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Yukio Mishima - Sun and Steel
Published by Kodansha International Ltd. Tokyo Printed in Japan. First edition. A lyric poet of twenty might manage it, but I am twenty no longer, and have never been a poet at any rate. I have groped around, therefore, for some other form more suited to such personal utterances and have come up with a kind of hybrid between confession and criticism, a subtly equivocal mode that one might call confidential criticism. I see it as a twilight genre between the night of confession and the daylight of criticism.
The I with which I shall occupy myself will not be the I that relates back strictly to myself, but something else, some residue, that remains after all the other words I have uttered have flowed back into me, something that neither relates back nor flows back.
As I pondered the nature of that I, I was driven to the conclusion that the I in question corresponded precisely with the physical space that I occupied.
What I was seeking, in short, was a language of the body If my self was my dwelling, then my body resembled an orchard that surrounded it. I could either cultivate that orchard to its capacity or leave it for the weeds to run riot in. I was free to choose, but the freedom was not as obvious as it might seem. Many people, indeed, go so far as to refer to the orchards of their dwellings as destiny. One day, it occurred to me to set about cultivating my orchard for all I was worth.
For my purpose, I used sun and steel. Unceasing sunlight and implements fashioned of steel became the chief elements in my husbandry. Little by little, the orchard began to bear fruit, and thoughts of the body came to occupy a large part of my consciousness. All this did not occur, of course, overnight. Nor did it begin without the existence of some deep-lying motive. When I examine closely my early childhood, I realise that my memory of words reaches back far farther than my memory of the flesh.
In the average person, I imagine, the body precedes language. In my case, words came first of all; thenbelatedly, with every appearance of extreme reluctance, and already clothed in conceptscame the flesh. It was already, as goes without saying, sadly wasted by words. First comes the pillar of plain wood, then the white ants that feed on it. But for me, the white ants were there from the start, and the pillar of plain wood emerged tardily, already half eaten away. Let the reader not chide me for comparing my own trade to the white ant.
In its essence, any art that relies on words makes use of their ability to eat awayof their corrosive functionjust as etching depends on the corrosive power of nitric acid. Yet the simile is not accurate enough; for the copper and the nitric acid used in etching are on a par with each other, both being extracted from nature, while the relation of words to reality is not that of the acid to the plate.
Words are a medium that reduces reality to abstraction for transmission to our reason, and in their power to corrode reality inevitably lurks the danger that the words themselves will be corroded too. It might be more appropriate, in fact, to liken their action to that of excess stomach fluids that digest and gradually eat away the stomach itself. Many people will express disbelief that such a process could already be at work in a persons earliest years.
But that, beyond doubt, is what happened to me personally, thereby laying the ground for two contradictory tendencies within myself. The other was the desire to encounter reality in some field where words should play no part at all.
In a more healthy process of development, the two tendencies can often work together without conflict, even in the case of a born writer, giving rise to a highly desirable state of affairs in which a training in words leads to a fresh discovery of reality. But the emphasis here is on rediscovery; if this is to happen, it is necessary, at the outset of life, to have possessed, the reality of the flesh still unsullied by words.
And that is quite different from what happened to me. My composition teacher would often show his displeasure with my work, which was innocent of any words that might be taken as corresponding to reality. It seems that, in my childish way, I had an unconscious presentiment of the subtle, fastidious laws of words, and was aware of the necessity of avoiding as far as possible coming into contact with reality via words if one was to profit from their positive corrosive function and escape their negative aspectif, to put it more simply, one was to maintain the purity of words.
I knew instinctively that the only possibility was to maintain a constant watch on the corrosive action lest it suddenly come up against some object that it might corrode. The natural corollary of such a tendency was that I should openly admit the existence of reality and the body only in fields where words had no part whatsoever; thus reality and the body became synonymous for me, the objects, almost, of a kind of fetishism.
Without doubt, too, I was quite unconsciously expanding my interest in words to embrace this interest also; and this type of fetishism corresponded exactly to my fetish for words. In the first stage, I was quite obviously identifying myself with words and setting reality, the flesh, and action on the other side.
There is no doubt, either, that my prejudice concerning words was encouraged by this willfully created antinomy, and that my deep-rooted misunderstanding of the nature of reality, the flesh, and action was formed in the same way. This antinomy rested on the assumption that I myself from the outset was devoid of the flesh, of reality, of action. It was true, indeed, that the flesh came late to me at the beginning, but I was waiting for it with words. I suspect that because of the earlier tendency I spoke of, I did not perceive it, then, as my body.
If I had done so, my words would have lost their purity. I should have been violated by reality, and reality would have become inescapable. Interestingly enough, my stubborn refusal to perceive the body was itself due to a beautiful misconception in my idea of what the body was.
I did not know that a mans body never shows itself as existence. But as I saw things, it ought to have made itself apparent, clearly and unequivocally, as existence. It naturally followed that when it did show itself unmistakably as a terrifying paradox of existenceas a form of existence that rejected existenceI was as panic-stricken as though I had come across some monster, and loathed it accordingly.
It never occurred to me that other menall men without exceptionwere the same. It is perhaps only natural that this type of panic and fear, though so obviously the product of a misconception, should postulate another more desirable physical existence, another more desirable reality. Never dreaming that the body existing in a form that rejected existence was universal in the male, I set about constructing my ideal hypothetical physical existence by investing it with all the opposite characteristics.
And since my own, abnormal bodily existence was doubtless a product of the intellectual corrosion of words, the ideal bodythe ideal existencemust, I told myself, be absolutely free from any interference by words.
At the same time, I decided that if the corrosive power of words had any creative function, it must find its model in the formal beauty of this ideal body, and that the ideal in the verbal arts must lie solely in the imitation of such physical beautyin other words, the pursuit of a beauty that was absolutely free from corrosion.
