review ☆ 天人五衰 Tennin Gosui

Yukio Mishima ↠ 5 Free read

D 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 A great end How Not to F*** Them Up 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 Darkland yet watches him waiting A great end

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天人五衰 Tennin Gosui

As the dramatic climax of The Sea of Fertility 'The Decay of the Angel' brings together the dominant themes of the three previous novels the meaning and decay of Japan's courtly tradition and samurai ideal; the essence and value of Buddhist philoso A strange s

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Phy and aesthetics; and underlying all Mishima's apocalyptic vision of the modern era which saw the dissolution of the moral and cultural forces that throughout the ages nourished a people and a world The time is the late 1960s Honda now an aged an To be as ho


10 thoughts on “天人五衰 Tennin Gosui

  1. says:

    This is the fourth and final volume in Mishima’s tetralogy The Sea of Fertility 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 20 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 reincarnatedBut unlike in the other volumes the boy in The Decay of the Angel sets out to do evil – thus the ‘decay’ in the title “I vow it that when I am twenty I will cast Father into hell I must start making plans” The boy is attached to an ugly obese mentally ill young woman whom he eventually marries 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 mistressesAlthough you can pick up most of the back story in context it really helps to have to have read the whole series in seuence For those who want to read this book but have not read the preceding volumes here are brief summaries for each bookSpoiler for the first volume Spring Snow view spoilerThe 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 But his feelings toward her are on again off again; he mistreats her and pretends he doesn’t care for her Finally she gives up on him and becomes engaged to a son of a noble family actually a member of the Emperor’s household At this point she’s 21; he’s 19 and after the engagement has been approved by the Emperor himself finally he decides he loves her and begins to pursue her They begin a sexual relationship and she becomes pregnant If word of any of this gets out it would be the euivalent of a national scandal When the boy’s father learns what is going on after spending his whole life ass kissing the emperor and the nobles to say he is apoplectic is putting it mildly Never having lifted a hand to his son before he beats him with a pool cue She enters a convent and the son later dies of a disease hide spoiler


  2. says:

    A strange swift landing to the Sea of Fertility tetralogy and a book that can't help but be altered by the fact that Mishima's strange ritualistic suicide occurred the day after he handed it in on the date on the last page of the mansucript There is a lot to like in this volume which cleverly inverts the reincarnations of Kiyoaki by uestioning whether this particular rendition a sociopathic ship watcher named Tōru Yasunaga a character w virtually no inner life is a complex imposter The middle of the book Toru's journal is an interesting return to the first book set in 1970s Japan as the lead Honda battles old age But there are shortcomings here the book moves too fast accepting its strangeness as a matter of course and cutting short the intriguing push and pull between Honda and his adopted son who have so much in common It's almost as if Mishima himself is in dread of his aged narrator whose gradual disintegration is treated rather grotesuely The ending however is excellent something we've waited for for 4 booksfor 60 years of plotAs an overall project The Sea of Fertility is fascinating to consider flawed weird autobiographical ambitious I enjoyed my journey through its lush barren pages


  3. says:

    What’s this one about do you suppose? There is in all translations of Mishima’s work I have read—by a host of translators—a fundamental woodeness or clunkiness of description especially in his philosophical flights In Japan he is often referred to as a stylist with a penchant for archaic Japanese word forms So it could be that Mishima’s use of archaisms means he doesn’t translate well into English I don’t know 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 The novel’s seems to be all surface Why is there mention of evil out of the blue like that? What’s evil? I'd like to be shown Tōru's evil and not simply be told about it It would do wonders for the suspense Yet the motivations are often completely opaue Except at the end there is little or no insight into character Tōru is without parentage No past for him is ever given He lives alone without friends motivated like most Mishima protagonists entirely by a mix of naïveté and cryptic self inuiry The day after Mishima finished this MS he committed suicide He was 45 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


  4. says:

