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Monday, May 25, 2015

*****The Garlic Ballads by Mo Yan


  • Translated from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt. 
  • Setting 1985, China
  • Other Mo Yan books I have read:  Big Breasts and Wide Hips, which is my favorite book of the author's,  to date. 
  • In China, Mo Yan is a controversial writer. Other Chinese writer's believe he snuggles too closely with their government, so to speak. I disagree. I believe he schmoozes with the government so he can get away with writing what he does about Chinese life. It is not favorable, but it is real. It is clear he has a love for his homeland. Just because the country has severe problems does not take away from the inherent beauty of its land and people.
  • Mo Yan's writing is visually descriptive and beautiful. It possesses a quality and depth that is astounding. His contemporary writing illustrates the causal violence that predominates the third world areas of the country. While the violence is difficult to read and comprehend, it does not take away from the beauty of Mo Yan's narrative.

*****Runaway Horses, by Yukio Mishima


  • Runaway Horses is Book 2 of  Yukio Mishima's tetralogy, The Sea of Fertility
  • See notes and full description of Book 1, Spring Snow, under 2014 of this blog.
  • Setting-Osaka, Japan, 1932
  • Yukio Mishima is Kimitake Hiraoka's  pen name
  • Mishima was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature three times
  • Yukio Mishima spent five years writing his tetralogy,  The Sea of Fertility, a saga of 20th century Japan.  On the day of its completion, January 25, 1970, the author mailed his manuscript to the publisher, headed to Tokyo headquarters of Japan's Eastern Army where he made a speech urging the troops to impose martial law in the Emperor's name, then performed a ritual seppuku (suicide). Mishima was 45 years old.
  • Mishima's was raised in a samurai family where mind and body control was taught and respected. In traditional medieval Japan samurai conduct was considered an expression of loyalty to the Emperor. Mishima maintained this lifestyle for the entirety of his own short life. He held on to traditional medieval Japanese ideals long after the Emperor was gone and Japan was modernized. He abhorred the materialism that infiltrated Japan after WWII. These concepts are depicted in both Runaway Horses and Spring Snow. Due to the way the author died, I have little doubt these themes will continue throughout his tetralogy. 
  • Mishima was a Kendo master; he ascended to the fifth rank. Isao, Kiyoaki's reincarnate, was also a Kendo master. This relationship is important as it relates to the ideals expressed in the first two books. In Spring Snow, emotional Kiyoaki embarrasses his samurai father with his delicate sensibilities. In Runaway Horses, Kendo influences Isao's samurai mindset which proves critical to his future decisions.