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The Decay of the Angel (The Sea of Fertility, #4)
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Book Club > 6/18 The Decay of the Angel - Yukio Mishima

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message 1: by Dioni (Bookie Mee) (last edited Jun 03, 2018 10:10AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 157 comments So here we are on the final book of Mishima's masterpiece :).

I'm aware some people are still working through the first 3 books. **Edit: Please be aware that this discussion may contain spoilers from the previous 3 books. Feel free to chip in in the old threads, or even start a new one if you're inclined. Here's the list of previous discussion threads we had for convenience:

Spring Snow (book #1) thread part 1 part 2 part 3
Runaway Horses (book #2) discussion thread
The Temple of Dawn (book #3) discussion thread

For the Decay of the Angel thread here, I'm thinking maybe we can try to keep the thread spoiler free for the first half of June, and more spoiler-y stuffs on the second half of June?

I literally just got the book from the library yesterday night. I'm still working through A Pale View of Hills, but I should be able to start this in a few days. Looking forward to the discussion with everyone.

Feel free to post any early thoughts!


message 2: by Bill (new)

Bill | 780 comments Started this today. The first four pages are drivel, but don't let that deter you! It recovers thereafter.

Our framing character Honda is palling around with an old woman named Hisamatsu Keiko. Anyone remember who she is? I don't have the other books with me.


Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 157 comments Editing the initial post re: spoilers. I think for the discussion to be effective we should be able to discuss the previous 3 books!

I'm 50 pages in. Keiko seems a new character, isn't she? I don't remember her in the previous books - though that's not saying much (because I must've forgotten a lot). The arrangement with Keiko threw me off a bit, with her spending time with another woman? Felt like that came out of nowhere! Hoping the pace would pick up a bit. The part about Honda at the moment feels like mostly about bored old wealthy people, which is not my favourite topic in literature ;)

Toru's part isn't much more interesting at this point too. The most interesting bit was the girl who thinks she's way more beautiful than she is. What a character!


message 4: by Bill (new)

Bill | 780 comments Keiko appeared in The Temple of Dawn, and had at least one sex scene with the female lead. That much is alluded to in the pages I've read since my last post.

This volume has a long intro. It's not until page 66 that Honda even meets Toru. After a long discussion of decaying angels, what is the first thing that happens when the two meet? :)


Rhea (rheashell) Finished it today. I'll come back in the second half of June. (this is good, I think it will give me time to get my thoughts together). I just. So many feelings.

It was like what, half the size of any of the previous books? It didn't take me long at all, other than getting irritated and having to stop reading.


Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 157 comments Bill wrote: "Keiko appeared in The Temple of Dawn, and had at least one sex scene with the female lead. That much is alluded to in the pages I've read since my last post.

This volume has a long intro. It's not..."


Can you elaborate what you mean with their first meeting, Bill?

I'm quite confused about the whole talk about Honda feeling like he's meeting his mirror image, or soul, or something like that.

I'm 100 pages in. Found it a bit boring to be honest. Just hoping there's a whole point to this at the end xD. It doesn't help that a lot of passages are about ships and boats - I have really little interest in them.

I'm going very slow as I'm stationed in India this month for work, and there are lots of social things during and after work so I only have the weekends to read =/. Feel free to go spoiler-y though some warnings would be appreciated :)


message 7: by Bill (new)

Bill | 780 comments The first meeting between Honda and Toru. After going through multiple versions of the Decay of the Angel story (something I found as tedious as the League of the Divine Wind), we go back to our main character Honda. He and Keiko visit the lookout station where Toru is working, and as they get their first glimpse of him on the stairs, flowers fall from his hair: the first sign of the Decay of the Angel.

Overall, though, I find the Decay of the Angel myth to be poorly fit to the story of Honda and Toru. What robe that lets him fly back to heaven has been taken from Toru before the flowers fall from his hair? None that I can see. As the story progresses, Honda does attempt to take away the 'robe' of Toru's sincerity to prevent him returning to heaven at the age of twenty as did he predecessors.


message 8: by Christian (last edited Jun 17, 2018 04:41PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Christian (comeauch) | 230 comments I just finished it! What can I say... At least this one was more readable than The Temple of Dawn, which I couldn't bring myself to finish.

Again, no doubt he's a good author: the prose, the characters, the sense of drama even. But the subject matter is just so dark and nihilistic. I remember reading Runaway Horses and drawing parallels about Mishima's suicide. If that wasn't convincing enough, this one is. I'm not sure I wanted this kind of insight...

