The Corpse Exhibition and Other Stories of Iraq – Hassan Blasim

The Corpse Exhibition and Other Stories of Iraq


“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.”
― Sue Monk Kidd


The crack of dawn is just half an hour away. I’m neither interested in the passing night nor the approaching new day. Two fried eggs on a rye toast for breakfast. That is what I’m thinking. That is what I shall eat among the stench of blood, the sordid gore and a curious child fishing for a frog in a puddle of blood. The images don’t seem to leave me. The voices crowded my auditory senses. The book clutching in my palms as the heaviness akin to a corpse that now takes over my sensibilities ,words engulf me, maybe it’s the heavy silence of the passing night or my mental claustrophobia that has become the mythical Hydra. I knew it right then that this book will frequent my sanity for weeks to come.


Because every child born in this world is simply a possibility, either to be good or evil, according to the classification set by schools of religious education in this stupid world. But it’s a completely different matter to us. Every child that’s born is just an extra burden on the ship that is about to sink.


Are human corpses the wartime metric scale upon which a country’s heroics are measured? As the world unified in blindness revelling in the creativity of death, a trained assassin learned his first tutorial, the infliction of banal humanity beheaded on the pillar of cowardice. The bloody knife glistened to the tune of a sombre child’s lullaby inaugurating the corpse exhibition, taking a deep bow was the mortician, a truly great war-time artist working overtime with utmost gratitude and kindness, elegantly restoring mutilated corpses. Watch for fear in people’s eyes, he said. A lesson on ‘how to be a lion’ imparted from the palms of a delinquent. In the quest of being one’s own God, the killers and the compass stamped into the memory of physical and sexual brutalities. Is it really worth having trust in humans when the sanctity of human conscience is in exile? Why are graveyards the only real estate bought during the war? In absurdities of assassinations and power grabbing egotistical vanities where betrayal is as common as stepping into a bloody puddle, the green zone rabbit awaits to lay an egg. The web of psychological wiles nestled in a silenced revolver; a pensive youth embarks on an unspecified terrorist operation puzzled over the validity of an egg laying rabbit.


Life and death was a game of running, climbing and jumping, of watching, of secret dirty words of sleep and nightmares.


To the dead of the war writes an army newspaper, the words of poetry and prose shall honour the martyrs with sublime tales woven with love and destiny, honesty and valour, memoirs of humanity. Personal vanity and desperation hastily layers with the madness of the war. Greed, lies and deceit ravaged the spirit of an literary editor, the built-in incinerator a silent witness to coloured workbooks and inhumane folly. Horror and paranoia stumbled in the sea of coffins. War and peace became permanent riddles, down and across imprinted in a sinister crossword. The shrieks of a trapped soul deafening the darkness of a tormented life try to solve the life and death enigma.


Aren’t we humans, killing and looting mankind to ruination similar to devils and ‘jinni’, residing in our own holes of idiocies and hallucinating in our cannibalistic overtures? The language of mankind challenges the language of God in the depths of an underground hole. The purging of earth from devils is detailed in the bizarre rituals of a cannibalistic jinni. The war of religion and politics gets wrapped around the lives of the innocent; terror paralyzing the silence of peace. History and heritage of a land lost among the missile noises and military coup. Tales of Western agents and exotic blondes with guns misplaced among the disregarded words of the madman of Freedom Square. The baptized soul waited to view the fated empty chair, a prayer for his beloved mother led into a journey to the next world. The Iraqi Christ overwhelmed by a mysterious desire for salvation.


Spilled blood and superstition are the basis of the world. Man is not the only creature who kills for bread or love or power, because animals in the jungle do that in the various ways, but he is the only creature who kills because of faith.


A magical tale of a thousand and one knives portrays violence in the extremities of pain and torment. The mysteries of the magical knives remain unsolved as do the mystery of humans taking comfort and pleasure in crucifying their brethren. The bleating of goats recounted a grim memory of a septic tank, a pulsating cry in the murkiness of a prosaic tale. The chorus of the song of the goats blaring from the loudspeakers infiltrated the competitive troubled narratives, a prize in offing. The sanctimonious virtue of religion is marred by selfish desires, murderers and thieves thriving under religious cloaks. The emergence of false gods examining moral compasses of human obligation to schizophrenic religious dogmas. Is then life a burden or a blessing? The songs of a composer paying the price of patriotism muddled with militant insurgency. The pillars of religion, humanity and patriotism; in the chaos of flesh and fire which one outweighs the rest and which one crumbles? The fate of an inauspicious smile dangling between the curses of agony and joy, vaguely chants “the body must be protected, not the thoughts”.


Why are the trees so green and beautiful as though they’re washed with water every day? Why can’t we be peaceful like them? We live in houses like pigsties. While their houses are warm, safe and colourful. Why do they respect dogs as much as humans? Why do we masturbate twenty-four hours a day? How can we get a decent government here?


War and migration, the trials and tribulations of refuges in the aftermath is filled with humiliation and dreams of a dignified life. The question of securing asylum is solved by a constant dread of wavering stories of killers and heroes. The ordeal of a wounded man recounts seeking asylum in the reality and the record of an abstract truth. Dreams that never learnt the language of a new country, survival in an adopted homeland burdened with philosophies of pride and indignity. The ghosts of the pasts wear out the fate of a vulnerable being trying to find the meaning of life. The valuable existence of Salim Abdul Husain disseminating in the recurring nightmares of Carlos Fuentes.


Iraq, a country besieged by the cycle of war and death and its citizens trapped in the nihilistic trenches of insanity. Hassan Blasim’s anthology of challenging stories pierces right through the heart with glimpses of a land dwelling in visceral horror and repellent irrationalities. The history of Iraq spans from the horrific eight yearlong Iraq-Iran War (1980-88), American troops occupancy, dictatorship (Saddam Hussein), militant Kurdish insurgency, mushrooming terrorist organisations and an endless loop of civil war. Dubbed as the ‘Iraqi Kafka’, Blasim pens a memorable yet haunting ugly truth of menacing savagery and failure of human conscience without a glimmer of wisdom. The meaningless world of war prevails in hopelessness, bloodlust and bloodshed. The surrealistic nature of these metaphorical tales let out an honest cry of a dystopian homeland.


There is nothing beautiful about war. There is no triumph in it. Victories marred with the blood of the innocent. Are the dead happy over the victories of war? Do the dead agonize over their crimes or martyrdom? Are the sufferers ever liberated from the shadows of war? The dead become mere statistics until the next battle. The fragility of life measured with the next conquest. Is annihilating civilization seen as a laudation for bravery? Do the footsteps of peace have to march on the road strewn with bloodied corpses? In a world where allegiance to dogmas of faith outweighs the respect to mankind, the lines of real and unreal are blurred by hostilities and fanaticism, the sanity of humankind rotting in an abyss of mortal horror; there will be no escape from the chaos of war.



