- Tapa blanda: 232 páginas
- Editor: Routledge; Edición: Reprint (13 de agosto de 1998)
- Colección: Pacific Basin Institute Books
- Idioma: Inglés
- ISBN-10: 0765603004
- ISBN-13: 978-0765603005
Silk and Insight (Pacific Basin Institute Books) (Inglés) Tapa blanda – 13 ago 1998
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This is a tale based on the strike which took place in the mid-1950s at Omi Kenshi, a silk manufacturer not far from Tokyo. The events described reflect the management / labour tensions of the period and is a piece of social commentary on the transformation of Japanese business.
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The novel works much better as a character study of Komazawa Zenjiro, the owner of the company in which the strike occurs. I'm thinking that must have been Mishima's true purpose, seeing as every chapter title starts with Komazawa's name. Komazawa is a man who lives quite firmly in the past, and tries to adapt the ways of the past to this modern world. (This bears more than a slight parallel to Mishima himself.) His quasi-religious faith in those ways is poignant, and though he clearly has the author's sympathies, Mishima has admirably chosen not to whitewash his faults - Komazawa's hypocrisy, his occasional pointless cruelty and his refusal to even try to understand anything not in the scope of the old ways are all highlighted quite clearly.
However, a good character study does not a good novel make, and the other characters seem, to put it nicely, "unfinished." Otsuki, the strike leader, has precious few appearances to put in for such an important role, and his only motive for what he does, according to the author, is an almost childish chagrin at Komazawa's separation of him from his girlfriend. He seems like more of a plot device than a character. More frustrating, though, is the fact that this novel has many potentially fascinating characters that it simply chooses not to develop. Take the ex-geisha Kikuno, for instance, whose motives are never made anything approaching "clear" - does she love Komazawa? What is the source of her admiration of him? Why did she even want to quit being a geisha in the first place? Or what about the ominous intellectual Okano, who is depicted as a Machiavellian scheming sort of man, but is never given (and never gives) any rationalization for his actions? Did he do what he did solely out of mischief? Was he motivated by financial concerns? What about Komazawa's wife Fusae, who seems to have a (similarly unexplained) martyrdom complex? All these are things Mishima could really have taken some time to flesh out.
As it is, the novel's an often interesting portrait of a very specific type of person, but that's about it. It could have been more. If you're a fan of Mishima, you are of course going to read this, but if this is your first contact with his work, I doubt it will impress you enough to make you delve into the rest of his oeuvre.
What makes this book so interesting is Mishima's ability to flesh out all his characters. He does not fall into the simplistic "worker=good/boss=bad" trap, Mishima enjoys creating morally ambiguous characters. First, Komazawa-san, the company president, appears to be very hard working and inspiring to his employees. However, as I read about the horrible working conditions within the company, I found myself rooting for Otsuki-san, the strike leader. As Mishima continues to dig deeper into his characters' psyches, revealing their ethical blindspots, I discovered that no one is completely good or evil. How the protesters conscript other workers to join the strike, and how Komazawa-san's deteriorating self image reveals his pitiful humanity, make for very compelling reading.
The use of a strike situation is a wonderful crucible in which to combine all these differing emotions, motivations, and deceptions; resulting in characters on both sides of the picket line who are forever changed (scarred?) by the whole experience.
You may not be able to look at silk the same way again.
I caution you to check your copy of this book immediately. I bought mine from an amazon vendor in the spring and am just reading it now...and it is missing the entire signature from page 127 through 158. It's not torn out - it was simply never put into the book. Since book and magazine binding machinery can detect a single page missing, I am afraid that this may be a major flaw of the publisher's.
Sadly, I probably have no recourse because too much time has passed, but I'm going to try.