New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 1967. Third printing. Hardcover. 182 pages ; 21 cm. Price clipped dust jacket. Previous owner name on the front free endpaper. No other markings within this book. Binding is firm.
This is a story of first love
—and of courage. The scene is a Japanese fishing village, where the air is rich with the salty tang of the sea, the fragrance of hemp cordage, and the invisible smoke of charcoal fires. The modern world is far away. Nevertheless, like the tales of Daphnis and Chloe and of Aucassin and Nicolette, it is a universal story that might have happened anywhere. In Japan it is already regarded as one of the world's great love stories.
It begins when a boy, Shinji, falls in love with a girl, Hatsue. Writing with simplicity, delicacy, and restrained lyricism, Mr. Mishima tells how Hatsue, who had been sent away to be trained as a pearl diver on another island, returned to the village in the spring just as the octopus season was giving way to the squid season; and how Shinji caught his first glance of her remarkable beauty. He saw her in the twilight on the beach, which was still noisy with the shouts of fishermen hauling up their boats.
The life of a Japanese fishing village is still very strict. The men work from dawn to dusk; the women, better able to stand the cold of the sea, dive naked for precious abalone. There is little time for love. Yet Shinji did meet Hatsue — shyly, tenderly, not quite accidentally.
He did not meet her often, but their meetings were memorable. One took place during a storm in an old, ruined observation tower on the highest crag on the island. Both were drenched, and had to strip to dry their clothing. Out of this situation Mr. Mishima extracts a love scene of remarkable purity and beauty.
And then tragedy, in the ugly shape of gossip, struck at Hatsue and Shinji. The rest of the story unfolds with a depth of feeling, a tenderness, a natural emotion all too rare in our own more complicated world.
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