This was an obvious self-contradiction, since it represented an attempt to deprive words of their essential function and to strip reality of its essential characteristics. Yet, in another sense, it was an exceedingly clever and artful method of ensuring that words and the reality they should have dealt with never came face to face.
In this way my mind, without realizing what it was doing, straddled these two contradictory elements and, godlike, set about trying to manipulate them.
It was thus that I started writing novels. And this increased still further my thirst for reality and the flesh. Later, much later, thanks to the sun and the steel, I was to learn the language of the flesh, much as one might learn a foreign language.
It was my second language, an aspect of my spiritual development. My purpose now is to talk of that development. As a personal history, it will, I suspect, be unlike anything seen before, and as such exceedingly difficult to follow. When I was small, I would watch the young men parade the portable shrine through the streets at the local shrine festival. They were intoxicated with their task, and their expressions were of an indescribable abandon, their faces averted; some of them even rested the backs of their necks against the shafts of the shrine they shouldered, so that their eyes gazed up at the heavens.
And my mind was much troubled by the riddle of what it was that those eyes reflected. As to the nature of the intoxicating vision that I detected in all this violent physical stress, my imagination provided no clue. For many a month, therefore, the enigma continued to occupy my mind; it was only much later, after I had begun to learn the language of the flesh, that I undertook to help in shouldering a portable shrine, and was at last able to solve the puzzle that had plagued me since infancy.
They were simply looking at the sky. In their eyes there was no vision: only the reflection of the blue and absolute skies of early autumn.. Those blue skies, though, were unusual skies such as I might never see again in my life: one moment strung up high aloft, the next plunged to the depths; constantly shifting, a strange compound of lucidity and madness. I promptly set down what I had discovered in a short essay, so important did my experience seem to me.
In short, I had found myself at a point where there were no grounds for doubting that the sky that my own poetic intuition had shown me, and the sky revealed to the eyes of those ordinary young men of the neighborhood, were identical.
That moment for which I had been waiting so long was a blessing that the sun and the steel had conferred on me. Why, you may ask, were there no grounds for doubt? Because, provided certain physical conditions are equal and a certain physical burden shared, so long as an equal physical stress is savored and an identical intoxication overtakes all alike, then differences of individual sensibility are restricted by countless factors to an absolute minimum.
If, in addition, the introspective element is removed almost completelythen one is safe in asserting that what I had witnessed was no individual illusion, but one fragment of a well-defined group vision. My poetic intuition did not become a personal privilege until later, when I used words to recall and reconstruct that vision; my eyes, in their meeting with the blue sky, had penetrated to the essential pathos of the doer. And in that swaying blue sky that, like a fierce bird of prey with wings outstretched, alternately swept down and soared upwards to infinity, I perceived the true nature of what I had long referred to as tragic.
According to my definition of tragedy, the tragic pathos is born when the perfectly average sensibility momentarily takes unto itself a privileged nobility that keeps others at a distance, and not when a special type of sensibility vaunts its own special claims. It follows that he who dabbles in words can create tragedy, but cannot participate in it. It is necessary, moreover, that the privileged nobility find its basis strictly in a kind of physical courage.
The elements of intoxication and superhuman clarity in the tragic are born when the average sensibility, endowed with a given physical strength, encounters that type of privileged moment especially designed for it. If a person is at times to draw close to the divine, then under normal conditions he must be neither divine nor anything approaching it.
It was only when I, in my turn, saw the strange, divine blue sky perceived only by that type of person, that I at last trusted the universality of my own sensibility, that my thirst was slaked, and that my morbidly blind faith in words was dispelled. At that moment, I participated in the tragedy of all being.
Once I had gazed upon this sight, I understood all kinds of things hitherto unclear to me. The exercise of the muscles elucidated the mysteries that words had made. It was similar to the process of acquiring erotic knowledge.
Little by little, I began to understand the feeling behind existence and action. If that were all, it would merely mean that I had trodden somewhat belatedly the same path as other people. I had another scheme of my own, however. Insofar as the spirit was concernedI told myselfthere was nothing especially out of the way in the idea of some particular thought invading my spirit, enlarging it, and eventually occupying the whole of it.
Since, however, I was gradually beginning to weary of the dualism of flesh and spirit, it naturally occurred to me to wonder why such an incident should occur within the spirit and come to an end at its outer fringes. There are, of course, many cases of psychosomatic diseases where the spirit extends its domain to the body. But what I was considering went further than this.
Sun and Steel
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It is an autobiographical essay, a memoir of the author's relationship to his body. The book recounts the author's experiences with, and reflections upon, his bodybuilding and martial arts training. The book was first published in , gathering what had appeared in the Takeshi Maramatsu founded magazine Criticism from late on. In , Hortense Calisher billed the book as "a classic of self-revelation" and Mishima as "a mind of the utmost subtlety, broadly educated". Calisher wrote, "To paraphrase him in words not his, [
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Sun and Steel
Published by Grove Press in New York. Written in English. Description: pages 21 cm. A place for collectors to come talk about upcoming releases and share your collection!
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Published by Kodansha International Ltd. Tokyo Printed in Japan. First edition.
Мотоцикл и такси с грохотом въехали в пустой ангар. Беккер лихорадочно осмотрел его в поисках укрытия, но задняя стена ангара, громадный щит из гофрированного металла, не имела ни дверей, ни окон. Такси было уже совсем рядом, и, бросив взгляд влево, Беккер увидел, что Халохот снова поднимает револьвер.
Раздался страшный треск, и стеклянная панель обдала ее дождем осколков. Звуки шифровалки впервые за всю историю этого здания ворвались в помещение Третьего узла.