- Paperback: 112 pages
- Publisher: Kodansha International Ltd (30 April 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 4770029039
- ISBN-13: 978-4770029034
- Product Dimensions: 18.8 x 1.5 x 13.2 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,285,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Sun and Steel Paperback – 30 Apr 2003
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"One of the twentieth century's outstanding statements of literary and personal purpose." -Library Journal"Necessary reading." -Times Literary Supplement"Had we [read this before his suicide], the extravagant events surrounding his death would have been more readily comprehensible." -Sunday Times"A key to the novelist's behavior." -Sunday Telegraph
About the Author
YUKIO MISHIMA, one of the most spectacularly gifted writers in modern Japan, was born into a samurai family in 1925. He attended the Peers' School and Tokyo Imperial University, and for a time worked at the Ministry of Finance. His first full length novel, Confessions of a Mask, appeared in 1949, and since then he published over a dozen novels, almost all of which were translated into English and other languages during his lifetime. They include: Thirst for Love; Forbidden Colors; Death in Midsummer; The Sound of Waves; The Temple of the Golden Pavilion; After the Banquet; The Sailor WhoFell from Grace with the Sea; and Spring Snow. Mishima's reverence for the Japanese martial arts led him to take up Kendo (a type of fencing, with wooden swords) and Karate, as well as body-building, and by 1968 he had become a Kendo master of the fifth-dan. He also organized a "private army" called the Shield Society, and in November 1970 he and his group forced their way into a Self-Defense Force headquarters in Tokyo, where Mishima, after reading out a proclamation, committed ritual suicide with a young follower in the commanding officer's room. On the morning of his death, the last volume of Mishima's tetralogy, The Sea of Fertility (The Spring Snow, Runaway Horses, The Temple of Dawn, The Decay of the Angel) was delivered to his publisher. He is survived by his wife and two children. The Translator, JOHN BESTER, born and educated in England, is one of the foremost translators of Japanese fiction. Among his translations are Masuji Ibuse's Black Rain, Kenzaburo Oe's The Silent Cry, Fumiko Enchi's The Waiting Years, and Junnosuke Yoshiyuki's The Dark Room. He received the 1990 Noma Award for the Translation.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
Of late, I have come to sense within myself an accumulation of all kinds of things that cannot find adequate expression via an objective artistic form such as the novel. Read the first page
Front Cover | Copyright | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Top Customer Reviews
Shut off from the sun as a child and living within his mind locked away in Grandmothers quarters, he overturns his childhood later in life through developing his musculature and then gaining sight of nature. This is his rebellion, in trying to shake of his childhood effects.
The problem lies in the death wish, he carried inside. This also becomes linked to these events. This book is one big slow suicide note, as he described the apple being sliced and the piercings of Saint Sebastian capturing his young imagination. To die young is deemed noble and in the book he appears terrified of old age. Perhaps seeing his Grandmother collapse before him was the gretest impact. This demarcated his early desire to halt himself beforehand. Everything in his life seemed marked in stages, killing himself after he finished his final book, a minutae of preprogramming for maximum effect. Mishima loved the grand statement in life, whilst his prose is poetically frozen.
Alternatively this book is a plea for help as he faced an overwhelming sense of despair, the desire to find meaning whilst having the feeling of being eaten by ants, the words of his chilhood, because he could not sense his body. He describes an alienated man trying to find his contours.Read more ›
Reading this book it is very clear that he was a very disturbed man with a lot of issues that he tried to sort out but not always successfully. People that have read books like "The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima" (highly recommended) will find "Sun and Steal" to be the perfect compliment and to give that extra bit of information that you do not get from the other book.
I would recommend this book to people that can appreciate Mishima's unique stile or writing and can understand the self-loathing he went through during the span of his short but creative life.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
From the outset, it is clear that Mishima advocated an "active" creativity and that he held in contempt those who used words to convey experiences yet denied their own heroic capabilities.
For Mishima, art, action and creativity had to embrace the tragic. To be a hero meant sacrifice of the highest order and suffering life's strangest and most difficult problems. "He who dabbles in words can create tragedy, wrote Mishima, "but cannot participate in it."
Mishima begins Sun and Steel by telling us that, for much of his life, he held an unnatural view of the world, due to the fact that his awareness of words preceded his awareness of his body. This isolated him, he says, and he spent much time at his bedroom window simply watching the world go by.
"Words," says Mishima, "are a medium that reduces the world to an abstraction...and in their power to corrode reality inevitably lurks the danger that the words will be corroded, too."
