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Silk and Insight by Yukio Mishima

Silk and Insight (1964)

by Yukio Mishima

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
162615,960 (3.5)2
  1. 00
    Ripley's Game by Patricia Highsmith (amanda4242)
    amanda4242: Okano reminds me of Tom Ripley.
  2. 00
    The Age of Blue by Yukio Mishima (GYKM)
    GYKM: Another Mishima novel based on a real event.
  3. 00
    After the Banquet by Yukio Mishima (GYKM)
    GYKM: Another Mishima novel based on a real event.
  4. 00
    The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima (GYKM)
    GYKM: Another Mishima novel based on a real event.

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Not bad, but kind of...distant. The plot meanders and the characters aren't very interesting, although Okano reminds me a bit of Patricia Highsmith's Tom Ripley. It's definitely not one of Mishima's best, but it's worth a read. ( )
  amanda4242 | Mar 5, 2016 |
Hiroaki Sato has done an admirable job in his translation of "Silk and Insight" into English. Sato's task was a difficult one, for not only did he have to contend with a difficult novel, that John Nathan took a pass on, but he had to contend with Mishima's prose, by the accounts of Nathan, Donald Keene and others, the richest of any Japanese writer. The two introductory pieces at the beginning were very informative and helpful.

"Silk and Insight" was Mishima's serious literary effort of 1964 and he was keen to have it published in an English translation. A winner of the Mainichi Art Award, the novel was written and published during a period of disappointment for Yukio Mishima, roughly from 1959 to 1965, or the period between "Kyoko's House" and "Spring Snow." Mishima published four serious literary novels during those years, "After the Banquet," "Beautiful Star," "The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea," and "Silk and Insight." With the sole exception of "After the Banquet," none of these novels sold as well as Mishima's earlier blockbuster works and they were critically panned just as new novelists like Kenzaburo Oe appeared on the scene.

As many professional reviewers and translators have mentioned before, and as I will, now, "Silk and Insight" is a rather detached Mishima novel. The novel, like the untranslated "Ai no Kawaki," "The Temple of the Golden Pavilion," and "After the Banquet," is a fictionalized account of a real event: the 1954 strike at Omikenshi. The 1954 strike was one that demarcated the line between the traditional labour and social relations of Old Japan with a modern capitalist Japan; a common theme of many postwar Japanese writers. However, readers wishing a novel like the "Golden Pavilion" or "After the Banquet" will be disappointed, here.

"Silk and Insight" has few of the hallmarks of engagement, focus, and believable characters that have imbued previous Mishima novels. The characters of aren't particularly interesting or sympathetic, especially as their lives were told through omniscient narration and when compared to the outstanding "After the Banquet." Its plot and the ideas it presents aren't particularly unique for Kawabata wrote a lot about Japanese modernity and with more subtly. There were some interesting parts, such as the accident and the spying, but I read fewer and fewer of these once the strike erupted. Some, like Nathan, have argued that Mishima didn't give the novel his all and was being "lazy," and, yes, it does read like that.

Nevertheless, props should be given to Sato for keeping some bawdy and humorous passages in his translation. English readers are often unaware that Mishima novels do have their hilarious moments along with the esoteric. Unfortunately, Mishima's previous English translators have tended to omit rather than retain these jibs; they were lost in translation.

Taken as a whole, the novel is a bit of a disappointment. It is a critique of modern capitalist-obsessed and values-empty postwar Japan, but it is an (ineffective) critique in novel form because there are no characters for readers to sympathize with; they're all tainted and boring. Nonetheless, the text as translated by Sato is readable and it’s a useful text on that pivotal labour strike.
1 vote GYKM | Mar 10, 2012 |
Showing 2 of 2
"It seems clearly to have been an attempt to repeat the success of an earlier novel, 'After the Banquet'".... "this translation of a poor original is a shambles"
added by GYKM | editNew York Times, Mark Morris (Oct 25, 1998)
"the novel would be difficult to recommend with enthusiasm as representative of one of Japan’s great writers."
added by GYKM | editWorld Literature Today, Marleigh Grayer Ryan

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mishima, YukioAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sato, HiroTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0765603004, Paperback)

A labor strike in a Japanese silk factory may not seem like a promising premise for a novel, but Yukio Mishima manages to turn an historical event into a fictional exploration of Japan's old paternalistic system of labor management. The strike Mishima writes about occurred in the 1950s, and the outcome changed the face of business forever, as factories moved from an ancient, almost feudal way of dealing with workers to the modern method of worker participation. Mishima faithfully chronicles the conditions that plagued the factory workers--censored mail, internal spies, poor pay that was nevertheless just enough to keep discontent at bay--and the coalescence of the labor movement that eventually changed them.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:23 -0400)

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