I had forgotten what it was like reading Mishima. Poetry, beauty, nature, love, pain, monsters of society, politics…feelings that bring back memories of the past, a past I had also forgotten. And this is the thing of coming back to the classics (he is “classic”)…the forbidden thoughts turn to real thoughts and extraordinary insights…When you read a master of the words, you get the feeling that your past and your present are tangled in one sole story. What is it like reading Mishima? What was it like reading After the Banquet? An experience. The story of a strong woman who owns a restaurant and leads a very free and unique solitary life, in a time when women were only allowed to get out of their houses if it were to marry a man. Turns out Kazu is not any woman. It is when she meets a prominent politician and falls madly in love that things start to change. This is when we realize her fragility….All she wants now is to have a good place to be buried when she is no longer here…It is her fear of a lone soul that moves her…
Before the Departure
This declaration genuinely astonished Kazu. A world formed by the intellect and composed of exclusively intellectual elements lay outside her comprehension. her common sense told her that everything must have its other side. But what continually amazed her in Noguchi was that he was one man without another side: he seemed to have no other face but the one he showed her. Kazu, of course, as a matter of principle disbelieved in the existence of such people. But for all her disbelief, a kind of ideal image, tantalizingly incomplete, was gradually taking shape around Noguchi. His stilted behavior had acquired an aura, indescribably mysterious and intriguing.
That day Noguchi lost his Dunhill lighter in the theater. His consternation when he discovered that the lighter was missing was quite astonishing: all the dignity and calm of a moment before melted away.
That’s not the point. Don’t you see that I’m worrying about your future? Anybody can see that you’ve drawn a blank. This marriage won’t do either you or Noguchi any good. With your talents there’s nothing you can’t do, but instead you choose to shut off your whole future. Look Kazu, getting married is like buying stocks. It’s normal to buy when they’re low – why should you want to buy stocks with no prospects for improvement? Noguchi in the old days was really impressive, no doubt about it. But today – to make an impartial appraisal – the proprietress of the Setsugoan is worth a lot more than the former cabinet minister, Yuken Noguchi. You should have some idea of your own worth.
“The New Life” – The Real Thing
Noguchi invariably fell asleep first. Kazu would then switch on th elamp by her pillow, not to read a book or a magazine, but to induce sleep by staring fixedly at something. Sometimes, for example, she would stare at the catches of the sliding doors, shaped like half-moons and delicately worked in metal like swordguards. the catches had for their designs the “four gentlemanly flowers” – plum blossom, chrysanthemum, orchid, and bamboo. The one closest to her was the orchid; in the dimly lit room the blackened metal orchid confronted Kazu’s sleepless eyes.
Noguchi’s denunciation, antiquated both in manner and language, intensified his aura of being the incarnation of the old moral virtues. His wrath was cast in a majestic idiom which delighted Kazu; all but swooning from pain to happiness, she deliberately reflected with her half-conscious faculties that Noguchi was the kind of man who, once he had angrily forbidden whatever deserved to be forbidden, would immediately revert to his normal blindness and deafness.
A Grave in the Evening Clouds
The conclusion Kazu reached was not so much regret that her money had been insufficient as regret that her heart and Noguchi’s logic had been expended to no avail. It was regret that the human tears, smiles, friendly laughter, warmth of flesh – everything Kazu believed in during this campaign to which she had devoted her heart and soul – had proved futile.
Kazu’s rich shoulders and breasts had lost nothing of their beauty, despite all the summer’s exertions. Her sunburned neck, however, emerging light-brown, like a faded flower, from the snow-white skin below, showed the effects of the election. The sunlight striking the surface of the mirror still kept a lingering summer intensity, but Kazu’s white shoulders and breasts were an icehouse. The fine-grained, saturated whiteness repelled the light, suggesting that it concealed withing a cool, dark summer interior.