Sun and Steel
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In this fascinating document, one of Japan's best known-and controversial-writers created what might be termed a new literary form. It is new because it combines elements of many existing types of writing, yet in the end fits into none of them.
At one level, it may be read as an account of how a puny, bookish boy discovered the importance of his own physical being; the "sun and steel" of the title are themselves symbols respectively of the cult of the open air and the weights used in bodybuilding. At another level, it is a discussion by a major novelist of the relation between action and art, and his own highly polished art in particular. More personally, it is an account of one individual's search for identity and self-integration. Or again, the work could be seen as a demonstration of how an intensely individual preoccupation can be developed into a profound philosophy of life.
All these elements are woven together by Mishima's complex yet polished and supple style. The confession and the self-analysis, the philosophy and the poetry combine in the end to create something that is in itself perfect and self-sufficient. It is a piece of literature that is as carefully fashioned as Mishima's novels, and at the same time provides an indispensable key to the understanding of them as art.
The road Mishima took to salvation is a highly personal one. Yet here, ultimately, one detects the unmistakable tones of a self transcending the particular and attaining to a poetic vision of the universal. The book is therefore a moving document, and is highly significant as a pointer to the future development of one of the most interesting novelists of modern times.
verge of non-communication; it was a style that did not accept, but rejected. More than anything, I was preoc cupied with distinction (not that my own style neces sarily had it). My ideal style would have had the grave beauty of polished wood in the entrance hall of a samurai mansion on a winter’s day. In my style, as hardly needs pointing out, I progres sively turned my back on the preferences of the age. Abounding in antitheses, clothed in an old-fashioned, weighty solemnity, it did not lack
an odd kind, like a transparent apple whose core is fully visible from the outside; and the only endorsement of such existence lies in words. It is the classical type of existence experienced by the solitary, humanistic man of letters. . . . But one also comes across a type of self-awareness that concerns itself exclusively with the form of things. For this type of self-awareness, the antinomy between seeing and existing is decisive, since it involves the question of how the core of the apple
the sweet pain that occurred when it became entangled in the complex mesh of ideas, but I was igno rant as yet of the deep-rooted joy produced when the two types of summons, meeting in the body, find themselves perfectly matched. Before long, there came the high-pitched whine of the guns, and I caught sight of the bright orange tracer shells being fired, with repeated corrections for error, at targets half obscured by the drifting rain. The next hour I spent sitting in the mire, with the rain
of individuality into which I had been driven by words and awaken to the meaning of the group. There is, of course, such a thing as the language of the group, but it is in no sense a self-sufficient language. A speech, a slogan, and the words of a play all depend on the physical presence of the public speaker, the campaig ner, the actor. Whether it is written down on paper or shouted aloud, the language of the group resolves itself ultimately into physical expression. It is not a language for
might almost call a natural law, are inclined to lapse into automatism, but I have found by experience that a large stream may be deflected by dig ging a small channel. This is another example of the quality that our spirits and bodies have in common: that tendency shared by the body and the mind to instantly create their own small universe, their own “false order,” whenever, at one par ticular time, they are taken control of by one particular idea. Although what happens in fact represents a