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Tokyo, 1912. The closed world of the ancient aristocracy is being breached for the first time by outsiders - rich provincial familes, a new and powerful political and social elite. Kiyoaki has been raised among the elegant Ayakura family - members of the waning aristocracy - but he is not one of them. Coming of age, he is caught up in the tensions between old and new, and his feelings for the exquisite, spirited Satoko, observed from the sidelines by his devoted friend Honda. When Satoko is engaged to a royal prince, Kiyoaki realises the magnitude of his passion.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099282990
ISBN-10: 0099282992
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 25mm)
Pages: 400
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 11-Mar-1999
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


US Kirkus Review » This is the first of four correlative books delivered to his publisher before Mishima's striking suicide, far more gravid with various transcultural and political and psychic implications than the young man's anticipation here of a "graceful death - as a richly patterned kimono, thrown carelessly across a polished table." But then this is also much more overt and less arcane than any of the earlier Mishima novels with their stylized, ritualized schema; it is actually a very traditional work taking place in a more traditional time (1912) - a novel of a great house in the grand style albeit a westernized one (English china, table manners and billiards) which would cause some of the divisiveness in the later Mishima. Against this formal, elegant background, Kiyoaki, of an old samurai family (but not so old as that of the young woman with whom he falls in love - acknowledged by 27 generations of the Imperial family) grows up; Kiyoaki will represent the perfect synthesis between the aristocratic and the military but somehow he is unequal to his destiny. His is a contrary and fretful sensibility, diffident and dreamy, and during his late adolescent years he is not able to commit himself to Satoko, an ivory doll beauty. It will be his more composed and rationalistic friend Honda who will explain his conflict - again the conflict of the book; now that the era of glorious wars have ended, the young face a still more difficult "war of emotion." During this time of irresolution, Satoko is chosen by the Imperial family to marry a Prince: this decision sharpens Kiyoaki's romantic drive toward her; they meet furtively; she becomes pregnant and finally gets herself to a nunnery. Mishima's novel begins slowly but picks up momentum in the second half along with episodes of sly humor as well as the tragedy of its finale. Mishima said of it "I have put into it everything I have felt and thought about life and this world." Thus if he appears, as he always has, in the guise of his central character, it is on more explicit, representational terms than he has hitherto chosen. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Yukio Mishima

Yukio Mishima was born into a samurai family and imbued with the code of complete control over mind and body, and loyalty to the Emperor - the same code that produced the austerity and self-sacrifice of Zen. He wrote countless stories and thirty-three plays, in some of which he performed. Several films have been made from his novels, including The Sound of Waves, Enjo which was based on The Temple of the Golden Pavilion and The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea. Among his other works are the novels Confessions of a Mask and Thirst for Love and the short story collections Death in Midsummer and Acts of Worship. The Sea of Fertility tetralogy, however, is his masterpiece. After Mishima conceived the idea of The Sea of Fertility in 1964, he frequently said he would die when it was completed. On 25 November 1970, the day he completed The Decay of the Angel, the last novel of the cycle, Mishima committed seppuku (ritual suicide) at the age of forty-five.

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