Mishima: Decay of the Angel
How could a story about such loathsome people be so lovely ? I hear the cicadas -- I see the bright skies and dark shadows -- it was all so beautiful--- and I'm guessing that when I die -- if I get a a few last days to think it over -- I'll probably be remembering this final book and the wretched hero's final, painful climb -- following the uncertain path of a white butterfly through the cryptomeria grove -- up to the Gesshuji monastary to receive his final puzzle/revelation.
(And yes -- the angel actually did display the five signs of death/decay: soiled garments, heavy sweating, body odor, loss of self -- plus a few more alternative options)
The precise -- triumphant -- merciless -- near-fatal --- explanation of story offered by the hero's convenient, congenial neighbor --- what a way to draw a conclusion -- and what a way to dress her for this event:
"sleeves trailing to the hem of the skirt, her evening dress was beaded over its entire surface. The shifting colors and patterns of the beads from the neck down over the skirt were such as to dazzle the eye. At the bosom, the wings of a peacock in green on a gold ground, waves of purple over the sleeves, a continuous wine colored pattern down over the waist,purple waves and gold clouds on the skirt, the several boundaries marked in gold -- the white of the organdy ground set off by a threefold western pattern in silver net -- from the skirt emerging the toe of a purple satin slipper -- and at the always proud neck, an emerald Georgette stole, draped down over the shoulders and reaching to the floor -- below her hair -- cut shorter than usual -- hung earrings of gold -- her face with the frozen look of one who had more than once been served by plastic surgeons -- but the parts that still remained under her control seemed to assert themselves all the more haughtily -- the awesome eyes -- the grand nose - the lips like red-black bits of apple beginning to rot -- tortured into a yet more shining red."
Could it be that I actually empathized with the miserable protagonist ? The one who does absolutely nothing good with his life -- priveleged by health, intellligence, social position, and education ? who enables two (almost three) young men to kill themselves ? Who haunts public parks to spy on couples making love ? Who builds his house to have peep-holes ? Who has romantic feelings for only one person -- a woman a third his age -- whom he connives to have seduced (or is it raped ?)
I don't think so -- I think I'm empathizing with how the story is told --- aware of clever devices that never seem to be repeated -- aware of brisk economy in depicting action -- yet tedious redundancy in reflection --- which seems to be the way my own life proceeds.
When I began reading Mishima -- with the story of his dramatic suicide and all --- I would have said something like "what a waste" --- but now that I know him --- I'm quite sure that this strangely gifted man knew that he was never going to write any better -- or look any better -- or feel any better -- or care about anyone or anything else --- so why not sacrifice himself as the last casualty of WWII ? (i.e. Japan's final transition into the modern, Americanized world )
Sayonara -- good buddy ! Thanks for the ride.