After the Banquet by Yukio Mishima
Published by: Vintage Books
Literary Fiction, p288
Rating: 4.50/5 stars
For years Kazu has run her fashionable restaurant with a combination of charm and shrewdness. But when the she falls in love with one of her clients, an aristocratic retired politician, she renounces her business in order to become his wife. But it is not so easy to renounce her independent spirit, and eventually Kazu must choose between her marriage and the demands of her irrepressible vitality. After the Banquet is a magnificent portrait of political and domestic warfare.
About the author:
Yukio Mishima writes in Japanese language. His first published book, The Forest in Full Bloom, appeared in 1944 and he established himself as a major author with Confessions of a Mask. From then until his death he continued to publish novels, short stories, and plays each year. His crowning achievement, the Sea of Fertility tetralogy—which contains the novels Spring Snow (1969), Runaway Horses (1969), The Temple of Dawn (1970), and The Decay of the Angel (1971)—is considered one of the definitive works of twentieth-century Japanese fiction.
Yukio Mishima is an author I have read so much about that the idea of reading his works weighed on me, so much so that I received this book as a birthday present in March last year and it remained unread all this time.
‘After the Banquet’ follows two main protagonists Kazu, the owner of a restaurant that caters to the elite and powerful political circles of Japan and Noguchi, a semi retired politician belonging to an aristocratic family. Both are at an age that is surrounded with the remains of their youth and the prospect of mortality.
Kazu at 50 years is an attractive woman with an efficient hand over her business but gives in to the dread of a lonely death in a solitary grave. Noguchi at 60 years is a widower, an old school politician who has set ways and social decorum. The two marry and make an attempt at making a life together but then a political campaign and the way each goes about it exposes the glaring differences between the two.
Mishima looks at old age, loneliness, impending death and the idea of corruption, the later, in terms of morals as well as in politics. His writing will not take readers into the minds of the characters so much as their actions and while the setting and what is what is left unsaid between the two main protagonists serve as a rich tapestry to get an essence of the mood of the narrative. On one hand, there is the hustle and bustle at the restaurant, the cloistered secrecy of political conversations in spaces beyond probing eyes, the behind the scene look at the hypocrisy of social circles.
What makes Mishima and other writers and later, film makers looking at the post Second World War Japan fascinating is their commentary on the socio political dynamics of a nation emerging with reluctance from their belief in the Emperor and the Sumurai on one hand and an insecurity of the future. Will recommend this if you love old school Japanese literature.