the quartet, you re probably well aware that as soon as Mishima finished the novel, he went out, attempted to stage a coup that failed miserably and then committed a ritual suicide, all of which made perfect sense to him in his worldview but don t seem entirely like the acts Much like listening to Joy Division s Closer , there s an inescapable feeling of finality when reading the last novel of the quartet that goes beyond simply it being the last novel If you re at all interested in Mishima or the quartet, you re probably well aware that as soon as Mishima finished the novel, he went out, attempted to stage a coup that failed miserably and then committed a ritual suicide, all of which made perfect sense to him in his worldview but don t seem entirely like the acts of a rational person Yet we have this As his death was clearly planned, when reading the final pages of the novel you are definitely reading the last words of a man about to die and who knew that he was about to die And that knowledge is somewhat haunting.Not surprisingly the notion of mortality creeps upthan once in the course of the slimmest of the four novels, although the quartet as a whole has been obsessed with the idea of growing older and losing the fire of youth, it seemspoignant here even as Mishima eschews sentimentality almost entirely We run into Honda again and find the man in his eighties, old enough to realize that the good times are behind him even though he s quite rich and prepared to slide into oblivion the same way he has coasted through life, unable or unwilling to leave or make much of an impact Always at the back of his mind is the notion of reincarnation, embodied by his childhood friend Kiyoaki, who keeps showing up in different guises throughout his life, dying tragically young each time.This time it seems that his old friend has become an orphan named Toru Spying those telltale birthmarks, Honda adopts him as a teenager with the intent of watching him grow up and perhaps seeing if he can finally be spared the fate of all the other incarnations and not perish at a young age Sounds like as good a retirement plan as any, right Yet it quickly becomes different The other incarnations were marked by what Honda perceived as an inner beauty, a fiery passion that was inspiring in the way a bonfire can be You can stand back and admire it without daring to get too close Instead Toru seems wayward and petty, not possessed with any grand romance or ideas for Japan, content in casual cruelty and not struck with any arcing ambition And before long, the old man and the kid are starting to get at each other s throats, with Toru rather fond of seeing the old man die and nicely inheriting his wealth while Honda s initial desire to save the youth from what he believes was his fate becomes an insistence on surviving long enough to see him die, so he can have the satisfaction of having lived longer Meanwhile the world erodes and decays around them both, as Toru s inability to grasp beauty even in the midst of his petty evil makes Honda wonder if he indeed is a reincarnation, or he has perhaps devoted his energy to the wrong course But his sureness in the rightness of it is what keeps him going, in a sense, the notion of being eternal and lasting beyond what he is, exemplified in the continual reemergence of his old friend.Its an interesting reversal from the early volumes, a subtle undermining of all that we saw before Doubts that never existed before begin to linger, the Japan outside Honda slipping further away as we spendtime in his thoughts, even as his thoughts become ossified Mishima has no love for old age, a disdain that crackles throughout the book but seems to take on a particular focus here There are moments when the fear of losing the fire of one s youth and settling into senescence practically leaps off the page, a chilling intensity that comes near to desperation The sensuality that lingered in the pages of Temple of Dawn or the raw passion that infused Runaway Horses has been replaced here with a crumbling decay that doesn t realize how fragile it has become, a weakly swaggering Honda lost within himself, detached from a Japan that Mishima perceives as already detached from itself, lost in a spiral where the arc is no longer beautiful The final scenes resonates with a chill that goes past despair, into a cold realization that can only occur when one feels that finally all the layers are stripped away and what remains in undoubtedly the truth.In the light of this, the ending becomes remarkable, upending everything that both we and Honda have known all along, stripping away the mysticism and philosophy that marked the first volumes and perhaps leaving us with what was there all along, the spaces between words, the spaces that make up words and the voids that comprise ourselves The blissful continuation of nothing, arrived and achieved Taken as a whole the volumes of the quartet have done their best to gradually take away the layers we thought existed, setting up a world where we re convinced certain notions are true, against all hope, and by the end reinforcing that our original ideas were true all along We have no one else, Mishima seems to suggest as the book races toward its and his end, no one else and not even ourselves Just the universe, maybe, a single point of hard dark light too