The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima
Translated from the Japanese by Meredith Weatherby
Vintage International, New York, 1994
Borrowed from the library.
This is, quite simply, a love story. Shinji, a young fisherman helping to support his widowed mother and younger brother sees a young women, Hatsue, on the beach. He is instantly attracted to her and, as the two get to know each other, they fall in love. She is the daughter of a wealthy merchantman. The island they live on, Uta-Jima, is small and insular and, as their relationship becomes public knowledge, they must face the gossip of their neighbors and the jealousy of others.
This is beautifully written, a lyrical story of first love. It takes place in a simpler time, one which filled me with nostalgia. Reading Mishima’s prose is like viewing Japanese brush painting, much is expressed with a few words, like a few brush strokes. A lot of this has to do with Mishima’s way of depicting the people, the land and the sea that surrounds them. He had the ability to express human thought and feeling in a way that appears simple and yet hold great depth.
The boy felt a consummate accord between himself and this opulence of nature that surrounded him. He inhales deeply, and it was as though a part of the unseen something that constitutes nature had permeated the core of his being. He heard the sounds of the waves striking the shore, and it was as though the surging of his young blood was keeping time with the movement of the sea’s great tides. It was doubtless because nature itself satisfied his need that Shinji felt no particular lack of music in his everyday life. From pages 44/45.
In this way the spring had neared its end. It was still too early for the clusters of crinum lilies that bloomed in the cliffs on the eastern side of the island, but the fields were colored here and there with various other flowers. The children were back in school again, and some of the women were already diving in the cold water for the seaweed called “soft lace”. As a consequence there were now more houses that were empty during the daytime, doors unlocked, windows open. Bees entered these empty houses freely, flew about in them lonesomely, and were often startled upon running headlong into a mirror. From page 119.
I enjoyed this novel and will be reading more of Mishima’s work in the future.