Radish: (China Penguin Special) – Mo Yan

Radish: China Penguin Special


The silken jute stalks sing, “Hei-hai!! Hei-hai!!”
The silken jute stalks sing, “Hei-hai!! Hei-hai!!”

The chorus of a bare back fills the barren land,
Dew laden leaves recite lore of a superhuman,
The blistered belly nestled near a dimly lit fire,
Bare-chested and barefooted, he was detached,
Crisp voice descending in silence, apathy his attire,
In waves of a lush reverie, a respite he seeks,
Nature’s feeble lullaby, in harshness of his life.

The auburn ducks snicker, “Hei-hai!! Hei-hai!!
The auburn ducks snicker, “Hei-hai!! Hei-hai!!

Witnesses the fertile soil, long miseries of a boy,
Bears the purple sweet potatoes, the pinch of hunger,
Crouched between tossed radishes, a fallen fingernail,
The guilt of theft, abandoned in the burning coals,
In tongues of fires, melancholic arias prevail,
The old blacksmith’s song pushing chords of joy,
Resting on the anvil, the golden radish, radiates,
Mysteries of life scattered in slivers of faith.

The vegetable patch whisper,” Hei-hai!! Hei-hai!!”
The vegetable patch whisper,” Hei-hai!! Hei-hai!!”

Agriculture without its irrigation, a motherless child,
A mother’s breast with no milk, a deadly fright,
Hundreds of labourers toil, chisels hastens,
The allegorical mother claiming loyal lives,
In the obscure womb lie the Commune’s whims,
Opened floodgates dragging the human plight,

The cold white stones hum, “Hei-hai!! Hei-hai!!”
The cold white stones hum, “Hei-hai!! Hei-hai!!”

In glory of socialism, the man eats,
In glory of socialism, the man marches,
In glory of socialism, the man barters,
Human virtue, an imperfect bastard child,
Immorality surges, in human sacrifices,
In glory of socialism, the graves reek,
In glory of socialism, mankind gets bartered.

Ardently Mo Yan pens, ” Hei-hai!! Hei-hai!!”
Ardently Mo Yan pens, ” Hei-hai!! Hei-hai!!”

A mason, a woman and a blacksmith,
Lust of love indebted to the fallen irises,
Hungered the red jacket, the scent of a crimson scarf
Youthful love, caressing kisses, hearts writhe,
In a meadowlark call, the secret alarms,
Bleeding love redeemed in a sunlit radish.

The two bloody gouges scream, “Hei-hai!! Hei-hai!!”
The two bloody gouges scream, “Hei-hai!! Hei-hai!!”

Swan-like, he stretched his neck, standing,
The hem of his coat touching the wiry thighs,
Like a fat-headed catfish on feet, he strolled,
On the banks of the river, golden rainbow afloat,
Desires of a sunlit radish, sown in hazy sighs,
The falling rays of the autumn sun, verbalize,
A doleful tale of a fragile heart in a benumbed abode.

The golden radish chimes, “Hei-hai!! Hei-hai!!
The golden radish chimes, “Hei-hai !! Hei-hai!!

Only if,
He had the warmth of a mother’s breast
Love had not perished in the black earth,
Had not the radish lie hid in the river mists
Had not the hammer been his inheritance,
Had not humanity sprout callous tentacles,
Had humanity sheltered his naked fears,
Had childhood walked the a euphoric path,
The rustling leaves wiping the trickling tears

The silken jute stalks sing, “Hei-hai !! Hei-hai!!”
The silken jute stalks sing, “Hei-hai !! Hei-hai!!”

4/5 ****

The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa – Yasunari Kawabata

The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa


Beggars are people too……Crazy people are women too……” Fallen women” were once naïve young girls……Men who indulge in ‘flesh trade’ aren’t called “fallen men”……As I scribble these words, my pen comes to a grinding halt. The notebook laid there crammed with the vestiges of my thoughts. The flux of my words was at the mercy of an inaccessible sheet of paper. No matter where landing stage of the wordy compositions deviates, words always appear to be imperfect when expressing the inexpressible. The voyeur within me now precedes Kawabata’s voyeuristic world attempting to comprehend human incidents through an impartial lens, the accomplices to my silence aiding to unearth the truth veiled in the allusive reflection of the transient beauty. The unassuming moon silently floating on the water mirrors the unreal within the real; the reflections on the windows ceasing to exist upon a whiff of wind, the window opening into a bargained emptiness. A tiny drop of water is competent to epitomize the reflection of the moon and the window oblivious to its crystalline pictorial pushes forward committing perjury. Life is a mingled yarn of all things echoic and nonechoic , pure and impure, sincerity and deceit ; the vitality of a perishable life holding onto the wispy filaments of pure longing. The world of nothingness steadily awakens with the melodious sound of the bells of the Senso Temple, the rhythmic choreographed long legs tapping to the blues of the jazz, the murmur of the piano from the dimly lit geisha house, the chatter of the rickshaw pullers, the tranquility of the Sumida River colliding with the exhilaration of the Casino Foiles ; the fragrance of the camellia oil soothing the incoherence of the streets of Asakusa.

“Asakusa is Asakusa is for everyone. In Asakusa, everything is flung out in the raw. Desires dance naked. All races, all classes, all jumbled together forming a bottomless, endless current, flowing day and night, no beginning, no end. Asakusa is alive…….”(Azenbō Soeda)

Akin to the many and various algae proliferating on a summer’s day stretching put a lush emerald carpet over the stagnant waters of the Gourd Pond, Asakusa comes alive with the vibrant hustle and bustle on the streets. The lyrical verses of Soeda resonates the wonders of Asakusa. A home for the homeless, a love for the loveless, a source of food for the famished; a world of leftovers of leftovers. Asakusa, a melting pot to amalgamating all races and classes equating to any thriving city on the face of this earth and yet, Asakusa finds distinctiveness in the allure of its design. How or rather who creates the infrastructure of a city? How are places resurrected from their own ruins? People nurture the land and the land in turns fashions the prevailing communities. Among the elderly delinquents of time, Asakusa was a “young punk”. It exudes an energetic charm seeking the genuine vitality of life, positivity through the purity of wild. Asakusa was a lost piece found through its very own people.

