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Sun and Steel
Synopses & Reviews
In this fascinating document, one of Japan's best known-and controversial-writers created what might be termed a new literary form. It is new because it combines elements of many existing types of writing, yet in the end fits into none of them.
At one level, it may be read as an account of how a puny, bookish boy discovered the importance of his own physical being; the "sun and steel" of the title are themselves symbols respectively of the cult of the open air and the weights used in bodybuilding. At another level, it is a discussion by a major novelist of the relation between action and art, and his own highly polished art in particular. More personally, it is an account of one individual's search for identity and self-integration. Or again, the work could be seen as a demonstration of how an intensely individual preoccupation can be developed into a profound philosophy of life.
All these elements are woven together by Mishima's complex yet polished and supple style. The confession and the self-analysis, the philosophy and the poetry combine in the end to create something that is in itself perfect and self-sufficient. It is a piece of literature that is as carefully fashioned as Mishima's novels, and at the same time provides an indispensable key to the understanding of them as art.
The road Mishima took to salvation is a highly personal one. Yet here, ultimately, one detects the unmistakable tones of a self transcending the particular and attaining to a poetic vision of the universal. The book is therefore a moving document, and is highly significant as a pointer to the future development of one of the most interesting novelists of modern times.
This is the personal testament of Japan's greatest novelist, written shorty before his public suicide in 1970. Through Mishima's finely wrought and emphatic prose, the mind and motivation behind his agonized search for personal identity is revealed.
Part autobiography and part reflections on his personal search for identity, Sun and Steel provides a fascinating insight into the complex mind of this spectacularly gifted author. In it Mishima traces his tortuous path from a sensitive, introverted childhood to creative maturity as acclaimed novelist, playwright and self-proclaimed conscience of postwar Japan. A powerful work of art in itself, Sun and Steel also provides a key to understanding his other works.
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 Who Fell 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.
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