For some reason I had recently been thinking about consciousness and how it could be seen as the "illusion of being someone" (ok, actually rewatching the first season of True Detective was the starting point, as random as it sounds) and this final work of Mishima seems to go in a similar direction, especially with the ending. I had come to the conclusion that maybe it's really just better not to think too much about this stuff. Maybe he proves that point.

The secondary characters and secondary plots were all great though. From Kinue the beauty to Keiko who made me regret not completing the third book; and so was the way Toru tricked Momoko to willingly admit her own flaws.

I much more enjoyed the first two books, but I'm looking forward to read your thoughts about this one...


Rhea (rheashell) Well, because of Honda's "infatuation" (to put it mildly) with Ying Chan in the last book, I was expecting something different this book.

I was more expecting this love/obsession to last, and expecting the adoption to take more of a Koseki form.

Koseki explanation under Same-sex union in Japan in Wikipedia article. Not shooting for the stars here

I was not expecting a story about elder abuse. I finished it so quickly because I was waiting for groceries and I had the book right there, but make no mistakes. I had to put it down a lot. I know Mishima likes his messed-up people, but it really makes it hard to read. Still awesome though.


message 10: by Bill (new)

Bill | 780 comments I have to admit I didn't finish it. Perhaps if there had been more discussion I would have persevered, but I much prefer the first two books in the series.

Now on to A Dark Night's Passing...


message 11: by Agnetta (last edited Jul 05, 2018 02:14AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Agnetta | 300 comments I FINALLY made it here... too late but better than never.

After the temple of dawn this one is very readable indeed, and it seem i have been rather enjoying the first 20% of the novel as Mishima takes us lightly thru Honda and Keiko's old age...

I am looking forward to closing the arch for sure.

Mishima is so distant when bringing to live the characters. And while following their aging (or disappearing) I feel continuously confronted with the absurdity of life and feel kind of guilty I am still in the middle of it and not retired to a buddhist monastery reciting the heart sutra, (Then I remind myself my sons do need tending to them, so I should think about that again in a year of 10 and now just keep going, but : ... ) It does not make me feel happy to have such thougths for sure.

Can't wait to move to something lighter.

Mishima's endings in this series are always bomb-exploding though and kind of make it worth it, you almost forget the pain you went thru during some of the less engaging passages. I wonder what will happen wiht the 4th episode.


Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 157 comments I finally just finished this today (June has been a crazy month). Really not sure what to feel about it. I can't say I enjoyed reading it. Perhaps it was partly the timing too, but I just lost interest, because Honda and Toru were so dislikeable, and mean, for reasons I don't get, Toru in particular. I remember being annoyed at Kiyoaki in book 1 too, so maybe that character just grated me the wrong way all the way through, hah.

Lots of the passages just seemed gibberish to me too. With more concentration and patience they might be deep and actually mean something, but as I mentioned I lost interest, and just wanted to get to the end.

Any thoughts about the ending? I'm weighing it between a good one and an anti climax..
Is Toru Kiyoaki reincarnate? Does it matter?
Was it all A DREAM? ;)


message 13: by Rhea (last edited Jul 06, 2018 06:23AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rhea (rheashell) I think the idea was.... but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, "Hey, Honda, you don't understand Buddhist reincarnation, stupid"

I think the big divide, while I'm simplifying it (and please please please correct me if I'm talking out of my ass, this is just out of a couple books). Honda has been looking at Hinduism throughout the books IIRC. Which believes in a self. Buddhism does not believe in a self.

The idea that there was an essence of Kiyoaki is foolish in that sense. Think of it like The "Ship of Theseus" thought experiment. You replace all the ship parts to repair the ship in a museum. Is it still the same ship?

Supposedly every one of our cells has been replaced within ~7 years. Are we still the same person? I don't know if I believe in a self or not, but I would argue I am not the same person as I was 7 years ago.

So yes, tell a Buddhist with your Hindu ideas that there is a self/essence of Kiyoaki, and they will tell you "no, there was no Kiyoaki".


Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 157 comments Good one Rhea. Your last paragraph explains the ending a bit. I don't understand enough Hinduism and Buddhism to add, but what you said makes sense.

There's also some passages near the end by Honda, about how the reincarnate could really be anywhere, and it's such a huge coincidence that Honda has met three of them, and he has forced this idea on Toru. That makes sense to me too.

The idea of a reincarnate has to die at the same age and is destined to have the same fate is new to me. Not that I know anything much about the whole concept, but my idea of reincarnation before reading this series was a bit different.