Kawabata generates a fascinating dais for Asakusa as a “human market”, attracting all and sundry from hobos , prostitutes, juvenile delinquents, geishas, shop girls, flappers, vagabonds, artists and the entire artistic shenanigans rough plays where the ornate dressings rooms of the “ero-queens” are as amusing as the man feeding wheat crackers to the carp in the pool while munching on few of from the pack.“But essentially Asakusa is like a specimen in the Bug House …… something completely different from today’s world, like a remote island or some African village led by a chief , a whole net of time-honored codes over it”

Originally published as a miscellaneous series in news dailies, the Asakusa chronicles finds it titular derivations in the wanderings of the Scarlet Gang. The self-christened theatrical group – The Scarlet Troupe publicized their hope of performing something spectacular in the kitschy votive stickers plastered all over the vacant walls in the city. Over the years, embarrassed by this modernist work of his, Kawabata once had said, “All I did was walk. I never became acquainted with any of the young delinquents. I never addressed a word to the vagrants either….. but I took notes…”. A young man with a baggage of just a pen and a notebook wayfaring through the heart of Tokyo in the aftermath of the 1923 The Great Kanto Earthquake investigated lonesome demimonde lives existing on the societal periphery. Kawabata being a silent flâneur preserves a certain sense of objectivity and distancing in his reportage, and yet ironically the acute perceptions are cryptic evaluation in their abstractions. The trajectory of the narrative rocks back and forth amid three distinct articulations accompanied by multifaceted active and passive vocalizations. Kawabata takes the reader along with him through the alleys of Asakusa. Kawabata devotedly address ….”Dear Reader….just take a walk along the alleys…”…..”Dear Reader… you knows”……” …..” what would you do if you were in their place……”……. The subtle prod eventually turns the reader into a loyal companion to the narrator. The “I” of the reader dissolving in the “I” of the narrator.

With its evenly matched pictorial illustrations denoting the aspects of materialistically cultural grandeur capturing one of Tokyo’s fascinating socio-cultural era of history and social relationships; this book registers a certain ‘pop-fic’ ambience . Nevertheless, Kawabata the literary master that he is stays true to his art, astutely conveying the philosophical totality of mono no aware allying the quintessence of transience beauty with the subsequent sadness. The melodrama budding within the printed pages leaps through the loops of subtle humour, economic recession, resistance to convention and the idea of love mingled with eroticism and vengeful crudity encumbered with the emptiness of longing. The dregs of Asakusa. But as long as she can still run, she’s still a woman. Because most of the bums are no longer human enough to run………… The weathered folks no longer talk. They live amid the hustle and bustle of the commercial district without saying a word. The malleable “taste of the backstreets” was sexy and absurd. The impish labyrinth of Asakusa is an inconclusive world of nothingness, but it is not nihilistic.

“When I’m with a man, I’m always sizing myself up- weighing the part of me that wants to become a woman against the part of me that is afraid to. Then I fell miserable and even more lonely” The yen for fulfilling the ideals of womanly dwells within the fragile beauty of Yumiko and Oharu. Yumiko’s desire to be viewed as a man pulsates through the memories of her being the fateful “daughter of the earthquake”; the vengeance of the kittenish arsenic kiss sailing on the Sumida River. Umekichi’s confessions of love residing the idea of love on the lips of a middle-aged woman. The radiance of red and purple sashes blending in the fated hues of the “fallen women”. The transparency of Ochiyo’s lunacy contrasting the rouge of the Okin on the bank. The emptiness offalseness of the varied protagonists is forged ahead surviving the customs of their incompleteness.

Asakusa had perhaps been for him (Kawabata) as it was for me – a place that allowed anonymity, freedom, where life flowed on no matter what, where you could pick up pleasure, and where small rooms with paper flowers were rented by the hour. ( Donald Richie , Afterword)

Wading through an interminable picturesque lattice of memories and dewy-eyed faces ; the rawness of dreams drifting though an endless ebb and flow of desires and pleasures strewn with snippets and snapshots floating in a stoic air , this chronicled narrative resembles a fragmented puzzle. And, you find yourself plucking these coquettishly naïve and seductively sinister wanderings, assembling it piece by piece into a significant portrait, an art illuminated in its own abstraction by its own peculiarities. Richie’s accuracy in his noteworthy inferences about Asakusa being a pathway of anonymity to an uninterrupted freedom resonates in the sensory perceptions captured amongst the echoes of “dear reader”. The human flow aggressive in survival and passionate in expression pulsates throughout my cerebral silence bringing Asakusa alive within the spiritless walls of my room; an absurd persuasion enticing me to seize the floating moon amid the nimble watery ripples. The yearning to obtain the unobtainable. The need to discover the sincerity and beauty in the depths of nothingness. Luminescent in the aureate sun, the urge to grab the ephemeral beauty of a piece of glass before it being engulfed by the shadows of the passing day; is how Kawabata’s Asakusa chronicles captivates me. And, I certainly do not need a new notebook for my words as my thoughts are no longer at the mercy of neither the pen nor the paper.

4/5 ****

Sandalwood Death – Mo Yan

Sandalwood Death

Palpitation! The word itself brims with mystifying sounds. The flip-flopping of the heart muscle attuned to the ambience of the twelve tone symphony, fingers smoothly gliding over the chromatic keys of a piano, the steady tempo of the inherent music fluctuating within the irregularities of variable frequency of the cardiac rhythm, the fleeting pause descending into the pentatonic scales of a violin finding its way into the emptiness of a skipped heartbeat, synchronize the tingling of a body. The words of the heart coiled into the tremulous effect of rapid repetitions coursing through incessant throbbing. The forbearance of the heart melting away in the furnace of lawful decree. Yama, the King of Hell pacifying the cries of Little Insect. The bearded goat at the mercy of the white snake. The seduction of the white snake pitying the fool of the tiger. The pigs and dogs scrambling out of the fear of armed wolves. Amid snarling jackrabbits, the vicious panther pounces on the white tigers; the magical tiger’s whiskers drenched in the reverberations of an anxious heart. The black cat singing melodic, heartbreaking elegies, the feline cries swirling in bereaved hearts. The strings of mao hu(cat fiddle) birthing the opera of life and death, the stubborn ox designing the aesthetic antiquity of death; a rooster crowing at the sight of twin leather straps. The extravagant vocal arias of “….sandal—wood—death, a term with a rough exterior but an aesthetic core, displaying the patina and aura of antiquity”, overriding the myth of humans being reincarnated from animals, the animalistic demeanour of humans dishonourably indulgent than their primal rebirthing mammal souls. Man being worst than animals.

….what is known as “execution” is an art, one that a good man will not do and anyone who is not a good man cannot do. Executioner is an occupation that represents the heart and soul of the Imperial Court. When the calling flourishes, the Imperial Court prospers. But when it languishes, the Imperial Court nears its fated end.

Mo Yan’s graphically meticulous illustration of the execution acts signifies the central stance of the death penalty and the concurrent gory sentencing in China’s Imperial (1900s) political sphere. The piece of blood soaked human flesh quivering in the executioner’s malodorous palm acquaints the reader with the cruel method employed by the codes of criminal law to inflict maximum amount of suffering. Mo Yan’s embellished prose may at times be a graphical hyperbole yet; the elucidated display of harsh rule to install fear of retribution, certainly does not underplay the archives of reality. “The Plenipotentiary wants to know how long the condemned can live after he’s cut in half”. Executions being made more enjoyable than a stage play. ‘Loyalty’, the mocking sentiment only adhering to the bearing of the subordinates confirms the nauseating truth of the burden of law lying solely on the shoulders of a common man.

