A band of savage 13-year-old boys reject the adult world as illusory, hypocritical, and sentimental, and train themselves in a brutal callousness they call 'objectivity'. When the mother of one of them begins an affair with a ship's officer, he and his friends idealise the man at first; but it is not long before they conclude that he is in fact soft and romantic. They regard this disallusionment as an act of betrayal on his part - and the retribution is deliberate and horrifying.
©1965 Copyright 1965 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright renewed 1993 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Originally published in Japanese as Gogo No Eiko by Kodansha in 1963. (P)2010 Audible, Inc
"Mishima's greatest novel, and one of the greatest of the past century." (The Times)
"Coolly exact with his characters and their honourable motives. His aim is to make the destruction of the sailor by his love seem as inevitable as the ocean." (Guardian)
"Told with Mishima's fierce attention to naturalistic detail, the grisly tale becomes painfully convincing and yields a richness of psychological and mythic truth." (Sunday Times)
I can only agree with a previous reviewer. The novel itself is very moving and exquisitely done. It has a fluid, effortless flow, and at the same time is unrelentingly brutal (and really not for the faint of heart). In some aspects it reminded me of "The Lord of the Flies", of "Crime and Punishment" and Sartre's "The Nausea". In one of the strongest scenes in the book, a group of boys kill and "dissect" a stray kitten in order to train themselves in "perfect lack of feeling" -- I had a very hard time listening to this. But the most striking thing is the seeming ease with which the writing shifts between points of view, between past and present, between events and reminiscences. It could have been an outstanding audiobook.
But unfortunately it isn't, and that is due to the reader. It's a shame, because Brian Nishii reads very clearly and pronounces all the Japanese names correctly. But for some reason he almost always seems to emphasize the wrong part of the sentence. It's as if he reads every sentence separately, with no notion of context. In the end, it was possible to follow and enjoy the writing, but I had to overcome the flaws in the narration to do that. And that's the exact opposite of what an audiobook narrator should do.
Bottom line: recommended, but proceed with caution.
Mishima's writing is so expertly precise that it could be compared to the craftsmanship of a master watch maker. Mishima leads us like clock work to the ultimate unfolding of his story but fooling us on the way with poetic and literary meanderings. Like no other writer, he pulls us inside the characters' heads and their thinking. Like no other writer, he manages to elevate the banal and the routine of daily lives into more complex perspectives. It's a beautifully written book.
Hypnotic, scary. The language is beautiful, the story sharply defined, the message unnerving. Probably worth a reread or two
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