Agnetta | 300 comments Rhea wrote: "I think the idea was.... but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, "Hey, Honda, you don't understand Buddhist reincarnation, stupid"

l"


4 books, 1300 pages for THAT ? :D

For sure the person to person reincarnation is not the buddhist theory as I, personally a buddhist in the zen tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh understand it...
I think Rhea is right on with her comments about the difference between Hinduism and Buddhism :)

the whole oeuvre is just extremely weird , friends.

all those pages about the symptoms of the decays of the blue-haired angels !!! heavens !!!


message 16: by Rhea (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rhea (rheashell) Dioni (Bookie Mee) wrote: "Good one Rhea. Your last paragraph explains the ending a bit. I don't understand enough Hinduism and Buddhism to add, but what you said makes sense.

There's also some passages near the end by Hond..."


Afaik there is no such idea in Buddhism. Maybe the idea could be (if they are "Kiyoaki") that he's doomed to die because he's not learning from "his" mistakes, but iirc I think the idea is the fact you are born human is a miracle at all, so being given that many opportunities to escape worldliness in a row seems kinda idk.

I recall reading that Mishima did not believe in reincarnation. I find that interesting.


Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 157 comments My somewhat recent exposures to reincarnation is the Dalai Lamas which we studied in class a bit. I understand they are on Tibetan Buddhism, which seems to be closer to Indian Buddhism and probably Hinduism.

Another was the Buddha series by Osamu Tezuka. From what I gathered the idea of reincarnation is so you can fix past mistakes, or go up the caste as you do more good deeds. And the end goal is to attain the highest state, or something.. Considering Buddhism comes from India/Hinduism, makes sense for it to reject some elements including reincarnation and the caste system.

In any way the 14 Dalai Lamas certainly died at different ages, and they had different characteristics/personalities ;)


message 18: by Agnetta (last edited Jul 06, 2018 07:25AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Agnetta | 300 comments Bill wrote: "I have to admit I didn't finish it. Perhaps if there had been more discussion I would have persevered, but I much prefer the first two books in the series.

Now on to A Dark Night's Passing..."


BILL, WE HAVE DISCUSSION NOW, COME BACK , COME BACK :D !!!


message 19: by Rhea (last edited Jul 06, 2018 08:00AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rhea (rheashell) Dioni (Bookie Mee) wrote: "My somewhat recent exposures to reincarnation is the Dalai Lamas which we studied in class a bit. I understand they are on Tibetan Buddhism, which seems to be closer to Indian Buddhism and probably..."

The Dalai Lamas are a really good point.

I know Tibetan and Zen are really distinct (according to one perspective, Zen is "the most appreciative of the arts), and of course Zen Buddhist monks* can get married, but I don't think a lot of people know that!

I read Tezuka's series years ago, but to be honest, I don't remember it. I have a bad memory.


* of Japan


Agnetta | 300 comments .. ???

not the zen buddhist monks I know... maybe in some specific tradition ?

In all traditions I know the sangha are divided in 4 groups :
male monks, female monks, male lay practitioners and female lay practicioners. the monks live in celibacy.


Agnetta | 300 comments after some fast googling seems that specifically in Japan the zen monks do not have the vow of celibacy indeed ! interesting, i did not know that!


message 22: by Rhea (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rhea (rheashell) Agnetta wrote: "after some fast googling seems that specifically in Japan the zen monks do not have the vow of celibacy indeed ! interesting, i did not know that!"

Yeah, sorry. I was eating while typing that so I was a weeeeee bit distracted. I definitely should have written that better.


message 23: by Agnetta (last edited Jul 09, 2018 06:51AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Agnetta | 300 comments I did not really see this one coming but (view spoiler)


message 24: by Bill (new)

Bill | 780 comments Given that this novel was sent to the publisher the morning of Mishima's death, it has to somehow be interpreted as a suicide note. I'm just not entirely sure how to do that.

From Mishima's writings and biographies, we get the impression that he hated to see the the decay and decline of his own body, and could only fight it off for so long. He wished to die nobly while still in his prime, and orchestrated his death.

Is Honda the old age that Mishima so despises, using Toru to get back at it? But there's far too much going on in the novel that doesn't fit my pat thesis, and I don't know how to fit it all in.


Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 157 comments If Mishima fears and despises the idea of aging, he seems to show that through Honda alright. The character was made the more dislikeable and pathetic as he aged.


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