far away to be touched and unable to be unseen So what do we have then, when the point is finally grasped The ending has a suggestion that Mishima may have ultimately taken in its fragile clarity, or his interpretation may have been the only way he could have seen it, having perhaps striven for so long to see what needed to be there, what had to be present But we negate in our faltering absences, acting without blinking Thus it becomes It acts as a mirror that turns us into glass It becomes better every time I read it Not truer, but better It fits where it has to, and in that becomes its own perfection, and maybe worth the effort in ways he was unable to imagine Of all the books that I ve read so far, this has got to be the hardest book to review I feel like my love for this book stems mainly from certain aspects that have little to do with the book itself.As an admirer of Yukio Mishima, this book meant muchto me than any other novel of his, since it documented his last thoughts before his poetic demise The finished manuscript waited on the desk as he turned his life into the Line of Poetry written with a splash of Blood that he had longed for Of all the books that I ve read so far, this has got to be the hardest book to review I feel like my love for this book stems mainly from certain aspects that have little to do with the book itself.As an admirer of Yukio Mishima, this book meant muchto me than any other novel of his, since it documented his last thoughts before his poetic demise The finished manuscript waited on the desk as he turned his life into the Line of Poetry written with a splash of Blood that he had longed for, letting his fictional world collapse along with him in a poetic climax He will always be one of the most honest and poetically destructive writers that has ever lived May he rest in peace As the dramatic climax of The Sea of Fertility, The Decay of the Angel brings together the dominant themes of the three previous novels the meaning and decay of Japan s courtly tradition and samurai ideal the essence and value of Buddhist philosophy and aesthetics and, underlying all, Mishima s apocalyptic vision of the modern era, which saw the dissolution of the moral and cultural forces that throughout the ages nourished a people and a world The time is the late s Honda, now an aged and wealthy man, discovers and adopts a sixteen year old orphan, Toru, as his heir, identifying him with the tragic protagonists of the three previous novels, each of whom died at the age of twenty Honda raises and educates the boy, yet watches him, waiting An excellent ending to a most excellent and powerful series of four novels I m so sad to see it end, and I m sure I ll be feeling a bit empty for a while to come How can an angel decay An angel in this context is not the haloed, winged messenger of the Christian deity In Buddhist cosmology, angels are celestial beings who live in the sixth realm of rebirth Those with good karma can be reborn there, and the pleasure and comfort it offers far exceed that of the human world However, this is not the unqualified paradise it may sound like No matter how many eons and kalpas may pass, beings cannot stay in the sixth realm Like the other realms, good a How can an angel decay An angel in this context is not the haloed, winged messenger of the Christian deity In Buddhist cosmology, angels are celestial beings who live in the sixth realm of rebirth Those with good karma can be reborn there, and the pleasure and comfort it offers far exceed that of the human world However, this is not the unqualified paradise it may sound like No matter how many eons and kalpas may pass, beings cannot stay in the sixth realm Like the other realms, good and bad, it is part of samsara the endless cycle of death and rebirth A perfect being must eventually fall from perfection Nothing in the world of samsara is permanent, all is subject to change Honda, now an old man on the verge of death, is undergoing change His wife has died Wealthy, he no longer needs to work He looks in the mirror and sees the physical signs of decay advancing daily The one constant in his life is seeking out the reincarnations of Kiyoaki, all of whom have died by the age of twenty This time around it appears to be in the form of Toru Yasunaga, a sixteen year old boy working a menial job far below his abilities As the story progresses two themes emerge Decay is one of course, but also uncertainty Unlike with the past reincarnations, we are not sure by the end of the novel that Toru is really authentic Honda himself comes to believe he probably isn t, especially since he does not die at twenty Decay is evident in Honda and the depiction of human aging, but also in the land itself Honda visits the famous pine tree of Miho, supposedly the place where a divine being once danced, only to find it full of pollution and tourists Elsewhere he notes the increasing clutter and debris of modernity, in a passage emblematic of Mishima s disdain for Western innovation The Daigo district was a clutter of all the dreary details of new construction, to be seen throughout Japan raw building materials and blue tiled roofs, television towers and power lines, Coca Cola advertisements and drive in snack bars Among heaps of rubble below cliffs where wild daisies stabbed at the sky were automobile dumps, blue