Is an executioner the dregs of the society? A man at the bottom of the heap? Mo Yan debates the societal hierarchy, grading human existence by classifying stereotypic standards of rank, academia and vocation. The reckless mind-set of the hierarchical superiors towards the lives of those thriving on the margins of the society mapping the foundation of savage reality of societal absurdity pertaining to obsolete-lowly profession at variance with the aristocracy of heritable titles. If there was no executioner to culminate the penalty, then who would carry out the dire job of decapitation? If there was no butcher, then who would put a perfectly cut slice of meat on a decorated plate? If there were no daily workforce, then who would construct the railroads? No job is menial; no job is disgraceful, for all jobs are done by humans meant for their utmost survival. And every trade has its master, its zhuangyuan.

….he was neither a laotaiye nor a yuanwailang—he was the preeminent executioner in the Board of Punishments, a magician with the knife, a peerless decapitator, a man capable of inflicting the cruelest punishments, including some of his own design, a true creative genius…

Zhao Jia was a survivor grabbing every opportune circumstance, the zhuangyuan of the executioners serving for more than four decades at the Board of Punishments. A debt of gratitude released from the humble butcher’s abode, the craft singing the soliloquy of the sandalwood death.

Maoqiang, otherwise known as Cat Opera, is an operatic genre created and developed in Northeast Gaomi Township. The arias are exquisite, the staging unique, the ambience magical; in short, it is the ideal portrayal of life in the township

Meow..Meow…Life’s last opera enthralling the audience with the pomposity of death. A nation in peril, the citizens of Northeast Gaomi forever in revolt, paying the price of being heroic. The commanding policy of Kaiser Wilhelm, the autocracy of Von Ketteler , the operatic songs of mutiny drenched in bloodbaths , Sun Bing , the inheritor of the Maoqiang Opera tradition, a man of prestige among his peers, chose vengeance over the overbeaten virtue of forbearance. Sun Bing, a master performer and a rebellious reformer, rebelled against the German supremacy in China ,the railroads swarmed with the mutinous Boxer Rebellion. Mo Yan depiction of Sun Bing amalgamates the vibrant grandeur of the Opera and the humility of a single erhu retelling the tales of societal subjugation and familial fidelity, chasing the sound and the image of perspicacity and crazed laughter, questioning the validity of the undertaken rebellion. Mo Yan opens each chapter with a sombre aria staging lyrical segments of villain and heroes caught in a lifelong revolutionary opera reciting a resplendent narrative to eager listeners. Sun Bing who acted on the operas stage for most of his life became the spectacular drama himself.

In his exquisite literary pieces, Mo Yan’s treatment to his women protagonist is commendable. Mo Yan’s women irrespective to their muddled sentimentalities and promiscuous play of feminine charm are a potent mixture of fearlessness and empathy.

Having lived up till then among a performing troupe, Meiniang knew all the acrobatic moves for the opera stage, and she had never been schooled in the traditional feminine imperatives of “three obediences”—first to father, then to husband, and finally to son—and the “four virtues” of fidelity, physical charm, propriety, and fine needlework.

Sun Meiniang‘s scheming ways of using her feminine beauty for personal gain, erases the proverbial notion of “happiness” as a spotless sentiment. In a savage land, the virtuous emotion of contentment is soiled by the specks of duplicity. Meiniang’s definition of happiness strikes a balance between physical promiscuity, her undying love for her dieh(father) and the desire to have had the beauty of “lotus feet”. A true gratification in fated circumstance with no moral strings attached.

“Suffering is the road to respectability; danger is the path to prominence onstage.”

In death, the sorrowful cry of the bird oscillates in the benevolence of a dying man. The ordinary citizen, the perennial ‘common man’ swallowing insults and humiliation grasping the vulnerable nonsensical pillars of forbearance and loyalty courts the disaster of annihilation when flouts the authoritative decree. Slowly but sternly, Mo Yan layers complexities of human emotion juxtaposing ironies of tangled relationship and passionate spirit for subsistence in a dramatically charged atmosphere bestowing a humane side to every penned character besieged by their incommodious circumstances and societal status. The magical surrealism of the opera overlapping the savage reality of corporeal punishments and the socio-political ambiguity steeped in the operatic act of immorality and probity. Mo Yan’s protagonists are distinctive role players vacillating in physical and emotional rhythm and rhyme of hunger, passion, desire and bravery. The intricacies of the characters are viewed through a bifocal lens mirroring within the person’s conscience, diminishing the myopic stance of ethics. Qian Ding’s drunken melancholic confession exemplifies the relevant quandary. The fierce melodic opus depicting the stimulus of life and the opulence of death swings in musicality of the modernization and traditionalism chronicles the past and the present. The sorghum rich land of Gaomi Township reeks of sweat, blood, urine, putrefying human flesh and abhorrence of humanity and yet, from these acrid stench emits the sweet fragrance of resilience, devotion, heroism and love for a dignified existence.

The dead are noble, the living worthless….

In the prophetic Maoqiang recitals, Mo Yan raises the imperative question –‘Who is the rightful owner of the titular sagacity of being a dignified individual?’ Those who let go of their virtue of forbearance to seek equitable vengeance or those who bravely accept death penalties entangled within the lawless discrepancies or those whose lives are trampled on the whims and fancies of political supremacy or then those who call themselves the benevolent righteous protectors of the law and the land. Mo Yan chronicles the historical acrobats through an operatic act like narrative configuration, highlighting crucial historical event and figures carving a political dais for an allegorical satire of life and death set during the 1900s China, coursing through the egocentric reign of Empress Dowager Cixi, the intense socio-institutional Wuxu Reform Movement and the influential anti-imperialist Boxer Rebellion. The political history forms a secondary stratum to this illusory musicality ; political satire infusing elements of dark humour to the problematic conundrum of corruption, Imperial tyranny and the vulnerability of individual lives. Each of the Gaomi residents misplaced a part of their identity in their will to survive. The ordinary lives that go unnoticed throughout the perfidious walks of life, find an eternal glory in the cannibalistic brutality of death. Sardonically, the mislaid beauteous solemnity of the living is ultimately found in the opulence of death.

