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Authors: Yukio Mishima

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Thirst for Love

BOOK: Thirst for Love
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Table of Contents
This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
Epub ISBN: 9781407053967
Version 1.0
  
Published by Vintage 2009
2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1
Copyright © Alfred A. Knopf Inc 1969, renewed 1997
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition, including this condition, being imposed on the subsequent purchaser
Originally published in Japanese as
Ai No Kawaki
by Shinchosa
Copyright 1950 by Yukio Mishima. This translation was first published in the United States in 1969 by
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc, New York.
Vintage
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London SW1V 2SA
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A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN 9780099530275
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About the Author
Yukio Mishima was born into a samurai family and imbued with the code of complete control over mind and body, and loyalty to the Emperor – the same code that produced the austerity and self-sacrifice of Zen. He wrote countless short stories and thirty-three plays. Several films have been made from his novels, including
The Sound of Waves
;
Enjo
, which was based on
The Temple of the Golden Pavilion
; and
The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea
. Among his other works are the novels
Confessions of a Mask
and
Thirst for Love
and the short-story collections
Death in Midsummer
and
Acts of Worship
.
After Mishima conceived the idea of
The Sea of Fertility
tetralogy in 1964, he frequently said he would die when it was completed. On November 25th, 1970, the day he completed
The Decay of the Angel
, the last novel of the cycle, Mishima committed
seppuka
(ritual suicide) at the age of 45.
ALSO BY YUKIO MISHIMA
The Sea of Fertility, a cycle of four novels
Spring Snow
Runaway Horses
The Temple of Dawn
The Decay of the Angel
Confessions of a Mask
Forbidden Colours
The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea
After the Banquet
The Temple of the Golden Pavilion
Five Modern No Plays
The Sound of Waves
Death in Midsummer
Acts of Worship
THIRST FOR LOVE
Yukio Mishima
Translated from the Japanese by
Alfred H. Marks
VINTAGE BOOKS
London
1
T
 HAT DAY
Etsuko went to the Hankyu department store and bought two pairs of wool socks. One pair was blue, the other brown. They were plain socks, of solid color.
She had come all the way into Osaka and completed her shopping at the Hankyu store at the last station, and now all she was going to do was turn around, board her train, and go home. She wasn’t going to a movie. She wasn’t even going to have tea, much less a meal. Etsuko hated nothing so much as crowded streets.
If she wanted to go anywhere, all she had to do was go downstairs into the Umeda terminal and take the subway to Shinsaibashi or Dotonbori. Yet if she stepped outside the store and crossed the intersection, where the shoeshine boys were lined up and calling, “Shine! Shine!”, she would find herself on the beach of the metropolis, where the rich tides ran.
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, shoeshine 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.
Etsuko opened her cloth shopping bag and thrust the socks deep within it. A flash of lightning brightened the open windows. It was followed by solemn thunder that made the glass shelves in the store shudder faintly.
The wind bowled in and knocked over a little sign that said “Specials.” Clerks ran to close the windows. The store grew dark. The lights, which were kept on even in the daytime, suddenly seemed to glow brighter. There still wasn’t any rain.
Etsuko passed her hand through the handle of her shopping bag. The curving bamboo scraped down across her forearm as she lifted her hands to her face. Her cheeks were very warm. That was a common occurrence with her. There wasn’t any reason for it; of course, it wasn’t a symptom of any illness—it was just that suddenly her cheeks would start to burn. Her hands, delicate though they were, were callused and tanned, and because of that very delicacy seemed roughter. They scratched her cheeks and intensified the burning.
She suddenly felt she could do anything. She could cross that intersection, as if walking out on a springboard, and plunge into the middle of those streets. As she reflected and her gaze was caught by the masses of people moving there on the selling floor among multitudes of things, she momentarily slid into a reverie. Her dreams knew only happy things; misfortune frightened her.
What had given her this courage? The thunder? The two pairs of socks she had just purchased? Etsuko cut through the crowd and hurried to the stairway. She moved with the traffic down to the second floor. Then she approached the Hankyu ticket offices on the first floor.
She looked outside. In the minute or two since it began, the rain had turned to a downpour. The sidewalks were already soaked as if it had been pouring for hours. The rain bounced as it struck.
Etsuko approached one of the exits. Her calm returned. She relaxed as she moved, tired, slightly dizzy. She had no umbrella. She couldn’t go out. No, not that. It was no longer necessary that she do so.
