The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima

The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima

Let me start by saying that reading so many stories about Japanese teenagers in love wasn’t planned, it just sort of happened. Also, this was the book I picked up after I had to put down “The Coup” by Updike after 80 pages. 

So, let’s jump right into it. Mishima was crazy. He formed an unarmed civilian militia for the avowed purpose of defending the Japanese emperor in the event of a revolution by Japanese communists. On November 25, 1970, Mishima and four members of his militia entered a military base in central Tokyo, took the commandant hostage, and tried to persuade the soldiers at the base to join them in supporting the emperor and overturning Japan's pacifist Constitution. When this was unsuccessful, Mishima committed suicide by seppuku at the age of 45.

Overview: Set in a remote fishing village in Japan, The Sound of Waves is a timeless story of first love. A young fisherman is entranced at the sight of the beautiful daughter of the wealthiest man in the village. They fall in love, but must then endure the calumny and gossip of the villagers.

The Sound of Waves was published in 1954 and is a coming-of-age story about Shinji and his romance with Hatsue, the beautiful daughter of the wealthy ship owner Terukichi. The story has been adapted for film five times.

I really enjoyed the story, probably because the writing was characterized by its luxurious vocabulary and decadent metaphors, its fusion of traditional Japanese and modern Western literary styles, and its obsessive assertions of the unity of beauty, eroticism and death. The ending was strong, and for lack of a better word, fulfilling, much like the way Mishima described the setting of the beautiful island on which the majority of the story takes place.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami.jpg

“There is never a right time to fall in love”

The novel is a nostalgic story of loss and burgeoning sexuality. It is told from the first-person perspective of Toru Watanabe, who looks back on his days as a college student living in Tokyo.

This was the second Murakami book I read this year and similar to the first one, there’s an ease with his style of writing that puts you right in the middle of every scene he’s describing.

The story is about the life of a Japanese university student in the late 60s and his relationships with different women as a student. At some points, I thought, “Why am I so invested in the characters of an angsty romance novel?” But having thought about it, Norwegian Wood is so much more than that. It’s about life, loss, love, and everything in between. The ending caught me off guard, but I felt complete with it - sort of thinking to myself, “well of course that’s how it had to end.”

Reading Murakami, as an aspiring writer, is challenging. Part of me loves his works, and the other part of me thinks, “Well, this Japanese author is as good as it gets, there’s no topping it.” Despite the internal jealousy and unrelenting fascination with how he uses his words, I look forward to reading more Murakami in the future.