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Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Edward G. Seidensticker Translator. The dramatic climax of The Sea of Fertility tetraology takes place in 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. Get A Copy.
Paperback , Reprint , pages. Published January 2nd by Vintage first published November More Details Original Title. The Sea of Fertility 4. Shigekuni Honda. Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Decay of the Angel , please sign up. Will this book make sense to me if I haven't read any of the other books in the tetralogy?
I'm about 30 pages in and I haven't encountered anything that was too difficult to understand, but I don't want to waste my time and keep reading if by the end of the book i'm completely lost. Gene Pozniak I just finished it, and to my horror, the ending makes no sense if you haven't read all 3 previous books. I've only read 2 and 3.
So now I'm reading …more I just finished it, and to my horror, the ending makes no sense if you haven't read all 3 previous books. So now I'm reading Spring Snow. See 1 question about The Decay of the Angel…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Sep 11, Jim Fonseca rated it really liked it Shelves: japanese-authors. Class divisions and changing values in Japan due to western influence are major themes.
Another theme all the way through the series is reincarnation. In Decay of the Angel, the reincarnated spirit is an orphan. He has a job helping ships in port navigate to their docks. Obviously it was pre-ordained that Honda finds him since he encounters him by simply wandering around the port. Honda, the lawyer, who is another main character through the four volumes. He is now 76 years old but he adopts the young boy.
He does this even though, if the pattern holds, he knows the boy will die at age A sub-theme tied in with the reincarnation is how Honda, originally an associate justice in the national courts, is initially all into rationalism and logic. But when he meets the young boy gang leader in volume two, Runaway Horses, he notices three moles on his body identical to his deceased friend from years ago. Despite his rationality, he comes to believe the young boy is his old friend reincarnated. I must start making plans. His evil starts out small, getting his tutor dismissed, but graduates to where he terrorizes his adoptive father by striking him with a poker.
He makes his four maids his mistresses. Although you can pick up most of the back story in context, it really helps to have to have read the whole series in sequence. For those who want to read this book but have not read the preceding volumes, here are brief summaries for each book: Spoiler for the first volume, Spring Snow: view spoiler [The plot revolves around a love story between a boy and the daughter of the neighboring household. They have known each other all their lives and she has loved him since they were children.
They begin a sexual relationship and she becomes pregnant. If word of any of this gets out, it would be the equivalent of a national scandal! Never having lifted a hand to his son before, he beats him with a pool cue.
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She enters a convent and the son later dies of a disease. They are fiercely anti-western and anti-capitalist. The boys hatch a plan to assassinate the upper echelons of the capitalist leadership and then kill themselves by seppuku , ritual suicide. But their plotting is betrayed to the police. Honda, their lawyer gets them off, but the boy still kills one of richest men in Japan and then commits ritual suicide. The young woman is kept isolated because she is considered mentally disturbed because she talks of having lived other lives in Japan.
And for those who follow these things, it is actually common for individuals who claim to be reincarnated to lose those memories of past lives as they leave childhood. He committed ritual suicide the same day he delivered this book to his publisher. His best-known work is this tetralogy, The Sea of Fertility. I thought the whole series excellent, with the first volume, Spring Snow, the best. Photo of Japanese a port in the 's from i.
View all 10 comments. Jim Fonseca Bob wrote: "Sorry, Jim, in additionafter thinking about it some morethe whole work hits you at so many levels, but the ending is a most powerful Bob wrote: "Sorry, Jim, in additionafter thinking about it some morethe whole work hits you at so many levels, but the ending is a most powerful way of illustrating "maya", the Hindu-Buddhist concept of What you write is a good interpretation. And much more meaningful than that the nun has Alzheimer's!
The Decay Of The Angel by Yukio Mishima - Penguin Books Australia
Also the contrast between the two: that she has forgotten it and he has spent his entire life in pursuit of this 'mystery. Bob Newman Yes, the contrast is important as well. It adds to the theme because the question remains Was his life meaningless? And wh Yes, the contrast is important as well. And what about Mishima's view of his own life?
In Japan he is often referred to as a stylist with a penchant for archaic Japanese word forms. 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. Why is there mention of evil out of the blue like that? 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. No past for him is ever given. The day after Mishima finished this MS he committed suicide. He was 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. View all 6 comments. 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 who more than 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 is no special right to happiness and none to unhappiness. There is no tragedy and there i Do you think that your hopes and those of someone else coincide, that your hopes can be smoothly realized for you by someone else?
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. So… the last volume of The Sea of Fertility tetralogy. I have to admit that I suffered. I was expecting repulsion, mostly. 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.source link
The Decay of the Angel (Sea of Fertility #4)
My ultimate cause of suffering was the adopted son, who symbolized the vastly unoriginal juxtaposition of external beauty and internal ugliness. 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 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. 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; nothing more commonplace. 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. Note to self: edit.
View all 19 comments. Apr 03, Matthew rated it it was amazing. 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. 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?
