Sunday 31 March 2019

Mishima's Sword: Travel's in Search of a Samurai Legend - Christopher Ross (2006)

Rating: Excellent

After reading Yukio Mishima's novel Runaway Horses (1970) I searched my library's catalogue for books about the author and the sole result was Mishima's Sword. It is a curious book indeed; part travelogue, part philosophical rumination, part biographical and part quest. Mishima's Sword is quite a personal book, with Ross revealing intimate details of his life, many of which he relates back to Mishima and his books, or his own interest in martial arts. Whilst the book is not attempting to be a Mishima biography, Ross does examine details about Mishima's life, in particular those related to his final day, which Ross recounts gradually throughout the book until we get the gory details of his last moments at the end of the book. 

Mishima's Sword could easily have been an exercise in futility, an ineffectual miss-mash of themes and styles, however it is very well written and is formatted in short sections that effectively highlight each thematic thread. Mishima's Sword is not the book that will provide all the answers when it comes to understanding Mishima's work, but it does provide an effective dissection of the nature of obsession. Ross talks about some of his various lifelong obsessions, such as using martial arts as a means to purge an inferiority complex brought about by childhood bullying. Then there are the obsessions that Mishima pursued throughout his life that ultimately contributed to his highly orchestrated ritual suicide. The book's denouement provides philosophical insight into such weighty themes as bathos, cathartic release and death. Mishima's Sword is well worth reading if you are in the mood for something totally different, but you'll also learn some things along the way as well, including becoming a expert in Samurai swords, which may well come in handy one day...

No comments:

Post a Comment