(translated by Andrew Clare)
Published in 1961, it is 150 pages of typical Mishima; a severe, existential tale of love-through-brutality: lust, guilt and punishment. It reads like a book Jean-Luc Godard might have written.
Ippei a literary critic of some repute, and a well-dressed man about town, is some years older than his wife Yuko, to whom he cannot or will not be faithful. A young student, Koji, comes into their lives, falling swiftly and madly in love with Yuko. He sees Ippei’s disgraceful treatment of her and in a moment of violence attacks the husband leaving him partly paralysed and robbed of much of his speech. Yuko is always shown with reference to her thin lips, which are either wearing a livid red lipstick that brings her mouth to life, or she is not.
Koji, is imprisoned. On his his release Yuko sends for him – she has agreed to act as his sponsor on his rehabilitation. Thus, Koji moves in with Ippei – a shadow of his former self – and Yuko, in the small coastal village of Izo, where he helps out with their horticultural business as a handy-man / gardener in their huge greenhouses.
This is where it begins to get strange.
There is also a brief secondary ‘love triangle’ thrown in for good measure, when student Kimi passes the summer in the village with her ukulele and several men vie for her attentions.
A typical passage reads:
“Koji recalled Teijiro one time bending over, just as he was doing now, while he mended a shirt. Looking closely at the small tears in the material of life, Teijiro has worked assiduously at repairing the shirt so that he might hurriedly shout out the long, dark hours of solitude that came sprouting up from out of those small holes.
Another: “The graphic quality of everything that lay in slumber during the day awakening all at once was so much more physical than nights in the city, and the night itself was like a colossal, intense piece of meat saturated with hot blood.“
It is a little banger of a novel which is, so the notes at the end make clear, based on a real life story that fascinated Mishima.