Yukio Mishima’s artistic accomplishment includes a wide range of genres. For example, he adapted ancient No dramas, science fiction, modern plays, and stories from Japanese history. In addition, The Sound of Waves is an idyllic romance, unlike any of the writer’s other novels. It is limited in scope and in ambition, showing none of the tedious intellectual debate, emotional strain, or sardonic tone that characterize much of his other work. Also, evil and perverted love are conspicuous by their absence.
What evil there is in the story remains basically peripheral, for the pure love of Shinji and Hatsue cannot be corrupted. It is the most normal and healthy of his works. The Sound of Waves is lyrical, simple, and satisfying, so much so that some have criticized it as being sentimental. While the setting is exotic, it is not exotic in a negative sense. Furthermore, it is the least obscure, and it reads in English as the least “foreign” of his novels, for it is intentionally unsophisticated and uses simple pastoral elements to tell a story that is concerned with human relationships that are as timeless as the sea that surrounds the island on which the events of the tale occur.
In The Sound of Waves, Mishima appears determined to demonstrate to himself that he could create in his writing a world totally different from his own, but even more than that, to show that he could have a place in that world. Several years after the novel was written, Mishima is said to have commented that at about the time of its writing, he had felt a desire to try to turn himself into his own opposite.
Mishima long entertained a hope to visit Greece, and on a voyage around the world in the early 1950’s, he found that Greece was even more wonderful than he had imagined. On this voyage, he began to realize that many of the pictures he had painted of human life in the past were highly incomplete; they dwelled only on the dark side of life. Thus was born the idea of writing an idyllic story that would be based on a classical Greek myth, that of Daphnis and Chloë. It would provide an idyll of a boy and a girl and the sea and would include a fairy-tale-like series of trials that the fisher boy would have to overcome to gain the hand of his “princess.” In terms of Mishima’s own artistic development, writing this novel based on classical literature demonstrated that, whether that...
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