Friday 7 April 2023

Book Review: The Decay of the Angel (Sea of Fertility #4) by Mishima Yukio (Modern Classic)

Title: The Decay of the Angel (Sea of Fertility #4)
Author: Mishima Yukio
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: 2001 (1970)
Pages: 236
Format: Paperback
Genre: Modern Classics
Source: Xmas Gift

As the dramatic climax of The Sea of Fertility, The Decay of the Angel brings together the dominant themes of the three previous novels- the meaning and decay of Japan's courtly tradition and samurai ideal; the essence and value of Buddhist philosophy and aesthetics; and, underlying all, Mishima's apocalyptic vision of the modern era, which saw the dissolution of the moral and cultural forces that throughout the ages nourished a people and a world. The time is the late 1960s. Honda, now an aged and wealthy man, discovers and adopts a sixteen-year-old orphan, Toru, as his heir, identifying him with the tragic protagonists of the three previous novels, each of whom died at the age of twenty. Honda raises and educates the boy, yet watches him, waiting.


The Decay of the Angel is a fittingly complex conclusion to Mishima's tetralogy. For me, this was the second best book of the four (after Spring Snow) and it rounded things off nicely. This final book calls into question all of Honda's beliefs as he reaches the twilight of his life still obsessed with his long-lost friend. The fact that the author committed suicide the day after completing the work adds an additional dimension to any reading of the piece. While I prefer several of Mishima's standalone works, The Sea of Fertility is still an interesting and worthwhile read for any fans of his writing or of mid-twentieth century Japanese literature in general. It gets 4.5 stars from me.

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