and yellow and black, piled precariously one on the other, the gaudy colors molten in the sun This was Mishima s last work before his suicide, and this story takes on greater significance once you knowabout what he was thinking, or rather obsessing over during this point in his life Mishima was a man who desperately wanted to exist, and exist authentically Writing was one way of doing this, but paradoxically, so was dying It is fitting that his final book was about death and dying, and the illusion of life As the story draws to a close the narrative takes on almost dream like qualities Honda returns to Gesshuji to see Satoko, and tries to relive Kiyoaki s last moments there He becomes both Honda and Kiyoaki, imagining that his friend is waiting for him at the inn, even has Honda himself makes the excruciating climb toward the temple Arriving at the gate, he thinks to himself only an instant had passed I don t believe Mishima intended this to be poetical Only a moment really has passed Time is yet another illusion, a figment we insist upon.Once admitted inside, he and we finally see Satoko again, one of the few characters who is not reintroduced in the earlier books Although older, she is not decayed Her presence in the first and last books is like bookends, meant to tell us something important She tells a baffled Honda that she never knew a Kiyoaki, leading him to doubt that anything in the previous books happened, and that perhaps then there has been no I While this may sound like an existential crisis, ending with what seems like a it was all a dream trope conclusion, it becomesthan that when you consider Mishima s intense focus on Buddhist doctrines throughout the Sea of Fertility Honda s existential doubt is essentially the teaching of anatman the belief that because the self cannot be located or identified as anywhere or as anything, it does not really exist One is simply a collection of skhandas or phenomena flesh, blood, bone, etc that comes together for a time, and later, disintegrates These phenomena are reborn again and again, but what is reborn is not you and not another Realizing this truth is a step on the path to Enlightenment, because it frees you from attachment Satoko, having attained this wisdom, is not the wizened, disappointed creature Honda is in his old age He chased phantoms all his life in a quest for some kind of permanence, only to realize at the end that nothing is permanent As the reader, we observed Honda much as Honda observed others, and like him we are shocked by revelation Was any of this real Why did we believe it was Honda was convinced that the reincarnations happened mostly because of factors that appeared airtight as evidence, but on second thought may only have been a coincidence What, in the end, was his proof Three moles on the left side of a body Along for the ride, we accepted this reasoning by the final book only to have our confidence dashed What does it mean to be reborn What, for that matter, does it mean to live Just finished Decay of Angel I haven t even met the Angel yet still waiting for Spring Snow to arrive and he is already decayed This final novel of Mishimas is sparse but fascinating It is easy to imagine him deciding that he had had enough by the end of it There is so much weariness, so much pain, and so much bitterness too How well he knew the human condition by this stage Too well I think Too much awareness is never an easy burden to bear but without it you can t be a great writer O Just finished Decay of Angel I haven t even met the Angel yet still waiting for Spring Snow to arrive and he is already decayed This final novel of Mishimas is sparse but fascinating It is easy to imagine him deciding that he had had enough by the end of it There is so much weariness, so much pain, and so much bitterness too How well he knew the human condition by this stage Too well I think Too much awareness is never an easy burden to bear but without it you can t be a great writer Oh and you have to love kitties too P Which he did of course.The denouement is as shocking and thought provoking as I ve come to expect of him But it has left me feeling a little gloomy As I knew it would I was actually quite fond of Honda, so to see him suffer so much is a bit depressing Like everything I ve read of his though, it s a perfect manifestation He s wrung every last drop of juice from himself


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About the Author: Yukio Mishima

Yukio Mishima was born in Tokyo in 1925 He graduated from Tokyo Imperial University s School of Jurisprudence in 1947 His first published book, The Forest in Full Bloom, appeared in 1944 and he established himself as a major author with Confessions of a Mask 1949 From then until his death he continued to publish novels, short stories, and plays each year His crowning achievement, the Sea of Fertility tetralogy which contains the novels Spring Snow 1969 , Runaway Horses 1969 , The Temple of Dawn 1970 , and The Decay of the Angel 1971 is considered one of the definitive works of twentieth century Japanese fiction In 1970, at the age of forty five and the day after completing the last novel in the Fertility series, Mishima committed seppuku ritual suicide a spectacular death that attracted worldwide attention.


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