I don't know whether to mark this book as read. And this is a dilemma I repeatedly suffer with short story collections. I have already read from it th...moreI don't know whether to mark this book as read. And this is a dilemma I repeatedly suffer with short story collections. I have already read from it the stories I wanted to. I doubt if I will pick it again, but at the same time, I would like to remember those few stories. The powerful impact of Death in midsummer or the poetic nature of the suicide in Patriotism. I wonder if writing so beautifully about suicide is what drew Mishima to the romanticism of killing oneself.
My favourite was Death in midsummer - it kept drawing me back to one of Resnais' films : Hiroshima mon amour, where a woman is afraid to fall in love and be happy because it would mean forgetting the tragedy of Hiroshima - it's not the actual feeling of tragedy, but an imposed guilt of tragedy that keeps her at it. This is the case too in Mishima's story where a mother is afraid to forget the tragedy of a triple death, and puzzled about why such a magnanimous tragedy did not lead to a madness, to suicide? She imposes it on herself to keep the memory and the guilt alive, and that's what makes her life a restrained expression of guilt.(less)
This collection is worth picking up just for the first story: To kill a child. It's such a small piece, and impactful because of its brevity. It gives...moreThis collection is worth picking up just for the first story: To kill a child. It's such a small piece, and impactful because of its brevity. It gives a sense of futility, and more than a mild regret for a life which is lost because of so many small aberrations stacked up against it. (less)
This small book reads like a collection of traveler's notes. He dives into a mystic culture which has woven the supernatural into its system of belief...moreThis small book reads like a collection of traveler's notes. He dives into a mystic culture which has woven the supernatural into its system of beliefs. The collection of poetry and proverbs in the middle of the book make for most interesting reading. How Japanese capture profound longing and beauty in 13 words always impresses me deeply.(less)
The collection is a gem. I have read only about 4-5 stories yet, but they have been very impressive. Unlike the typical short story there is no build-...moreThe collection is a gem. I have read only about 4-5 stories yet, but they have been very impressive. Unlike the typical short story there is no build-up to the 'element of surprise' here but a simplistic narration of an individual's adjustments with personal and social demands.
The book is a compilation of stories from her earlier works - Soft voice of the serpent and Livingstone's Companion. All the stories are set in South Africa, and convey its various moods; of neglect, decay, liberalism, materialism and alienation. I particularly loved the title story Why haven't you written, where an engineer who regularly travels on work falls in love with another woman on these travels, and in a drunken reverie writes a letter to his wife telling her about the affair.
Because so long as I accept that you are a good wife, how can I find the guts to do it? I can go on being the same thing - your opposite number, the good husband, hoping for a better position and more money for us all, coming on these bloody dreary trips every winter. But it's through subjecting myself to all this, putting up with what we think of as these partings for the sake of my work, that I have come to understand that they are not partings at all. They are nothing like partings. Do you undertand?
There is so much tentativeness in these words - a longing to have something more passionate than the decorative marriage, and yet a guilt of infidelity to a good wife. Through his return, he regrets the letter, and since there is a snow blizard and a postal strike, he is not sure if the letter has reached his wife. Back at home, he obviously wants to leave things as they are without stirring a storm in his life, and is constantly worried about the arrival of this letter. His dilemma has been well captured in words, with a startling intensity.
From the soft voice of the serpent, I quite liked the two stories: Talisman and The Defeated so far. The former is another variation on the theme of infidelity, where a bored wife starts an affair with an ex boyfriend, walking on the 'tightrope' between the security of the marital and the excitement of the extra-marital, without lending a thought to possible consequences. The latter is a story about an immigrant family, who struggle to give a better life to their daughter. The story describes their colorful and difficult life and gradually a distancing from the daughter who finds comfort in more material pursuits.(less)
Great stories. Specially the Admiralty Spire, which was hilarious and encompassed many ideas. Also loved Signs & Symbols, which is an open-ended s...moreGreat stories. Specially the Admiralty Spire, which was hilarious and encompassed many ideas. Also loved Signs & Symbols, which is an open-ended story demanding completion by the reader. The expression of madness is so poetic in this one. Cloud, castle lake is a Kafkaesque work, also reminded me of Coetzee's K., of a person misplaced in time and society.(less)