The Decay of the Angel, Paperback
3 out of 5 (2 ratings)


The dramatic climax of "The Sea of Fertility" tetraology takes place in the late 1960s.

Honda, now an aged and wealthy man, discovers and adopts a sixteen-year-old orphan, Toru, as his heir, identifying him with the tragic protagonists of the three previous novels, each of whom died at the age of twenty.

Honda raises and educates the boy, yet watches him, waiting.




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Combined review for Spring Snow, Runaway Horses, The Temple of Dawn and The decay of the Angel - which together make up the Sea of Fertility.Spring Snow succeeds for me only for its painting of a lost period in Japan - of the privileged and their privileges. In other ways it fails - the obsession with 'elegance' and 'good movements' and 'beauty' leaves me no wiser as the causes and principles involved.Runaway Horses moves forward 20 years, to a second incarnation of the principal of these stories. Again fails to to convince as the source and power of the obsessions (Japan-ness. ritual suicide etc). At the end, we know they exist, but not why. The Temple of Dawn is the weakest of the four books with turgid page after turgid page of Buddhist and other religious exposition. Is this a cheap cure for writer's block? The reincarnation this time is as Thai princess. Remarkably, the main character, Honda, becomes a hardcore voyeur halfway through this volume. The voyeuristic writing is good - it is almost as if Mishima wanted to get this writing out, and Honda was the available character!The Decay of the Angel is the shortest volume (running out of things to say?) and again fails to deliver. The latest incarnation is Angel-like(!). Spare me. The most remarkable aspect is Mishima's ritual suicide on the day he finished writing this last volume. If he was aiming for immortality, all he achieved was a quirky footnote to literary history.

Review by

This is really more like a 4 1/2 star novel..but of course Goodreads is a bit limiting at times. In any case, I was really intrigued when I found out that Mishima had committed ritual suicide after this one. There is a great deal more of depth and much less innocence than The Sound of Waves (had you not guessed that by the title, though? I mean, really!) There is also a great deal about the sea and waves in this one nonetheless and parallels with humans and angels. There is madness, delusions, youth, and aging..there is the idea of pure evil and it is quite vivid. But at the end, it's not completely clear how much we as a reader were also deceived and how to sort it all out...which I suppose just makes this novel even more interesting and one to fathom further in future readings. <br/><br/>I like the deeper novels that make you think..the ones rich with a sense of philosophy to ponder and make you wonder about your own beliefs as well. I think this is a great work but I wish that it was at least 100 more pages longer at a minimum to really develop the characters themselves even further. I think the novel at its strengths has some interesting story lines and in terms of the character development, there are some intriguing contrasts but I tend to want more like Dostoevsky would do, for instance. I like to feel like I have epically grown with the characters.<br/><br/><br/>In any case, there are some amazing insights in this novel and it is one I am sure I will come back to as I grow older. The language itself, especially the imagery, is so very vivid that it will not easily be forgotten.<br/><br/><br/>Favorite quotes:<br/><br/>pg 1" Three birds seemed to become one at the top of the sky. Then, in disorder, they separated. There was something wondrous about the meeting and separating. It must mean something, this coming so close that they felt the wind from each other's wings, and then blue distance once more. Three ideas will sometimes join in our hearts."<br/><br/>pg. 13-14 "There had to be a realm where at the limit of all the layers of clarity it was definite that nothing at all made an appearance. a realm of solid, definite indigo, where seeing cast of the shackles of consciousness and itself became transparent, where phenomena and consciousness dissolved like plumbic oxide in acetic acid."<br/><br/>pg 15 "The joy of seeing, where everything was self evident and given, lay only at the invisible horizon, far beyond the sea. Why need there by surprise? Despite the fact that deceit was delivered at every door every morning without fail, like the milk."<br/><br/><br/>"perhaps, he sometimes thought, he was a hydrogen bomb equipped with consciousness. IT was clear in any case that he was not a human being."<br/><br/>pg. 24 "There was a wild restlessness in the long and short lights, as if in among the clusters of solid lights a single light were mad with joy. The voice calling out from afar over the dark sea was like the voice of a madwoman. A metal voice crying out sadly though not sad, pleading an agony of joy."<br/><br/>pg 33 "The voices of children were like splinters of lass. Toru liked to look at people as at animals in a zoo..."<br/><br/>pg 40 "It was like night in a zoo of emotions. Cries and laughter came from all the pens and all the cages."<br/><br/>pg 41 "Rainbows will soon be animals too, at this rate. Rainbow animals."<br/><br/>pg 43 "Sixty years had gone by, as an instant. Something came over him to drive away his consciousness of old age, a sort of pleading, as if he had buried his face in her warm bosom."<br/><br/>pg 55 "Honda said to himself: ' The moment I die they will all go' The thought came to him as a happy one, a sort of revenge. IT would be no trouble at all, tearing this world up by the roots and returning it to the void. All he had to do was die. He took a certain minor pride in the thought that an old man who would be forgotten still had in death this incomparably destructive weapon. For him the five signs of decay held no fear."<br/><br/>pg. 66 "And the watch, solitary in the field of white plastic, carrying on an intercourse almost sexual with the sea, through the day and through the night, intimidated by harbor and ship, until gazing became pure madness. The whiteness, the abandonment of the self, the uncertainty and loneliness were themselves a ship."<br/><br/>pg 87 "Yes. The waves as they broke were a manifest vision of death. It seemed to him that they had to be. They were mouths agape at the moment of death.<br/><br/>Gasping in agony, they trailed numberless threads of saliva. Each purple in the twilight became a livid mouth. <br/><br/>Into the gasping mouth of the sea plunged death. Showing death nakedly time and time again, the sea was like a constabulary. It swiftly disposed of the bodies, hiding them from public gaze."<br/><br/>pg. 101 "Among clouds like antique white clay images of warriors were some that suggested dragons twisting angrily and darkly upward. Some as they lost their shape, were tinged rose. "<br/><br/>pg. 113 'The world does not approve of flying. Wings are dangerous weapons. They invite self destruction before they can be used."<br/><br/>pg. 137 "The shadows were the substance. They had been eaten away by the shadows, by the deep melancholy of a concept. That was not life, thought Honda. It was something less easy to excuse."<br/><br/>pg. 143 "But of course the world feels secure when the monstrous is reality."<br/><br/>pg, 154 "I suppose that thus thus rolling in the dark a woman feels only the wheel that runs over her."<br/><br/>pg. 209-210 "Senility was a proper ailment of both the spirit and the flesh, and the fact that senility was an incurable disease meant that existence was an incurable disease. It was a disease unrelated to existentialist theories, the flesh itself being the disease, latent death.<br/><br/>History knew the truth. History was the most inhuman product of humanity.It scooped up the whole of human will and, like the goddess Kali in Calcutta, dripped blood from its mouth as it bit and crunched."<br/><br/><br/><br/> <br/><br/>