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Runaway Horses by Yukio Mishima

Runaway Horses (1969)

by Yukio Mishima

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Sea of Fertility (2)

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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Magnificent! Tragic! Beautifully written! Characters I will remember for a very long time! This second of four novels by Yukio Mishima was even better than. the first, "Spring Snow". The reincarnation of the protagonist from the first novel, a 19 year old kendo champion, must come to terms with his notions of purity and honor in a Japan which has moved away from the ancient pathways. I couldn't put the book down. It was deeply engaging on both emotional and intellectual levels. ( )
  hemlokgang | Apr 20, 2015 |
Another beautifully written book, but depressing. Reading about ultra rightwing teenagers in 1930s Japan who are obsessed with their own brand of moral purity to the extent that they would commit suicide against a backdrop of current affairs that include Islamic fundamentalism, Russian imperialism, political nationalism in the UK, and the right to bear arms gone mad in the US was hard.

I think I know where David Mitchell got his reincarnation idea from for the Ghostwritten/number9dream/Cloud Atlas story arcs, though. ( )
  missizicks | Feb 28, 2015 |
Runaway Horses, the second book in Mishima's The Sea of Fertility series, is a completely different book than the first. While Spring Snow is a poetic, tender love story, Runaway Horses is a political manifesto. Given what I know of reincarnation, the idea that one tries to correct the mistakes of their past life, this is a proper step in the path of the character known as Kiyoaki in the first novel. Kiyoaki was confused and unsure; he had very polar opinions of each person in his life—everyone had a sense of loveliness, everyone was out to get him. Isao, Kiyoaki reborn, knows what he wants—he is a revolutionary, he sees people as either good or evil, and he is determined to follow the plot he has created for himself until his final breath; yet Isao has no enjoyment for life, no flexibility—I anticipate in the third novel we'll find Isao reborn, a character who takes time to “stop and smell the roses.”

Mishima was a wonderful writer and I thoroughly enjoyed Runaway Horses. That being said, the series as a whole reminds me a little now of Tolstoy. In a massive work like War and Peace, Tolstoy took his time to tell love stories, fight battles, and express his views on history and politics. For Mishima, Spring Snow was the love story; Runaway Horses was the political rant. On its own, Runaway Horses delves too much into political discourse to keep the plot interesting, but within the series as a whole, it makes sense. In comparison to the first book, Runaway Horses is dry and somewhat flat; but as an addendum or companion to Spring Snow, it is a brilliant follow up. I look forward to the third novel in the series. ( )
  chrisblocker | Apr 7, 2014 |
"Runaway Horses," the second installment in Yukio Mishima's "Sea of Fertility tetralogy, is a great sequel and interesting continuation of Mishima's meditation on reincarnation.

In this installment, Honda comes to believe his late friend Kiyoaki has returned as Isao, a youngster who plans to commit a terrorist action against the Japanese financial industry (as a means of disputing the infiltration of Western values) before committing seppuku (ritual suicide.) The novel is particularly interesting given Mishima himself committed seppuku after writing the final words of his tetralogy.

I enjoyed this installment just a little bit less than the first ("Spring Snow") mainly because I wasn't quite as struck by the beauty of the language. (This may have been a translation issue, however.) It took a long while for the story to build, but I had a hard time putting the book down once I reached the halfway point.

Looking forward to reading the third installment soon. ( )
  amerynth | Oct 21, 2013 |
The tale of a young band of brave friends who just want to kill everybody possible, most of all themselves, and of the variously twisted grown-ups who want to make various kinds of metaphoric love to their beautiful, nihilistic leader. Any of you who’ve read Mishima’s Spring Snow and were trying to decide whether to continue with later volumes in the series (do—this one’s better) will recall the beautiful nihilist Kiyoaki, who comes back in this one in some surprising ways, but whose death at the end of the last volume was clearly necessary—if he’d hung around after the end of his little tragic love story, he’d have sucked all the air out of the room in this one, which is concerned with stupider but more consequential, grimmer and more fascinating matters (teenage assassins, the relation between purity and decadence, whether believing without acting is really believing at all). Kiyo had to die so that Runaway Horses could live, the craft and conventionality of that book give way to the apocalyptic stormclouds of this guy.

We begin with Shigekuni Honda, Kiyo’s best friend from last time, now all grown up, career in law, Apollonian yet desiccated, never had a real spontaneous feeling in his life (or so he thinks himself—I think the idea that passion has to burn burn burn you up is a holdover from when we died at thirty of tb and suchlike). “'Once again he (Honda) found himself believing that, just as he had never contracted venereal disease, neither had he ever experienced emotional arousal.”