Recounting this glorious work, Mo Yan articulates –“…it is all about the sound….it was the sound that planted the seed for the novel and drove its creation”. The historical romance of human resilience evoked in the rhythmical timbre through the inimitable chorus of Maoqiang opera; merging the mournful strains of nightly train whistles into the surrealism of enchanted fox fairies, the persistent semblance of sound perforating the consciousness amid the ocular pathways created as annotations of the sound. Subsequently, as Mo Yan plants the “seed of his sounds” in his heart, I lock my eyes onto the soaring sorghum stalks scattering the grains of a valiant Gaomi, my ears affixed on the enthralling prose, I unwearyingly immerse in the “kip..kip..kip” of the rat gnawing into the dark corner, the crackling of the tanned skin with the very first bloody incision , the sharpness of the knife puncturing the smoothness of the glistening flesh, the squeals of the pigs, the shrieks of humans, the melancholic arias piercing through societal ambiguity , the excruciating screams of the dying shuddering the bashful clatter of the living , the creaking of the Yama’s Hoop as it tightens around the chastised skull, the rustle of the blood red sandalwood flowers, the uninterrupted bubbling of the sesame oil soaking the five feet tall purple sandalwood stake, the shrill of the ripped beard, the snipping of queues, the murdering of the soul, the orgasmic happiness of Meiniang, the warm blood dripping onto death’s majestic palanquin, the plonking of the bloody knife after the 500th cut , the dramatic folk operas retelling tales of oppression , the thundering sound of gallantry and human fortitude, the galumphing of destined socio-cultural revolution and the resonance of life, as the Gaomi populace knew it. My palpitations strumming to the beat of Tan xiang xing.

4/5 ****

Rice – Su Tong


The vacant page mutely gazing at me retells the current state of my mind. The sporadic cursor alternating the iridescent flashes of the gold teeth neatly aligned within Five Dragons’ proud mouth appears to be the solitary outlet alleviating the burden of my disorderly inferences about life, thriving within and around the Great Swan Rice Emporium. Startlingly, a habit I had once nurtured from my father found an uncanny presence among the pages of this manuscript, amid the raw rice kernels Five Dragons simultaneously popped in his mouth. The subtle aroma of freshly harvested rice maturing in several gunny bags, the blissful fragrant steam swirling from a humble bowl of boiled rice and the complacent hunger swaying to the tunes of mouthfuls of food stumble upon a significant bridge amalgamating personal nuances with those procured through fictitious consciousness yielding the magnitude of a modest food grain and its devastating persuasion. Su Tong’s artful phraseology dissolves along the sunlit streets of the Brick Mason Avenue casting forlorn memories of the quaint Maple-Poplar Village submerged in the nauseating innards of one entity, one defining personage, who compels to ponder on the humanistic possibilities and probabilities of redemption and retribution in the acrimony of deformed reality.

“Travellers from home are like stray dogs; they sleep when they’re tired, wherever they are and their expressions- lethargic and groggy at times ferocious at others are more doglike than human…… This is the city: chaotic and filled with weird things that draw people like flies, to lay their maggoty eggs and move on. Everyone damns the city, but sooner or later they come anyhow…”

An overpowering introspection of the 1930s China ; a land plagued with war, floods, famine and rebellion, plunged deeper into the darkest extremities of survival and life influenced by the delicate perception of an agricultural country and vulnerability of its populace. The rural territories ravaged by calamities, liable for hordes of homeless migrants swarming in the city , brings along an orphan from the Maple-Poplar Village on a strange journey where the long road ahead tempts with an endless supply of rice but is clueless of the destination where life and death meet. Five Dragons’ impression of the city evaluates the universal irony of two contradictory worlds triumphant in their own intrinsic virtuosity. The exodus depicts imaginative haven the rural folks concoct eventually surrendering to their temptations of fostered dreams of fame and wealth. Su Tong paints the harsh reality of the impervious glamorous city dwellings prioritizing the success rate of survival above all humanity , exemplifying an ugly truth of a ‘dog-eats-dog’ world brimming with black marketers, warlords, egocentrism, exploitation, murders, mutilations, torment and vengeance. The probability of a jade bracelet having a place in the family registry surpassed the accessibility of an ounce of love. The term “a great coffin” synonymous to the city elevates the significance of ‘rice’ through the degree of relationships between the country bumpkins and the city slickers, spiralling downwards onto a dais of corruption and consciousness.

Want to know how I managed to become what I am today? By nurturing that hatred. It’s the prize of human capital. You can forget your mother and father, but you must never relinquish your hatred.”

Are people condemned to live in isolation? Is a man born with the simmering emotion of hatred? Or, is it then ,the seeds of hatred are sown in the muddy waters of human manipulation, nurtured through season of egotism, infidelity, lowliness to the culmination of a vicious harvest of vengeance? Su Tong’s overwhelming portrayal of the sinister human nature entwines the cynicism of contemptuous standard of living and the sanguinity of a dream yet to be pursued, the rhythmic clatter of the railroad haunting the passage to time dilapidating flanked by delusion and veracity. Alongside the dream of improving his life, Five Dragons nurtured the bitter seeds of hatred, its shadows falling on the Feng family, its core of darkness thriving among seething anger and humiliation. The word ‘pity’ comes to my mind when the inherent images of the fated Feng family simultaneously click in the corner of my eye. The ugly side of the human nature corrode the benign innards through ceaseless suffocation and starvation to attain a sense of belonging and empathy. It is here that one stops reading the scripted prose and wonder whether life is simply a joke; clowning its way through the living. The yearly rice harvest being at the mercy of the whims and fancy of the nature; the imminent harvest callously being washed away by the sudden torrential rainfall. The puny shoots of peace withered into an impartial pairing of fortune and misfortune and the disgrace of feeling less than a human solidifying its monster approximating indestructible steel pounded through the furnace fires nurturing the sensation of hatred as an eternal tool in Wu Long’s troubled heart.

“Rice enveloping feminine flesh or feminine flesh wrapped around rice always drove him into a state of uncontrollable sexual desire.”

Su Tong’s vivid portrayal of a culture deeply rooted in its agricultural land symbolizes the annual survival of rice grains to the value of life and the heritage of a prevailing race. The cultivation of rice interprets the social, economical and political panorama of a country and the complexities of its populace. ‘Rice’ signifies the defining standard, the deciding scale upon which the stages of life and nature are carefully calculated; a method particularly central to the existence of Five dragons. The over implications of the act of illicit sex connote one of the imperative module in deciphering the state of sexual desire and the subsequent paradoxical measure to the “purity” of rice grains. The ruthless delineation of the abusive cycle of sex and violence in a misogynistic patriarchy traces its origins in the twisted psychological sentimentalities and habitual sadomasochism. Rice and sex are the two self-destructive forms of power and control seducing Five Dragons’ deepest sexual urges and sadistic fetishes. The expression of rice being more dependable and pragmatic than a woman congeals an irrational notion within Five Dragons of rice being much more “cleaner” than the woman being fucked or the act of sex. The tussle between the controlling calm over the presence of the “rice” and the chauvinistic power over the feminine flesh or to be precise the domination over a vagina, indicates a repulsive human personage crammed between the predatory yearnings and corrupted reality ; the mislaid human spirit clutching on to the wispy threads of love for a third lifeless entity. The widespread misogynistic attitude of strictly adhered in the sexual discrepancies and the obnoxious treatment meted out to the woman of the Feng family. The abusive state finding a justification in Cloud Weave’s heartening proclamation:-“The world is really strange. Men can play around all they want, but women aren’t supposed to return the favour…….Well, this is one woman who’s going to play by her own rules…” Su Tong’s female protagonists steadily become a sensitive pictogram of patriarchal victimizations, powerless and pedestrian, their sexuality the solitary source of their emancipation however insignificant the exercise of free will may have been.

