Title: Thirst for Love.
Author: Yukio Mishima.
Genre: Literature, fiction, romance.
Publication Date: 1950.
Summary: After the early death of her philandering husband, Etsuko moves into her father-in-law's house, where she numbly submits to the old man's advances. But soon she finds herself in love with the young servant Saburo. Tormented by his indifference, yet invigorated by her desire, she makes her move, with catastrophic consequences.
My rating: 9/10
♥ To me this is a false diary, though no human being can be so honest as to become completely false.
♥ All kinds of conjectures built around Etsuko a wall that excited new curiosity. Inside this wall she came and went, bored, weary, yet with abandon, like a lone running bird.
♥ We are not wounded so deeply when betrayed by the things we hope for as when betrayed by things we try our best to despise. In such betrayal comes the dagger in the back.
♥ Rumor sometimes follows a more precise logic than fact, and fact more than rumor is apt to have a lie in it somewhere.
♥ Those detestable, perverted, cruel hours of instruction... those countless forced memorizations, those whips, those beatings... they all taught Etsuko the lesson: “If you can deny yourself jealousy, you can stop loving.”
♥ Thus the infinitude of pain leads one to believe in the indestructibility of the body by pain. And is that, after all, so silly?
♥ ..She had become something he could not do without - a necessity, like a sin or a bad habit.
Etsuko was a beautiful eczema. At Yakichi’s age he couldn’t itch without eczema.
♥ Jealousy does not, after all, have to feed on factual evidence; in that respect its passions are close to the passions of idealism.
♥ Hopes for whose fruition one does not fear, however, are not hopes so much as, in the last analysis, a species of desperation.
♥ For Etsuko - born and brought up in Tokyo - Osaka held inexplicable terrors. City of merchant princes, hoboes, industrialists, stockbrokers, whores, opium pushers, white collar workers, punks, bankers, provincial officials, aldermen, Gidayu reciters, kept women, penny-pinching wives, newspaper reporters, music hall entertainers, bar girls, shoe-shine boys - it was not really this that Etsuko feared. Might it have been nothing but life itself? Life - this limitless, complex sea, filled with assorted flotsam, brimming with capricious, violent, and yet eternally transparent blues and greens.
♥ These rooms into which one could see so plainly, each with its cheap tea cabinet, its low table, its radio, its muslin floor pillows, its slim fare, of which one could see at times every scrap, and all that steam! Every one of them made Etsuko angry. Her heart had no developed to the point where she could look at poverty, or imagine anything but happiness.
♥ A feeling of liberation should contain a bracing feeling of negation, in which liberation itself is not negated. In the moment a captive lion steps out of his cage, he possesses a wider world than the lion who has known only the wilds. While he was in captivity, there were only two worlds to him - the world of the cage, and the world outside the cage. Now he is free. He roars. He attacks people. He eats them. Yet he is not satisfied, for there is no third world that is neither the world of the cage nor the world outside the cage. Etsuko, however, had in her heart not the slightest interest in these matters. Her soul knew nothing but affirmation.
♥ The Hospital for Infectious Diseases. With great joy Etsuko welcomed that ugly building, on the other side of the steel bridge that threw its shadow on the broken pavement of the road. Life on an island, life in its ideal form, which Etsuko had always pined for, was about to begin. Unceasing approbation of life; a rough, rude approbation that did not care at all about appearances. An approbation of life beyond law and beyond morality, dramatized and incessantly demanded by delirium, incontinence, bloody excrement, vomit, diarrhea, and horrible odors. This air which, like a mob of merchants shouting bids at a produce auction, craved in every second the call: “Still alive! Still alive!” This busy terminal where life constantly came and went, arrived and departed, boarded and debarked. This mass of active bodies, unified by the unique form of existence they bore, namely, contagious disease. Here the value of men’s lives and germs’ lives frequently came to the same thing; patient and practitioner were metamorphosed into bacteria - into such objectless life. Here life existed only for the sake of being affirmed; no pettier desire was allowed. Here happiness reigned. In fact, here happiness, that most rapidly rotting of all foods, reigned in its most rotten, most inedible form.
♥ How can one explain the sense of resignation Etsuko felt at this moment? Was it simply lust? Sloth? Was it the way a thirst-crazed man swallows rusty water that Etsuko accepted this? No. Etsuko was not thirsty in the slightest. Her nature had suddenly become one that asked for nothing. It seemed as if she had come to Maidemmura to find again a basis for that fearful self-sufficiency she had contracted in the Hospital for Infectious Diseases. She drank perhaps like a drowning man helplessly swallowing sea water, in accordance with some law of nature. Not to ask for anything means that one has lost one’s freedom to choose or reject. Once having decided that, one has no choice but to drink anything - even sea water...
Afterward, however, Etsuko exhibited none of the gagging expressions of a drowning person. Until the moment of her death, it seemed, no one would know she was drowning. She did not call out - this woman bound and gagged bu her own hand...
♥ Kensuke and his wife had, like all bored people, a sense of kindness that was close to disease. Gossip and a pushy kindness - these two qualities peculiar to country people - had already infected Kensuke and Chieko, without their knowledge, and made them don an upper-class camouflage - a camouflage of criticism and advice.
♥ Was this all there was to be of the thing that Etsuko had waited and hoped for since the evening before? Of course not. To her this small occurrence was as carefully planned as a ceremony - minutely projected. Beginning with this small occurrence, a transfiguration would take place within her. Clouds would drift in; the face of the fields would darken; the landscape would become something of different import. Over human life, too, for a moment this change would seem to come and abide. It was just a tiny alteration in one’s way of looking at things, this change by which life would come to seem completely different.
Etsuko was arrogant enough to believe that this change could come about all by itself - this change that would not be accomplished unless the eyes of human beings were changed to the eyes of wild boars. She still would not admit it: that we, as long as we have eyes of men, no matter how out way of looking at things might change, will all in the end come up with the same answer.
♥ Judged merely by its end result, her passion was shockingly authentic evidence of the limitlessness of the human passion for self-torture. A passion lavishly expended in the destruction of her hopes alone, it was a scale model of human existence - perhaps streamlined, perhaps vaulted. Passions do have a form, and through their forms become biological cultures in which human lives can be fully displayed.
♥ People who wear only ready-made clothes are apt to doubt the very existence of tailors; and this pair, enthralled through they were by ready-made tragedies, had no way of knowing that there were people who had their tragedies made to order. Etsuko was, as ever, written in an alphabet they couldn’t read.
♥ On certain occasions human beings are imbued with the belief that they can accomplish anything. In such moments they seem to glimpse much that is normally invisible to human eyes. Then, later, even after they have sunk to the bottom of memory’s well, these moments sometimes revive and again suggest to men the miraculous plenitude of the world’s pains and joys. None can avoid these moments of destiny; nor can anyone - no matter who he is - avoid the misfortune of seeing more than his eyes can take in.