SPRING SNOW by Yukio Mishima


Email this review


This is the first of four correlative books delivered to his publisher before Mishima's striking suicide, far more gravid with various transcultural and political and psychic implications than the young man's anticipation here of a ""graceful death -- as a richly patterned kimono, thrown carelessly across a polished table."" But then this is also much more overt and less arcane than any of the earlier Mishima novels with their stylized, ritualized schema; it is actually a very traditional work taking place in a more traditional time (1912) -- a novel of a great house in the grand style albeit a westernized one (English china, table manners and billiards) which would cause some of the divisiveness in the later Mishima. Against this formal, elegant background, Kiyoaki, of an old samurai family (but not so old as that of the young woman with whom he falls in love -- acknowledged by 27 generations of the Imperial family) grows up; Kiyoaki will represent the perfect synthesis between the aristocratic and the military but somehow he is unequal to his destiny. His is a contrary and fretful sensibility, diffident and dreamy, and during his late adolescent years he is not able to commit himself to Satoko, an ivory doll beauty. It will be his more composed and rationalistic friend Honda who will explain his conflict -- again the conflict of the book; now that the era of glorious wars have ended, the young face a still more difficult ""war of emotion."" During this time of irresolution, Satoko is chosen by the Imperial family to marry a Prince: this decision sharpens Kiyoaki's romantic drive toward her; they meet furtively; she becomes pregnant and finally gets herself to a nunnery. Mishima's novel begins slowly but picks up momentum in the second half along with episodes of sly humor as well as the tragedy of its finale. Mishima said of it ""I have put into it everything I have felt and thought about life and this world."" Thus if he appears, as he always has, in the guise of his central character, it is on more explicit, representational terms than he has hitherto chosen.

Pub Date: June 12th, 1972
Publisher: Knopf