Rice, the life-sustaining crop, the first solid food fed to a child, the first auspicious offering made to honour the dead, the sovereign symbol of prosperity and fertility; disintegrates in the deficient social order appropriating an antonym to life. Rice defining all becomes its own contradiction.

“To him nothing was important than life itself, unless it was improving the quality of life.”

What makes us human? What makes us subhuman? Are these two terminologies correlated with the disquieting response favouring the tipping dimensions of absurdity? The poignant reminder, a single tear shed in search for familiar faces in the crowd demarcating the parallel worlds of “false” and “real”. The desire to live for the accomplishment of a dream and the desperation to survive out of the fear of death; what can be labelled as a “bona fide” life? The existence that thrive in covetousness and wealth yet beckoning the fall of humankind or the life dishonoured in the dregs of poverty and subhuman conduct inching to a similar deteriorating of humankind? And then what should be termed as a “false” life? The new set of gold teeth becomes the speech of a voiceless man, the trust for a humane recognition. The pomposity of materialistic power metamorphosed the “false” into “real” and vice-versa. The actual calcified teeth, an altruistic gift from the parents disposed for being speechless, the mortification disseminating into the haughtiness of a golden lust.

The conflict between man and society unearthing the evil human nature festers in an endless contempt harboured by the various penned characters of this book. In the brutal struggle to improve the quality of life, each surviving person evokes an animalistic side, fiercely battling to seek an ounce of happiness and unchallenging acceptance. Does then, the prejudicial communal outlook renders oneself to be hateful? Or merely in a distorted reality the fight for survival is marred with merciless policy?

“It was, after all, rice, and rice alone, that had a calming, cooling effect on him; all his life it had comforted him.”

The simple rice grain strenuously toiling in a steaming pot, rinsing all the impurities to produce one perfect bowl of steamed rice, is an animated testament of the blood, tears and sweat shed by the farmers to produce one glorious harvest, that develop into a life-source for millions of hungry stomachs. In the vicious battle of survival, the world of rice provides the ultimate comfort to Five Dragons, his true sense of belonging, redefining the perversion of enduring extremities. A boxful of finest white rice becomes his sole salvation linking the calamitous nature to the complexities of man. Besides a handful of white grains, there may be no redemption, may be a delayed retribution and certainly no love, yet there is a chance of fortitude through every mound of rice glistening from the gunny bags, rice, a symbol of survival. And, each day at supper it finds a well-merited place on my dining table.


Something Strange Across the River – Kafū Nagai

Something Strange Across the River


When the night falls, the mosquitoes murmur
“There’s something strange across the river”
Musty bodies entwine melancholia of Sumida
“East of the river”, the Milky Way stammers,
Starry skies,perfumed tears,a bloody mosquito bite
Strum at the window, the cacophony of hearts,
Hungry eyes seeking a graceful chignon,
Autumn dreams disappearing in wooden clogs
Totters in the fog, shadows of a streetwalker,
The floating world blooms in heart of a reader.

Curiously, the night seemed darker, not a speck of breeze to aerate the tartness of the pond water, the disfigurement of the potholed street pronouncing solemnity to the solitary flickering of a street light. The languid smoke clouds cheer an ongoing festive commemoration amid the imminence of spring glancing from a drop of sweat. The dewy fragrance of the moonflowers lining the ditches intensifies rivalling with the ticking of the Matsuya clock. The tranquillity of the street merges into the solitude of the obscure back alleys of a forgotten Tamanoi district. The seductive world of red rouge and pale powder divorced by a humble window lingers through the smoky air as the moonlit watery currents imitating the moon floating on Sumida descend into the sparkling lights on the Kototoi Bridge; a man dressed in tattered Western suit compensating his futile endeavour in rattling of the Asaki brothels marred by torrential rains. The feel of ice dumpling desired on a muggy night, and as the mouldy whiff of second-hand books reeked, Kafū’s Tokyo shone brighter than those garish movie posters plastered at the Asakusa Park.

When composing a novel I find the time when the characters make choices that will affect their lives and lead to the development of events to be the most interesting. Those moments of development and their descriptions are fascinating.

The man at the crossroad speculating the revelation of a new turn, the treasured city grasping the past as it embraces the perils of evolution and the lowly window splicing the world into two, detaching tangential vulgarity from pretentious sincerity. The amicable synchronization between worldly antagonism and the chalky concealment of an energetic spirit produces a harmonious feeling from the other side of the mystifying window helping fleeting bystanders to shed their duplicitous inhibitions into the serene alleys of truthfulness reflecting in the enthralment of the floating world. Silently flapping away the mosquitoes, Ando Yukiko, redoing her chignon visibly acknowledged the underhandedness of the world fleeting across her window and the subdued feelings of men who peeked indoors hoping a reckless night within the bug infested quarters would fill the burdensome void like the falling rain eliminating the darkness of a murky puddle. The thunderous rain that obliged Oyuki to take refuge under Tadasu Oe’s umbrella, the deciding moment when a forlorn Junbei met Sumiko randomly on a train ride and the flash of lighting illuminating Oyuki’s ethereal face etching an everlasting memory, precipitates into refinement of Nagai’s textual charisma. The steady streaming of a twofold narration interweaves the multifaceted characterisation of diversified personalities focusing on attaining their individualism and misplaced beauty analogous to their residential city in the pursuit of amassing remnants of a time left behind.

Kafū Nagai or fairly speaking, Tadasu Oe aimlessly wonders in the pleasure district of Tamanoi, experiencing the newly constructed concrete jungle consuming the subtle archaic beauty of Tokyo. Kafū conceptualizes fine art in his prose by realistic selection of nature empathizing with the integrated civilization. Kafū elevates the artistic quotient by the laudable erudition portrayed in the execution of his scripted characters contrived through the vividness of pragmatism and the magnetism of simulated crucial sequences. The destined encounter of two strangers, the purely coincidental communicative progressions and immediacy of faithfully delineating the fragments of an obscure soul, elevates the quintessence of resourceful design in delineating the sketched persona from within, employing empathetic perceptions.