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 nothing more than 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. It sometimes shows things too distant to be seen, and sometimes it shows them as if they were here. 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 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.
View 1 comment. 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 much more to 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.
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. Feb 07, Michael Battaglia rated it it was amazing. 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 up more than 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 seems more poignant 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 spend more time 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.
Jan 17, Hadrian rated it it was amazing Shelves: japan , favorites , fiction. Final volume of Sea of Fertility tetralogy. I cannot say anything more. 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. 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?
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. 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. 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.
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. These phenomena are "reborn" again and again, but what is reborn is "not you and not another. 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.
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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? Sep 05, Sarah Magdalene rated it really liked it.
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. 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. Not sure how I liked this ending.
I loved the parts about the sea, but I was expecting a different ending. Keep in mind he finished this book the day before he killed himself. In my opinion, that makes this book even harder to rate. Do not resist, to fight is futile, decay always prevails. Jan 26, Christopher rated it it was amazing.
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It is also the last book he wrote. On November 25, he sent the manuscript off to the publisher, then went to incite the soldiers of Japan's military headquarters to a coup d'etat. When he failed, he committed seppuku. As might be expected, The Decay of the Angel contains much that that relates to Mishima's dissatisfaction with life, and the cosmic nihilism that he promised would be the ultimate theme of the tetralogy comes to the forefront. The ending is also possibly the most shocking in all of literature.
The year is now , and Shikeguni Honda adopts a young orphan named Toru, who he believes is the third successive reincarnation of Kiyoaki. The decay present throughout the book is especially present in Honda, who we meet as as a man of seventy-six and who reaches eighty-one by the novel's end. His physical health, memory, and wife are gone. He keeps company with Keiko, the former neighbour whose secret formed the climax of The Temple of Dawn , and they talk inanely about senility and medical ailments.
But it's also present in Toru who, although young, possesses none of the beauty of Kiyoaki, the dedication of Isao, or the allure of Ying Chan. In fact, Toru is pure evil, and the bulk of the novel is his plot to destroy his adoptive father. The political commentary here is much more subtle than I expected it to be, considering that Mishima ended his life as a nationalist.
Japan is plagued by a loss of its own traditions--Keiko shows interest in Japanese culture, but Honda remarks that she treats it as a hobby instead of authentically living it. The country is overrun with Coca-Cola ads and student radicals. But all in all, it is the mind of Honda that is the important setting, not the country around him. The lectures on transmigration and the self which formed such a large part of The Temple of Dawn are there for a reason, and what Mishima does with the no-self philosophy of Buddhism is awesome.
If you've read one or more of the earlier volumes and are uncertain about pressing on, I exhort you to make it through this one. Looking back on the cycle, I admire its clever design, where the first two novels set a precedent and the second two undo it, and the general arc where we track Honda from youth to senescence, and Kiyoaki from a praise-worthy youth to despicable brat is skillfully done. The series as a whole is brilliant, read it all. Apr 17, David rated it it was amazing Shelves: big-red-circle. This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers.
To view it, click here. Honda octogenarian sex offender now thinks that Kiyoaki beautiful lover , Isao beautiful fighter and Ying Chan beautiful lesbian have been distilled into something evil and not particularly beautiful: Toru. It's unclear why, but Toru seeks a gruesome revenge on Honda and whilst his machinations seem successful, he's not very good at disguising them from Honda. Frustrated, he resorts to violence and beats Honda with a poker.
Betrayed, destroyed and lonely, Honda makes the journey to Satoko Honda octogenarian sex offender now thinks that Kiyoaki beautiful lover , Isao beautiful fighter and Ying Chan beautiful lesbian have been distilled into something evil and not particularly beautiful: Toru. Betrayed, destroyed and lonely, Honda makes the journey to Satoko for the conversation they could have had 60 years ago. Mishima starts explaining crucial events in summary and skipping great chunks of time something I'd loved him to have done with the first part of "The Temple of Dawn".
Toru's attack on Honda, the fate of the dream book, the attempted suicide and Honda and Keiko's argument are all passed off in a couple of sentences. It felt, at times, that Mishima was skipping to the end. But it also worked to signify that this incarnation, Toru, lacked the substance and dignity of the others. I loved Keiko's speech at Christmas dinner, stripping Toru of his pretentions.
Unwittingly demonstrating that, through her relationship with Ying Chan, she knows that Toru is no Kiyoaki or Isao: "There is nothing in the least special about you. I guarantee you a long life. You have not been chosen by the gods, you will never be at one with your acts, you do not have in you the green light to flash like young lightening with the speed of the gods and destroy yourself. All you have is a certain premature senility.
Your life will be suited for coupon-clipping. Nothing more. View 2 comments. May 19, Jeremy rated it it was amazing Shelves: japanese-literature. This starts off kind of slow, and Mishima spends a lot of time boggled down with bleak, repetitious descriptions of Toru's ship-watching job juxtaposed with Honda as he enters old age. Chrome On the Control button top right of browser , select Settings from dropdown.
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