    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 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 are none There is no special right to happiness and none to unhappiness 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 We should all by now have learned the hard lesson that there are no ‘elect’ Like a knife So the last volume of The Sea of Fertility tetralogy It tells the story of an elderly Honda and Tōru a 16 year old he adopts after noticing that the boy had a certain characteristic that led the old man to believe he was in the presence of Kiyoaki’s third reincarnation the protagonist of Spring Snow the first volume which despite my previous doubts is still my favorite of the series This book is far from mediocrity however I can’t say even while having the same rating that it matches the first installment’s excellence I have to admit that I suffered I was expecting repulsion mostly I didn’t imagine I was going to be this disoriented fluctuating between annoyance and boredom 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 I can’t describe the feeling when such situations stop being fiction In any case Honda’s vulnerability made me forget from time to time the disgust I felt in The Temple of Dawn the previous volume My ultimate cause of suffering was the adopted son who symbolized the vastly unoriginal juxtaposition of external beauty and internal ugliness Clichéd to the point of boredom if this isn’t your first novel of the kind As I told someone before I think I reached the limit and can’t tolerate stories involving handsome and aloof boysmen who think girlswomen are shallow and fairly unnecessary if it weren’t for lust Aside from that Tōru is the embodiment of evil In that sense the story felt forced and rushed It took forever to start and then uite 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 conclusionHaving 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 search for beauty – something that never leaves the sphere of the flesh a word the author loves as well as self respect – still continues and everything that interferes with the narrator’s visions of what’s pure and beauteous is severely ridiculed 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 decayThis book was meandering toward the 3 star realm but the last few chapters struck a chord The following uote is part of one brutal rebuke The little cloud of evil had found an implacable opponent All puffed up by illusions born of abstract concepts you strut about as the master of a destiny even though you have none of the ualifications 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 heartHonestly there was nothing special about the previous 'reincarnations' either as they were all brimming with selfishness the most ordinary of ualities From a practical point of view humanity is defined by a self absorbed completely narcissistic nature; nothing commonplace A trite old joke with an air of uniueness with delusions of grandeur The truly remarkable is the opposite; kindness empathy altruistic acts amid so much filthApril 2 18 Later on my blog Note to self edit The Sea of FertilitySpring SnowRunaway HorsesThe Temple of Dawn


  5. says:

    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 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? with How can I make this as tedious as possible?Where has Honda come to then? He was first the friend of Kiyoaki Matsugae then the lawyer of Isao Iinuma and finally the friendvoyeur of Ying Chan 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 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 jobThe 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 meMemory is like a phantom mirror It sometimes shows things too distant to be seen and sometimes it shows them as if they were hereHas this all then been but a dream? 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 but let's be honest with ourselves here 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


  6. says:

    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 itselfAs an admirer of Yukio Mishima this book meant much 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 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


  7. says:

    A great ending to a great tetralogy the ending is drilled in my memory like a painting I can see Honda on his cane uestioning his life and Satoko guided by her assistant gazing at the garden a place that had no memories as Honda said with the sunlight streaming on the trees


  8. says:

    Much like listening to Joy Division's Closer there's an inescapable feeling of finality when reading the last novel of the uartet that goes beyond simply it being the last novel If you're at all interested in Mishima or the uartet 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 hauntingNot surprisingly the notion of mortality creeps up than once in the course of the slimmest of the four novels although the uartet as a whole has been obsessed with the idea of growing older and losing the fire of youth it seems 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 uite 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 timeThis 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 uickly 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 friendIts 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 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 truthIn 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 uartet 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


  9. says:

    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 to come


  10. says:

    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 unualified 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 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 innovationThe 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 sunThis was Mishima's last work before his suicide and this story takes on greater significance once you know about what he was thinking or rather obsessing over during this point in his life 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 ualities 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 I don't believe Mishima intended this to be poetical Only a moment really has passed Time is yet another illusion a figment we insist uponOnce 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 While this may sound like an existential crisis ending with what seems like a it was all a dream trope conclusion it becomes than that when you consider Mishima's intense focus on Buddhist doctrines throughout the Sea of Fertility 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 that comes together for a time and later disintegrates These phenomena are reborn again and again but what is reborn is not you and not another Realizing this truth is a step on the path to Enlightenment because it frees you from attachment 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 uest for some kind of permanence only to realize at the end that nothing is permanent 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?


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