Honda meets-by-chance Isao Iinuma, the son of Kiyo’s old teacher, and just as Iinuma senior (now a prominent uyoku or “right-wing personality,” a kind of Japanese protoversion of Glenn Beck or somebody who runs something called the “Academy of Patriotism” and is entirely corrupted) loved Kiyo, Honda sees young kendo stud Isao bathing under a waterfall and not only loses whatever papery thing passes for his heart but also, based on Kiyo’s ravings on his deathbed two decades before and a distinctive pattern of moles shared by the boys, decides that Isao is Kiyo reborn, with his degenerate tendencies burned away.

So the boy with murder in his heart, his dad the boss thug, the lawyer groping toward true life, a backing cast each eager to prove themselves pure too in this purity-obsessed time. A powderkeg! It feels like it could explode and the spirit world could burst in on us at any moment, which is kind of a cheap feeling when it actually is gonna burst in, but a hard one to maintain when it isn't, which I take to be the case here.

Isao gives Honda his favourite book, about the Shinpuuren rebellion of the Meiji era (reproduced in full), as a testament to his ethic. (He loves himself more than the Emperor, if only he realized it.) Honda enters into a kind of gay ghost marriage with the boy, but only in his heart, because telling people things is not H.’s style. It’s perverse. It’s especially perverse how rational he stays even as he descends into quiet, reasonable madness. Let me pause to quote one of the cadets in the Shield Society founded by Mishima: “Mishima-sensei climbed down the ladder of reason to be with us.” (He committed seppuku after failing to inspire a rising similar to the one that is the focus of Isao and his friends here. He wishes he was an Isao. He hates whatever part of him is a Honda, whatever part a Sawa.)

How bout some more? “by the time the work is completed I will have to resign myself to the eternal impossibility of a gorgeous, heroic end. To give up becoming a hero or to abandon a masterpiece—this decision is drawing near and the prospect fills me with anxiety. […]

“I can hear the people say: "But you are dwelling in the past. Attempts to become the kind of active hero you speak of are futile after thirty at the latest and you are forty-five. Why not stop playing the old maid who hides behind thick make-up, give up life and action and concentrate on literature?"

“Yet I am still as strong and energetic as a young man, at forty-two, still just young enough to become a hero. Takamori Saigo (a nineteenth century fanatic who committed seppuku) died a hero's death at fifty. ... If I act now I am still in time. On the other hand there is still important work. ...

Just want to give you a sense of what kind of psychosexual aesthetic sense we’re dealing with here. There are much cool scenes of Isao wrapping the other young devotees around his finger, and of this crafty, ugly middle-ager, Sawa, forcing himself in with the dishonourable yet effective tactics of the older man. I was glad Sawa got his way. He’s like the balding art space owner who goes to all the hipster parties and hits on the young girls. You're older and smarter and by most measures much more interesting and impressive, and yet somehow they have all the power. And he doesn't even have some death of the ego thing to fall back on, because that's way too Buddhist and he chose to be an extreme Shinto nationalist and obsessed with his beautiful parabola. I thought he’d be the one to make murder happen if any, but I underestimated Isao’s will to power. It’s weird reading a fascist book by a fascist writer with this kind of deep, subtle sense of human sentiment. You always get tricked into thinking he’s not ultimately on Isao’s side.

Like, here are some moments of crystalline rightness: "'We'll do it! We'll do it!' (Serikawa) shouted, kicking about and scattering the shells that littered the floor. He gripped Isao's hand firmly and shook it. As usual, he was on the verge of tears. This young man affected Isao like a match girl who uses blatant emotional appeal to force a sale. It was a manifestation he had little need for at the moment."

"Dreams somehow turn one into a slovenly figure. A soiled collar, the back of the shirt wrinkled as though slept in, trousers baggy--something similar overtakes the garment of the spirit." Isao starts dreaming soon after, of course.

"She did not grumble. She did not wear a sad expression. Nor did she punish him by putting on a brave cheerfulness."

"Since (Toin's) hatred had its root in fear, it kept growing."

Mishima's "purity thing" has its roots in fear too, and its compelling power keeps growing. ( )
1 vote MeditationesMartini | Jun 2, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
"The text itself is marred. Mishima failed to make Isao a character interesting enough to hold our attention."
added by GYKM | editNew York Times, Edmund White (Jun 24, 1973)
"A modern masterpiece."
added by GYKM | editBaltimore Sun
"Mishima's diction is self-consciously intellectual; his prose is filled with words drawn from the whole history of the Japanese language used in an effort to enrich the texture of his diction" [...] "However the translation we are offered of the first two volumes is in quite pedestrian English."

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Yukio Mishimaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Camp, Marion Op denTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gallagher, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Perfect purity is possible if you turn your life into a line of poetry written with a splash of blood.
The instant that the blade tore open his flesh, the bright disk of the sun soared up and exploded behind his eyelids.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679722408, Paperback)

The chronicle of a conspiracy and a novel about the roots and nature of Japanese fanaticism in the years that led to war--an era marked by depression, social change and political violence.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:22 -0400)

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