August & September’s Topic
The challenges is hosted by Tanabata of In Spring it is the Dawn, and the task is to compare two (or more if you so choose) works or other elements of Japanese literature, culture, or entertainment.
I have decided to compare the two Yukio Mishima novels I have recently finished.
To read my in-depth book reviews, click here:
The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea is published right after After the Banquet, but what a difference the two novels are!
While After the Banquet (ATB) is narrated in a tongue-in-cheek, exuberance style in tempo with the vibrant and dynamic main character, Kazu; the Sailor exudes a sense of foreboding, one that involves a teenager. When something bad happened to Kazu I was surprised and appalled; but when something happened to Ryuji in The Sailor, it was expected. This has a lot to do with managing expectations. Mishima has prepared me for the worse in the Sailor, but not in ATB. ATB brought in a lot more elements of Japanese culture in food and drink, hospitality and societal protocol than The Sailor. I learnt a lot about the Japanese culture in ATB, but I learnt more about the Japanese psyche in The Sailor.
I find there is a lot going on in ATB, a good depiction of Kazu’s busy life, with elements of marriage, politics and principles all come together seamlessly through twists of plots, daily anecdotes and domestic quabbles and a possibly unpredictable outcome. The Sailor, however leads the reader into one predicted end with a simple storyline, with much more inner reflection but with less twist.
For once in Japanese novels, there is no brutal or suicide intent in ATB; but in The sailor death thoughts are entertained more frequently, brutality and mutilation is central to the storyline.
In both stories, Mishima featured two attractive, middle-aged, strong women, i.e. Kazu and Fusako, who run their own businesses and are both independent until they met the love of their lives. Both women succumbed wholeheartedly to love, even though their heads tell them not to. They made compromises for the marriage, Kazu has to relinquish her business and Fusako her undivided attention to her son. Both women demonstrate a magnanimous attitude of sharing their wealth or give away what they have got for the man they love, which made me really anxious for them in the process!
Both novels use marriage as a catalyst for change, albeit for the worse. However, they projected a positive light on the lovers of Kazu and Fusako. Both Noguchi and Ryuji are morally upright male characters.
Both novels also introduced a female character that is despiced by the main female characters. Kazu despise Mrs Tamaki for her haughtiness, and Fuzako despise the insecure beauty of an actress, Yuriko Kasuga, who advised Fuzako to conduct a background check on her future husband before she gets married to him.
Saké or Green tea?
If The Sailor is a Saké, ATB is the green tea. Of the two books I definitely like After the Banquet better. It contains less violence, less perverse and it is also more joyful to read. It introduces me to part of Japanese culture that I never knew, expression and terminologies that I have not heard before.
After the banquet, I like a pot of green tea please.
I would like to thank Tanabata for hosting this mini challenge.