Sunday 23 December 2018

Runaway Horses - Yukio Mishima (1970; English translation 1973)

Rating: Sublime

Yukio Mishima has been lodged in my imagination for some time, mostly due to David Bowie's admiration for his writing, something I was aware of from a few decades ago. Mishima is an absolutely fascinating character and after reading Runaway Horses it occurred to me that he must go down as one of the most intense novelists in history. Mishima was born into a samurai family and positioned himself as a nationalist in post-war Japan, believing in total loyalty to the Emperor and resisting western influence in Japanese culture. Researching his life and work it would be fair to say that his novels explore the ramifications of his world view and values. The manner of his death makes for intense reading as well.

Runaway Horses is the second novel of Mishima's The Sea of Fertility tetralogy. Although I have not read the first novel, Spring Snow (1969), it did not present any difficulties when reading Runaway Horses. The novel is almost perfect, featuring an absorbing plot, beautifully lyrical prose, psychological intensity and finely tuned characterizations. Runaway Horses is satisfying in every way and I deliberately read the novel with care, resulting in the curious phenomenon of its world bleeding into my own, imbuing me with a sense of discipline and clarity with my own moral outlook. Runaway Horses represents literature at its most powerful and I thoroughly recommend the novel for those seeking something tangible from their reading experience. As Bowie sung in his 1977 song Blackout, 'I'm under Japanese influence and my honor's at stake!'

Bowie with his painting of Mishima circa 1977

Yukio Mishima

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