She stood by the door and squinted at the row of shops on the other side, beyond the trolley tracks, the traffic signals, and the streetcars so quickly swallowed up by the rain. The rain dashed in even to where she was, dampening her skirt. The doorway area was quite noisy. A man ran up shielding his head under a small valise. A woman dressed in Western clothing hurried in with a scarf covering her hair. It was almost as if they had come to be with Etsuko, who was the only one not soaked.
All around her were men and women who looked as if they could be office workers, all drenched by the rain. They griped, they joked, they looked back rather triumphantly at the rain they had just dashed through. For a time they all turned silent faces toward the rain-filled sky, Etsuko’s dry face among all these wet ones.
From some preposterously high place, the rain fell full tilt toward these faces. It seemed to be under tight control. The thunder was receding in the distance, but the sound of the rain numbed the ears, numbed the heart. Even the occasional rending sound of the horns of the passing cars and the gravelly screams of the station loudspeaker could not compete with the tumult of the rain.
Etsuko left the group waiting for the rain to stop and joined one of the long, silent lines at the ticket windows.
The Okamachi station on the Hankyu-Takarazuka line was thirty or forty minutes away from the central Umeda terminal. Expresses did not stop there. Maidemmura, where Etsuko lived, was a suburb of the city of Toyonaka, which had doubled its population after the war. It had become a refuge for many made homeless by the Osaka fire bombings. Other settlers were attracted to the city by the government housing built there. Maidemmura was in Osaka prefecture. In a strict sense it was not rural at all.
Nevertheless, if one wanted to purchase something special, or cheap, he had to take an hour or so and go into Osaka. Etsuko had come shopping on this day before the Autumnal Equinox in order to buy a pomelo to offer before the tablet of her deceased husband, who had loved that fruit. Unfortunately the department store was sold out of pomelos. She didn’t want to go outside the store, but driven by conscience or some other obscure impulse, she was about to venture out on the street when the rain stopped her. That was all. Nothing more was necessary.
* * *
Etsuko boarded the local train to Takarazuka and sat down. The rain outside the windows seemed as if it would never stop. The smell of printer’s ink on the evening newspaper spread out in front of her by a standing passenger woke her out of her reverie. She looked furtively around her. There was nothing to see.
The trainman’s whistle shrilled. The train shook with a deep sound like that of heavy chains gnashing against each other and started rolling. It would repeat the same monotonous maneuver many times over as it advanced hesitantly from station to station.
The rain stopped. Etsuko turned and looked at the way the sunlight was streaming through a rift in the clouds. It came to rest on the residential streets of suburban Osaka like an extended, powerless, white hand.
Etsuko walked as if she were pregnant. It was an ostentatiously indolent walk. She didn’t realize it; she had no one who might see it and set her right; but like the slip of paper that a mischievous boy has surreptitiously affixed to a friend’s back, that walk was her involuntary sign and seal.
She left the Okamachi station, passed through the
torii
of the Hachiman shrine and the assorted bustlings of small-town streets, and finally came to where the houses were not so frequent. So leisurely was her pace that night had overtaken her.
Lights were burning in the rows of government housing. There were hundreds of units—of the same style, the same life, the same smallness, the same poverty. The road through this squalid community afforded a shortcut that she never took.
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 not developed to the point where she could look at poverty, or imagine anything but happiness.
The road darkened. The insects began to sing. The puddles here and there reflected the light of the dying evening. On either side lay ricefields, their surfaces alternately light and dark in the mild damp breeze.
She traversed a meaningless, tedious road of the kind country areas are given to, from which she struck off onto a path that wound near a little stream. She was now in Maidemmura.
Between the stream and the path ran a bamboo thicket, a break in which led to a bridge across the stream. Etsuko crossed the bridge, which was of wood, passed in front of the former tenant farmer’s home and through a grove of
kaede
and assorted fruit trees, mounted a curving stone stairway bordered by tea plants, and opened the side door of the Sugimoto home. It was at first glance sumptuous, although the builder had contrived to use cheap lumber in places where it did not show. From the back room issued the laughter of Asako’s children. Asako was Etsuko’s sister-in-law.
Those children are always laughing. What in the world do they find to laugh at? If there’s anything I can’t stand it’s arrogant laughter like that!
Etsuko’s thoughts had no particular purpose. She placed her shopping bag on the doorstep.
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