Thursday, December 7, 2006

Giuseppe Manzzini

Love your country. Your country is the land where your parents sleep, where is spoken that language in which the chosen of your heart, blushing, whispered the first word of love; it is the home that God has given you that by striving to perfect yourselves therein you may prepare to ascend to him.

Title: Patriotism
Author: Yukio Mishima
Translated: Geoffrey W. Sargent
Genre: Fiction, Japanese

ISBN: 9780811213127
# of Pages: 57
Published: 1966; 1995 by New Directions Publishing

Began & Finished Reading: November 30th, 2006

Skimming the aisles of Paragraph bookstore, I saw this book and said, " Shit! I have to buy it." 'Shit' because it meant another 12$ CAN+ tax in the hole and 'have to' because a) it's Mishima b) its SOOO not usual to be able to find a copy in a local bookstore and c) it was calling my name so softly, "Nessssssssssssa. NesssssSSSSsssssa." Who could possibly resist?

The Biz: A young couple has commited ritual suicude - seppuku - in their home. The community speaks of them with admiration and heroism. Thus we enter into their final hours together where they enjoy a small meal, make passionate love and say their farewells.

Comments: The ' oddest' factor in this piece is the intence emotions unlike most other Japanese literature that have read to date. Is it crazy that throughout I had a nagging feeling that Mishima was slightly mocking Japan? Is it crazy that he thought not that death and suicide for one's country is overrated but the drama associated to it is? The entire text spoke of a sweetness to life one would feel upon deciding that their time of death was near. The entire theme was to me between admiration for their courage and frustration for their foolishness. At the age of 45, Mishima commited seppuku. Did he die because he was propelled by a love for his nation or because of the delights he describes in this text of being surrounded by the people and enviroment of your choice?

Recommend To: this short text makes it ideal to read and discuss though one would need to have some knowledge of Tokugawa to WWII history in their back pocket to understand the text and not have a cultural bias. Many have accused the Japanese of having a loose and carefree idea concerning death but this is a cultural misconception. In fact, they see death as apart of life - which it is - not distant in the future but ever present. Death is the great equalizer but the manner in which we die can mean as much as an entire life. In the case of the couple in question it seems that they died because for each, their life's actions would have little value in comparison to what they were capable of doing with their death. Really, it requires someone who has a little more insight on the Japaneseness of things which again has me wondering if Mishima intended this for a Western or Eastern audiance or was simply indulging a whim by writing this.

Best Part: I would have to say that it was the sex scene! For a gay guy, Mishima had heterosexual sex down pat. Hats off. It was steamy and accented by the death to come, with a Romeo and Juliett feel to it to be sure.

Worst Part: Not necessarily the worst but it made you cringe was the scene where the wife is witnessing the death of her husband. This goes wayyyy beyond blood and guts guys.

Cool Fact: Mishima was about to be nominated (and garanteed) to win the Nobel Prize but he spoke with the councel and advised them that they would prefer that they pass the honour to his senseii, Kawabata the author of Snow Country and Master of Go.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I discovered Mishima with "Spring Snow". A references to "Patriotism" can be found in the film "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence". Check out the song titles to that movie as well. They refer to some of his earlier works.

nessie said...

wow thanks for that! I will check it out.

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