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Old 11-17-2011, 03:01 PM   #1
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Post The MobileRead Literary Book Club November 2011 Discussion: Spring Snow

It's time to discuss our November selection, Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima. Hamlet53 has volunteered to lead the discussion, and any of you may post your thoughts at any time you like. Anyone is free to join in the discussion. Let's begin!

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Old 11-17-2011, 04:50 PM   #2
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So here are some talking points I have come up with. These should not be taken in a quiz—be sure and address these in your discussion—way, but just to provide various starting points for discussion.

Spring Snow is often called a “a novel of conflicted Japan” referring to the consequences of major changes during the reign of the Emperor Meiji over the years 1868 to 1912 when dramatic modernization politically, militarily, culturally, and economically occurred, including the introduction of many Western methods and ideas. How did the characters Kiyoaki Matsugae, Satoko Ayakura, Shigekuni Honda, and Shigeyuki, as representative of the first generation to come of age after the Meiji Era, represent these conflicts?


Though Mishima wrote Spring Snow in in 1966 the main story of the tragic love affair between Kiyoaki and Satoko seems to harken back to the sort of novel that would have been written in the Age of Romanticism. Would you agree. Did this appeal to you and did you find it well written?

What did you make of the friendship between Kiyoaki and Honda? What did each see in the other?

How about the relationship between the Matsugae family and the Ayakura family?

What purpose did the princes from Siam serve in the novel?

What about Buddhist/Shinto beliefs?

What role did dreams play in the novel and how much importance did Mishima attach to them?

Excluding those here who were able to read it in the original Japanese, did you feel the translation process resulted in much loss, not only in the change in language, but many references to Japan and its culture being a mystery?

The novel is very rich in its descriptions of the setting of various scenes, especially involving nature, and sometimes obviously germane to the scene, but usually not. Did you find that this enhanced the book for you, detracted from it, or were you indifferent?
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Old 11-17-2011, 04:55 PM   #3
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Switching from discussion leader to just one reader if that makes any difference. I really love Mishima's writing. Here are a few quotes I extracted that illustrate this for me:

Quote:
Satoko kept her voice low, afraid that others might hear. Kiyoaki was angered by her self-control, for he had set his heart on nothing less than an ecstatic, supreme consummation at that moment, there beneath the blossoms. The rising moan of the night wind had made him more and more uneasy, and now he was driven in desperation to seize one sure moment of happiness for them both, to the exclusion of all else. Hence his frustration when he discovered that her thoughts were obviously turned elsewhere. He was like a husband so jealous that he insists his wife have the very dreams he has.
Quote:
Of course she only meant to convey that she [Satoko] wanted to protect him [Honda], but her words had a cold, proud glitter that could not tolerate the intrusion of a third party. In her own mind, she had fashioned their sin [hers and Kiyoaki's] into a tiny, brilliant, crystal palace in which she and Kiyoaki could live free from the world around them. A crystal palace so tiny it would balance on the palm of one's hand, so tiny no one else could fit in.
Quote:
"I [Honda] mean about thinking of the picture from the Russo-Japanese War while you [Kiyoaki] were telling me about you and Miss Satoko. I wondered why that came to me, and now that I've given it a little more thought, I haven an answer. The age of glorious wars ended with the Meiji era. . . .There isn’t much chance to die now on the battlefield.

But now that old wars are finished, a new kind of war has just begun; this is the era for the war of emotion. The kind of war no one can see, only feel—a war, therefore, that the dull and insensitive won't even notice . . .

And just as in the old wars, there will be casualties in the war of emotion, I think. It’s the fate of our age—and you're one of our representatives. So what about it then? You're fully resolved to die in this new war—am I right?"

Quote:
Just let matters slide. How much better to accept each sweet drop of the honey that was Time, than to stoop to the vulgarity latent in every decision. However grave the matter at hand might be, if one neglected it for long enough, the act of neglect itself would begin to affect the situation, and someone else would emerge as an ally. Such was Count Ayakura's version of political theory.