When the women who live in the shadows face the men who creep about in the darkness, there is no fear or malice in them, only kindness and love. There is no need for explanation; the innumerable acts speak for themselves, and nothing I put to paper can elaborate on them. There was the geisha from Kyoto who helped the man sought by the shoganate, the girl at the frigid train stop who emptied her pockets to help a gambler. Tosca fed the fugitive, Michitose gave all her love to the desperate man

Kafū’s infatuation with the world of geishas and prostitutes stemmed from his strong belief that the people existing on the fringe of the society embody the thorny truth of life and society. This carves a gratifying portrait of a world marred by hypocrisy and falsehood. The prostitute anxiously waiting for her nightly customer, the flamboyant pimp trying to make a wage depended meal, the waitresses tackling the drunk patrons in a bustling Ginza cafe, the old man at the bookstore and those numerous others who thrive at the underside of the society, insignificant to the larger civilization barely manage to cling to the obsolete ways of an altering life. Kafū felt inspired by the profundity of the floating world and those labelled ‘downtrodden’ for it was in these discomfited narrow passageways where life flourished without prejudices and superficiality. The underbelly of a burgeoning society where life was raw characterising the life-realities in valid flesh and blood, the prostitute who made an honest living yielding an intercourse with a customer prone to shamefulness as the sun rises; can it then legitimize the frivolous ridicule of one’s destiny? Isn’t it an act of idiocy to critic the perimeter of a mistreated social order imposing bigotry? The women of nightfall have nothing but benevolence and genuine love for they are accustomed to the harshness of the superficiality. The intimacy experienced by Junbei and Tadasu towards their female enchantresses expresses the candour in which Kafū was not repelled by the dingy surroundings infested with an army of mosquitoes and overflowing stench of dirty ditches and assiduously sketched the prevailing life rationally and casually devoid of any imposing biases. The term “harlot” or “flippant” disseminates into the virginal obscurity of a woman in live. In the depths of corruption, one may find the blossoms of human sympathy and perfumed tears. Gather them up. The haunting words of Tadasu Oe resonates the philosophical compassion nurtured for those who did not belong to ‘respectable society’ yet were the tempting source of unreserved pleasure for the elitist .

Even this backwater town, suddenly enlivened, was not able to escape the undulating and manic altercations of the times. And neither can any of us.

Oyuki symbolises the nostalgia of the past old way musing the pain and desperation of accommodating an unfamiliar milieu. The chignon standing elegantly on the slender neck, the ascetic mannerism of a woman blushing as if hopelessly in love binds the surfacing beauty of a city destructed by the Great Kanto Earthquake (1923) and concurrent thunderstorms reconstructing the lost individuality along with the much-beloved citizens. Similar to several of his literary colleagues, Nagai felt the nostalgic twinge, reluctant to let go of the past and the trepidations coupled with accepting an altering Tokyo. Kafū Nagai once said, “Empathy is not merely the basic principle of the artistic creation. It is also the only path by which one can reach the truth about life and society.”

The pigeon resting near my balcony is asleep undisturbed by the gleaming allure of Kafū’s Edo. What was it that had kept me awake in the deepest hours of the night? The clandestine life blithe in the gloom of the night. The bodies of the nightfall liberating the mendaciousness of the daylight. The peculiar writer who gave room to his art to breathe on the fringes of the society, empathetically Accompanied by the squealing of edgy bats, my nocturnal musing seizes my contemplating thoughts on the surreptitious functioning of brothels dwelling on the other side of the town .A slight buzzing of a bicycle bell awakens the bitter pond stench. Somewhere an adolescent bloke on his nightly rounds must be selling freshly brewed coffee to lingering peripheral hearts.


Five Modern Nō Plays – Yukio Mishima

Five Modern Nō Plays

Hanako : I wait.
Jitsuko : I wait for nothing.

Songs of a lonely heart flying from the gentle folds of the fan signalling the melancholic air to chant sermons of an unrequited love ; the capricious love muffling the voices of a damask drum ; the viciousness of love nurtured by the obstinacy of the heart spilling its vengeance in a haunted soul ; the arrogance of beauty nestled in narcissistic love humbled by the aloofness of a gravestone and the nothingness of love dissolving into a philosophical profundity dreaming the richness of love on a mystifying Kantan pillow. The shadows of human emotions expressed by the beauty of Noh travelled through the dainty pages in my hand nailing rock solid boundaries within my sanity. The spirituality of Japan’s oldest theatrical art echoed from contemporary adaptations mirroring and validating Mishima’s elegant testaments of Noh.

“But only human beings really change. Even after eighty years a daisy will still be a daisy.”

Time flies, decades overturn, centuries churn history, and humans evolve, yet, the deep-ingrained emotions unaltered dwell in their primitivism. Love births varied sentiments flooding the human diasporas with colours of jealousy, poignancy, rage, solitude, ecstasy and the vastness of fickle nature. Industriously, Yukio Mishima sieves the 14th century theatrical art through decades of modernity, diminishing the elitist barricades bringing Zeami Motokiyo’s art of limitless world bringing the artistic finery to the classes and masses. The prologue states an intriguing anecdote of Ulysses Grant pondering on the fate of the Noh art. Noh, the oldest Japanese theatrical art form conceived by Kan’ami Kiyotsugu and Zeami Motokiyo, the father-son duo was strictly dramatised for the elite Shogun during 14th century supremacy. Mishima meticulously amends the literary imperatives keeping the supernatural elements integrating Western modernism and cultural system. The crucial Noh mask no longer physically veils Mishima’s actors transmitting the shadows of the mask onto the chaotic blend of mystical sentiments and commonsensical situations. The stately prince and princesses are replaced by the naked faces of ordinary people, the outwardly paranormal experiences embody internal spiritualities and class segregations juxtapose aging unsightliness. For even after eight years as the daisy remains a daisy, the tears of agony flow with every heart break, vengeance pursues jealously and even when hindered by incessant blankness, the heart does not stop loving. The five masterfully illustrated Noh plays is Mishima’s dexterous assimilation of surrealism of the ancient art with the incisive technicalities of modernity, comprehending indigenous vague sensibilities through a metaphoric democratic lens of naturalism.

“A man who’s once gone to war reminisces about the war all the rest of his life.”

