September 5, 2012

'Patriotism,' by Yukio Mishima

Warning: If you click through and read this whole story, it is gruesome.  But amazing.  I read this short story last night, and it is somewhat overwrought but amazing in its detail. It starts with this introduction, but then jumps back and goes through the seppuku feeling by intimate feeling.  BTW, the author Yukio Mishima committed a sensational seppuku in protest against what he saw as the degradation of samarai ways.



by Yukio Mishima


On the twenty-eighth of February, 1936 (on the third day, that is, of the February 26 Incident), Lieutenant Shinji Takeyama of the Konoe Transport Battalion—profoundly disturbed by the knowledge that his closest colleagues had been with the mutineers from the beginning, and indignant at the imminent prospect of Imperial troops attacking Imperial troops- took his officer’s sword and ceremonially disemboweled himself in the eight-mat room of his private residence in the sixth block of Aoba-cho, in Yotsuya Ward. His wife, Reiko, followed him, stabbing herself to death. The lieutenant’s farewell note consisted of one sentence: “Long live the Imperial Forces.” His wife’s, after apologies for her unfilial conduct in thus preceding her parents to the grave, concluded: “The day which, for a soldier’s wife, had to come, has come. . . .” The last moments of this heroic and dedicated couple were such as to make the gods themselves weep. The lieutenant’s age, it should be noted, was thirty-one, his wife’s twenty-three; and it was not half a year since the celebration of their marriage.


Those who saw the bride and bridegroom in the commemorative photograph—perhaps no less than those actually present at the lieutenant’s wedding—had exclaimed in wonder at the bearing of this handsome couple. The lieutenant, majestic in military uniform, stood protectively beside his bride, his right hand resting upon his sword, his officer’s cap held at his left side. His expression was severe, and his dark brows and wide gazing eyes well conveyed the clear integrity of youth. For the beauty of the bride in her white over-robe no comparisons were adequate. In the eyes, round beneath soft brows, in the slender, finely shaped nose, and in the full lips, there was both sensuousness and refinement. One hand, emerging shyly from a sleeve of the over-robe, held a fan, and the tips of the fingers, clustering delicately, were like the bud of a moonflower.

After the suicide, people would take out this photograph and examine it, and sadly reflect that too often there was a curse on these seemingly flawless unions. Perhaps it was no more than imagination, but looking at the picture after the tragedy it almost seemed as if the two young people before the gold-lacquered screen were gazing, each with equal clarity, at the deaths which lay before them.


Court Merrigan said...

Mishima was a fantastic short story writer - any of his several translated volumes are worth reading in their entirety. He was also a crazy man, as is evident by his choice of suicide method. Hardcore, but still crazy.

Tamara said...

Yes - hardcore! You got to admire his dedication to his beliefs, though. Crazy as a loon, amazing writer.

I'll have to look up more of his work.

Thanks, Court!