Last edited by Hamlet53; 11-17-2011 at 04:59 PM.
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Old 11-24-2011, 11:52 AM   #4
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Hi, hamlet53! Thank you for selecting this book to read, and you have a very thoughtful list of questions. I did enjoy this book, and I hope to someday read the next books. I thought the writing was beautiful, and you have highlighted some of the passages that got my attention too. I haven't read a paperbook in awhile, and I kept wanting to highlight passages so that I could come back and reread them later.

I did have to do some research to understand the Samurai traditions and the Meiji restoration and its effects on the modernization of Japan. I also struggled a bit to understand the Buddhist/Shintu beliefs.

I also agree that the writing was very rich. I felt like I could be dropped right into the scenery because it was so vivid. In many cases I thought it enhanced the emotions of the characters or perhaps the romanticism as you put. I do recall at least once thinking it was a bit over-the-top.

Anyway, I wanted to post something - even though my thoughts aren't very deep - just to say someone out there read your book selection. I think that others did too, and it is just the unfortunate timing with the holiday season.
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Old 11-27-2011, 11:57 AM   #5
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Bookworm_Girl. Thank you for your comments. I was concerned about the difficulty presented in translation, especially with words that could not be translated and so were left only in phonetic translation. I often wondered whether or not what I was not able to understand was significant or trivial to the story.

My mentioned the issues of Buddhism and the importance of dreams probably goes beyond the discussion of Spring Snow specifically. Having read all four books in the past, and having also recently read Runaway Horses again, I know that these ideas, especially concerning reincarnation, are a continuing thread throughout the tetralogy.
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Old 11-27-2011, 12:38 PM   #6
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Well, I'm sure that I did not understand all that was significant or trivial to the story. I think that if I were to reread the book then I would pick up more. I especially had trouble understanding all of the dreams. When Kiyoaki passes his dreams journal to Honda, I figured they would have significance to the other books as well. And, at the end, Kiyoaki tells Honda that he had a dream that he would see him again. I read a plot preview for the next book, Runaway Horses, so I have a general idea how reincarnation will be a recurrent theme. I suppose that future plot is also foreshadowed in Spring Snow because Honda seems particularly affected by the discussion at the beach villa with the Siamese princes about Buddhism and reincarnation.
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Old 12-04-2011, 07:19 PM   #7
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Spring Snow is one of my favourite books, and I've read it many times. I am late for the party, but I plan on rereading it this week and then commenting on some of the posts here, if anyone is still up for discussion. I haven't had time to reread it this month due to work and school obligations, and I wouldn't like to comment without giving some more thought to the story. I hope that you all enjoyed Spring Snow, it really is a lovely novel. Each time I read it I notice something that I missed out on.
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Old 12-04-2011, 09:34 PM   #8
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Welcome to the party, Latinandgreek! I would enjoy to read your thoughts and continue the discussion. I have been wanting to post more about the characters. I just have been too busy preparing for the holiday season! There are so many comparisons and contrasts between the sets of characters that it's rather complex. I also found it fascinating that it was a coming of age novel not just for the young adults (Kioyaki, Honda, and Satoko) but also for the adult generation and Japan in this new era of modernization and Westernization. It was also a novel of loss in many ways such as loss of innocence, of country & cultural traditions and of human life.
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Old 12-11-2011, 01:48 PM   #9
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I am really very very late, but I very much enjoyed this book, and Hamlet thanks a lot for selecting it, it is a great read. Beautifuly written, really beutiful prose, though unfortunately I cannot read Japanese so I cannot be sure how much the transaltor contributed to making it so fluent.

I completely agree with you, it is a very romantic story, with the fallen girl turning her back to the world and the love stricken man dying of his love. And indeed it si not easy to understand where the love is springing from, at least in the case of Satoko: what did she find in Kyoiaki beyond beauty? Just the capricious broodyness of a morose teenager? That I found difficult to understand. Similarly, I would have expected some analysis of the resentment if not anger that Satoko must have felt being handed over to the women that would take her child away by Kiyoaki himself. And why does not Kiyo look for Tadeshina to find answers? After Satoko's departure, he is completely self absorbed and almost takes pleasure in self pity - he thinks of disasters and wars that could come and shatetr the situation, but only very late in the day resolves to do something about it.