Mishima explains how he attempted to overcome this "corrosive function of words" with physical discipline of the body. Because his early years were suffused with words, as an adult, he seeks balance in life with a preoccupation with the physical. His body, he says, came to be a metaphor of the human condition and allowed him to directly experience the tragic in life.
Life, says, Mishima, can be intellectualized, but the only thing that imposes dignity on life is the element of mortality that lies within. Here we have the key to both Mishima's writing and his own life and death.
As Mishima continues to impose a rigorous discipline over both his mind and body, he comes to realize that the mind and body are truly inseparable. "I was driven to the conclusion that the 'I' in question corresponded precisely with that physical space that I occupied."
In taking up the practice of Kendo, Mishima comes to the realization that he desires neither victory nor defeat unless he also has conflict. The battle is emphasized, not the goal.
Anyone can conquer what lies beneath him, says Mishima, and it is the process of overcoming higher and higher obstacles that brings one into the sphere of the tragic.
Mishima finally comes to the conclusion that, "The most appropriate type of daily life...was a day-to-day world destruction." Mishima had thus become a nihilist, a hero who could look death in the eye and choose to act anyway.
Although seemingly severe and extreme in outlook, Sun and Steel reveals Mishima to be a man who advocated moderation instead. His desire to create is balanced with a desire to nothingness; he lives his life in an area that is inaccessible to words or action alone.
Those who have read Mishima's fiction and found it inaccessible will benefit greatly by reading Sun and Steel. Those who have read and enjoyed his words will, with Sun and Steel, arrive at a deeper and fuller understanding of this complex and fascinating man.
Had we only been able to read these words prior to November 1970, we might have been able to both understand and appreciate the circumstances surrounding Mixhima's tragically heroic death. It is still not too late.
He writes about the relation between world and word, body and mind or spirit. But to me, the most interesting aspect of this book, and Mishima's whole outlook is something that's often overlooked. It is this, he could not stand ugliness. He shrank from (his own perception of) ugliness as we would from a rabid rat. So then, how did he define beauty and ugliness? You may call it shallow but no matter, this book makes no apologies: beauty or ugliness lie in physical appearance, body and face.
To most of us there are many kinds of beauty, and maybe that multi-perception keeps us going - we see or imagine the beauty of inner virtue, selfless giving, artistic projection, humility or humor and so on. A wide expansive definition.
But there's room on your bookshelf for somebody who takes an uncompromising view: beauty is the beauty of your body and your appearance. While it can be crafted and guided by external method (who knows what Mishima would have thought of the cosmetic surgery craze now sweeping China), ultimately physical beauty to him is the only important projection of the soul.
The insanely monomaniacal American football coach Vince Lombardi once said "Winning isn't everything - it's the only thing". This book, despite all its meandering and subtle threads, is really saying just that, about beauty - it's the only thing. And Mishima, at mid-life, was losing all illusions about attaining or retaining any personal beauty.
Of course what sheds the interesting backlight on this book for most readers is Mishima's dramatic seppuku at Ichigaya Japan self-defense force headquarters. (Reminds me of the wit who stated, when informed of Sylvia Plath's suicide, "Good career move".) People read this book to try to unravel the mystery of it.
But in light of what I've said above, about beauty and Mishima's uniquely narrow definition of it, this book leaves no mystery to his action. Just as Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray slashed the ugliness accumulated on his horribly aging portrait, Mishima, lacking a magic painting, did just the same to his own body - sentenced it to death for the crimes of aging and ugliness.
It is entirely summed up by the following single line from 'Sun and Steel':
"I had already lost the morning face that belongs to youth alone."
To me this is an explanation of something even Mishima doesnt understand. More of a catharsis of the self than a clearly defined work.
Many of the descriptions of Mishima's internal evaluations sound almost as if he was dealing with aspects of Borderline Personality Disorder. Which would make his style of death even more ironic and symbolic.
Don't get me wrong, this is true Mishima -- makes us think and examine ourselves even as he talks of himself.
Any work by Mishima is worth reading and adding to your collection. It took me years to find a copy, now it is available for everyone -- I wouldn't hesitate to buy or read.
Of course, this is assuming the book accurately reflects the author's views. If you have read Mishima biographies such as Stokes' "Life and Death of Yukio Mishima" you might agree that "Sun and Steel" is a true reflection of the author's feelings. Otherwise, you might not have a good frame of reference.
It's a good idea not to make this the first of Mishima's works that you read (the aforementioned biography and "Confessions of A Mask" are suitable prerequisites). However, it is an interesting work in its own right.
My main reason for not giving this book 5 stars is that I was longing for more depth into his character than could be provided in so short a work; but maybe that's just because of my fascination with the author's life.