"Spring Snow" by Yukio Mishima. Reviewed by ~nartes-fasrum
"It's a beautiful day. In all our lives, we may not have many like this - so perfect", said Honda, stirred by some premonition.
"Are you talking about happiness?" asked Kiyoaki.
"I don't remember saying anything about happiness."
"Well, that's all right then. I'd be much too scared to say the things you do. I don't have that kind of courage."
"I'm convinced that the trouble with you is, you're horribly greedy. Greedy men are apt to seem miserable. Look, what more could you want than a day like this?"
"Something definite. What it might be, I've no idea."
"Spring Snow," by Yukio Mishima, is the first in the Sea of Fertility tetralogy. Set in Taishō-era Japan, Mishima sets the transitional period of Japanese culture behind intrigue, tragedy, and philosophy through a story of youthful love.
I had, at one point, seen someone express frustration that "nothing happens" in Spring Snow; this is true in some sense, but in the context of the young characters (the primary character, Kiyoaki Matsugae is only 20 by the end) everything happens. When I had first read the book I was myself barely older than Kiyoaki, and maybe that affects my perspective somewhat. At that age - as things are fresh and new, while one is beginning to realise such things may never come again - everything is momentous and everything is a happening of some great stature. Since one doesn't know which things will come again later in life, one might hold onto everything a little too dearly, romanticise a little too much, and take considerable actions in the face of risk in order to hold onto the perfect days, the perfect moments.
Such it is with Kiyoaki Matsugae, and Spring Snow flows from this. Mishima's tangents through Buddhism and Hinduism are less frequent in this part of the tetralogy than in subsequent parts, and I find that they complement the plot rather than form a plot unto themselves - though I cannot speak to their accuracy given my inexperience with the subject matter. All that aside, I read the novel in the way I would watch a slice-of-life anime, or maybe a B-grade Disney Channel romance movie. There's some gems, some moments where Mishima's ability shines through, but for the most part events occur and the novel simply exists. The novel is self-contained and there's no real need for sequels; Mishima is content to work on characters instead of building cliffhangers or pursuing profits.
I enjoyed Spring Snow, though I went into it for the first time with no expectations and little knowledge of the author (other than the vague idea that Mishima is 'based', whatever that means now). Given the bit more I know about its author now, I can say its themes feel consistent with his greater beliefs and obssessions. As a tragic, self-contained poem or artwork, I believe it works well and would suggest those with patience or no particular need for a rapid pace or action give it a try.