But on the other hand, this all consuming passion needs no explanation - and there is a sense in which I think the friendship between Honda and Kiyo is also something that deepends out of need of the weakest part - Honda is there to care for the only apparently stronger, luckier boy. And indeed these parallel return, e.g. the picture of "the monster" and Kiyo lying on the grass, the physical suffering of the one mirroring the inner turmoil of the other.

I also very much enjoyed the "background" - the relationship between the Ayakuras and the Matsugaes, the old and the new, but also the relationship between hte masters and their servants, some of which are essential for the actual survival of the family. I only just finished the book, so need to sleep on it, but really cannot wait to read the other three.
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Old 12-13-2011, 05:46 PM   #10
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Yes, I really enjoyed a complete second reading of the entire Sea of Fertility series. The first time I read it was during my first year of college. It was an eye opener to me then as my exposure to literature up to that point had been limited to American and Western European (largely English) works. It really broadened my interests, especially into the culture and literature of Japan. I really got a lot more out of the books this time. In addition to the Japanese grounding of the books, and the exploration of Buddhist concepts of predestination and reincarnation, that I came away with back then this second reading impressed me on the level of revealing a realistic portrait of a man's [Honda] life from young adult to old age. Something that I was less receptive to in my first reading. The last few pages of the last book in the set [Decay of the Angel] were as thought provoking as I recalled. Thus ends my note of encouragement to any with interest in reading the other three books. Now to comment on some comments from others.

One important realization about Kiyoaki, and about Honda's attraction to him as a friend, is the concepts of predestination and reincarnation that continue to be developed throughout the tetraology (with a lengthy delve into the history and beliefs of these concepts in the first part of The Temple of Dawn) . In Honda's view Kiyoaki reappears twice more, reincarnate, and always destined to die at an early age at the height of beauty and hope.

As far as Satoko being so compliant with the wishes of her own family [the Ayakuras] as well as the Matsugaes in agreeing to abort her baby [by Kiyoaki ] and renouncing her love affair with Kiyoaki, in my opinion that all has to be understood with the veneration of the Emperor and the imperial family at that time in history. In that light even her on her own choosing to end the betrothal to Prince Harunori is quite the act of rebellion.

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Old 05-18-2013, 09:16 PM   #11
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Just thought I would share that the Sea of Fertility series recently was published in e-format and is available on Overdrive as well.
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Old 05-19-2013, 11:07 AM   #12
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Just thought I would share that the Sea of Fertility series recently was published in e-format and is available on Overdrive as well.
This is excellent news.

Because:

I checked The Temple of Dawn out of the library last June 10 and I just failed to renew it for the thirteenth (!) time. I loved the first two books (and thanks to Hamlet53 for the choice of Spring Snow), but there always seemed to be something more pressing to read. Don't know why.

Anyway, will drop off Temple later today and now I won't have to wait for it to make it back to the stacks so I can check it out for another year.
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Old 05-19-2013, 03:53 PM   #13
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Just thought I would share that the Sea of Fertility series recently was published in e-format and is available on Overdrive as well.
damn - I bought the rest of the series a couple of weeks ago!

/perhaps we could have a mini group read if we coordinate, though I am not yet done with last March selection
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Old 05-19-2013, 04:30 PM   #14
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damn - I bought the rest of the series a couple of weeks ago!

/perhaps we could have a mini group read if we coordinate, though I am not yet done with last March selection
I'd like a mini read; it would be an inducement to read the Fertility series as a whole. No more letting library books sit around for a year unread!

I finally finished March two weeks ago; I need to post in the thread.

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Old 05-19-2013, 04:54 PM   #15
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I agree it would be motivation to complete the series sooner. I have already put the e-version of Runaway Horses on hold at the library.
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