Gruesome Gory Things -Open the Body

My dad’s finally back for good after having a probe inserted into his heart cavity via a tortuous way from his pelvis and 3 stents implanted in his cardiac arteries. Don’t ask me why the medical profession choose such a gut-wrenching method to insert a probe.

Now for the real gory part. (And it’s only a book review.)

At the start of the new school term and with better library privileges (extended borrowing, increased number of books for borrowing), I casually grabbed a collection of short stories by Yukio Mishima after photocopying 122 pages of the pretty pricey Italian textbook.
The book (not the pricey Italian textbook) is titled ‘Death in Midsummer and other stories’. Good, I need something morbid to keep me awake on the train.

The thing about Japanese literature is, it is not as rich and colourful as its European counterparts. For example, ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ by the French writer Alexandre Dumas and ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ by the British gay writer Oscar Wilde (who eventually was exiled to France…Ooh Lala!). These are brimming with sumptuous details and colourful variety of lands, characters, wit and adventure.
What Japanese literature is to Western literature, to me, can be likened to what a light vegetable consomme is to a cheese smothered beef lasagne dripping with butter oil.

Tasteless? Bland?
I used to think so until I read one of Mishima’s short story titled ‘Patriotism’.

In brief synopsis, it tells in detail of a military lieutenant general and his wife committing suicide for the sake of nationalistic pride and duty. The lieutenant general couldn’t bear to fight his friends nor join them in their mutiny and thus decided to commit ritual suicide, seppuku. His wife, out of devotion, readily joins him in death. Mishima describes their undulating passions and ardent love for each other so beautifully, it made the bloody suicide scene even more horrific with the stark contrast.
With microscopic details, Mishima unhurriedly describes how the lieutenant general cuts open his stomach, the blinding pain that was beyond anyone’s empathetic capacity and how the entrails spill out from the lieutenant general’s point of view. It was as if Mishima is forcing the reader to savour every excruciating moment as the lieutenant general tries to rip his stomach open with his sword.

I was completely nauseated as I read on in the train. I was probably grimacing away throughout the trip. I wanted to put the book down but I couldn’t because I had to witness his death which will release him from his agony. What made it even more horrific was the fact his wife had to witness the whole ritual alone before ending her own life with a dagger through her throat. Ironically, it is the reader who witnesses the bloody ritual with her.

I never experienced such violence portrayed in any media before that could affect me emotionally and physically. Violent movies like Silence of the Lambs or comics only succeeded in making me give a ‘Eee…’ befitting social norm. Mishima made my stomach turn with the dizzyingly gory details and he paced it slow and even so that the words can seep into every pore of the reader’s being.

This is one thick piece of steak, rare and steeped in warm blood.


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