Sotoba Komachi

Legend has it that Ono no Komachi, a renowned Japanese poet of the Heian Period was famed for her exceptional ability as a poetess as well as her astonishing beauty. The arrogance of her youth and beauty steadily vanishes with the ugliness of old –age leaving 99 yrs-old Komachi reminiscing the long lost beauty ironically near a gravestone. Sotoba Komachi translating into “Komachi at the Gravestone”, initially scripted as an enlightening dialogue between Komachi and the Buddhist priest. Mishima tweaks the dramatization by interchanging roles, placing the deliverance act in a park filled with young lovers. The Buddhist priests are replaced by a young drunken poet questioning a haggard old-lady (Komachi) as she collects cigarette butts off the ground. The heartless Komachi who once neglected her devoted suitors priding in her tantalizing beauty mitigates the harsh effects of aging justifying the inbred narcissism confessing how a beautiful woman always remains beautiful irrespective to the hideousness of age. Mishima tactfully places the woman on an urban park bench surrounded by young lovers making out, shifting the Noh play away from its fabled ambience and providing a realistic imagery depicting brutality of time and lunacy of self-love. The bench become the critical emblematic gravestone of youth and its arrogant beauty. The memories of a war ceaselessly thrive within a veteran devoid of any path to salvation. Beauty is a war in itself, the aftermath scarring even the most supercilious souls gifting nothing but perplexed loneliness.

“Love’s not that sort of thing. It’s something that shines on the one you love from the mirror of your ugliness.”

The damask drum (Aya no Tsuzumi)

The gardener makes way for a 70yr old janitor- Iwakichi, the princess trade places with an elite client of a chic couturier and the downtown city law office replaces the grandeur of the Asakura Palace. Ninety-nine uniform beats of a drum, the 100th beat resonates the sound of eternal love. “Our loves begins from the tongue” ; Mishima deciphers the convoluted emotion of love acknowledging the humble metaphorical embryonic beginnings. The “tongue”, a benign fleshy bodily apparatus naively harbours an immense affinity to the first likeable flavour. The tongue, like the human heart polarizes the monochromatic tones of love, exhibiting natural modesty to either black or white. Mishima , unambiguously asserts the the fellow-feeling for the greyish tone is purely an admission of the human mind and communal prejudices, whereas the tongue cannot distinguish between “original” and “genuine”, simply falling in love with the commonality of the taste.. The beating of the heart, the cry of an unrequited loved hushed by the fraudulent damask drum, the inability to love vibrating through the silence of the drum. The ceaseless thumping of the damask drum teasing the despair of a love-torn phantom weakens in bitterness of the unreciprocated love letters clinging onto the optimism of a drum sound. Hanako, the “princess of laurel” waiting for the 100th beat.

“There’s no way to make a madman like you understand the futility of human existence.”


‘The Pillow of Kantan’ , the Noh play as it famously documented; dramatize the bizarre chimerical allure of dreams and the consequential reality. A will to live entrenched in the nightmarish pessimism. Dreams on a pillow rendering the entire factual world futile, delineates the kaleidoscopic revelations of Jiro enlightening the importance of living in the moment, the glory of the present is far better than the trickery of an enthralling future. The song sung by the Kantan pillow melodiously counsels its occupant, “The pillow is blameless, and the pillowed head is to blame……….” Life is nothing but a dream, there are some people who live for their dreams and then there are some who live in dreams. The futility of human existence enhanced by the immorality offered through dreams is best left on the pillow for true salvation comes from the mortality of the present, alike to Kiku’s garden that finally blossomed on one fine morning beautifying the heroism of trying to live.

“My flowers are invisible. Flower of pain is what they are.”

The Lady Aoi

Indisputably, one of the most famous Noh, ‘Aoi no Ue’ finds a place in Mishima’s collection. The wrath of a woman’s jealousy; the emotion most feared for its malevolence and its vulnerability rising from the sinister depths of treachery and seclusion. As the celebrated chronicle goes retelling the tale of a malicious spirit of Lady Rokujo tormenting the a pregnant Lady Aoi- the wife of Prince Genji ; the insufferable illness leading to a subsequent exorcism of the troublesome spirit. Mishima transmits the archaic supernatural thriller to a 1950’s metropolitan hospital scenery bringing plethora of contemporary trappings. Unlike, in the classic, the absence of Prince Genji is filled with the presence of a masculine-figure signifying Aoi as a wife of a businessman- Hikaru Wakabayashi. The dramatization prominently taking place in a psychiatric ward veers toward sexual complexes. The “ghost of libido” afflicting Aoi tosses the eerie fascination into intense sexual psychoanalysis stylishly mirroring the root cause of Rokujo Lady’s malice towards Aoi.

Keeping intact the spirituality and the paranormal potency of the original Noh, Mishima floats the crudity of sex being one of the derivates of Rokujo’s suffering. The sinister background of the hospital and the inclusion of a coquettish nurse diagnosing the mental illness demarcate Mishima’s capability to engage the vagueness of exorcism through the precision of medical analysis. Mishima’s unmasked actors deduce the possibility of the supremacy of hate and love, pain and joy equating to the cyclical motions of day and night, the root of it all stemming from Rokujo’s sexual ecstasy with Hikaru.

“Don’t they say that human beings go on living by waiting and making other people wait? If you gave your whole life to waiting, how would it be? Am I unshut window? An unshut door?


In one woman’s eternal wait lies another woman’s eternal destination. The lively Hanjo fans sway through loneliness of a tragic love, beseeching lingering shreds of sanity. *[As the story goes, ‘Hanjo’ was the name of an ancient Chinese Court Lady whose embellished fans were celebrated in inspirational poetry] The universal element of ‘waiting’, consumes the artist and her muse. The women – Jitsuko and Hanako, deserted by love, dreaming to be loved thrive patiently in the horror of unrequited love; time being the cherished decoy for the delusional heart. Mishima, recreates one of the most outstanding love stories and a heart-rending classic in Noh theatre with dominant allusions of the dilettante love harbouring no prejudices, flourishing through lengthened waiting interludes encumbering the aimless trenches of lunacy. The inclusion of a flagrant homosexual approach to the Noh play is Mishima’s way of enlightening the impartialness of love disregarded by the prejudicial fundamental of the society. Two women looking into the future of waiting, annulling and acknowledging the presence of love evokes the sensation of human fortitude and stratagem of time capturing the nakedness of a helpless love.

“The essence of yūgen is true beauty and gentleness – Zeami Motokiyo

The Zen term yūgen (幽玄) lays the aesthetical foundation for the art of Noh. Yūgen connotes the idea of a mysterious, sophisticated beauty. The shadows of leaves floating in the tepid waters of a serene lake, the song of a cuckoo filling the morning sky, the beauty when you discover an old childhood souvenir; the profundity originating from the nuances of the bewildering ways life turns out to be. The purpose of Noh is the expression of such unfathomable beauty imperceptible through the naked lens of mankind. The moralistic pillars of the narrative are swayed by the graceful movements of the actors disseminating into theatrical metaphor interpreted by the sentient art and its audience.

The shiny sly needle eagerly searched by a pair of frantic eyes slashing the morbidity of an arid haystack, harnesses the allure of a clandestine beauty among aggravated repulsiveness. Human emotions get ugly, the incidental narcissism veiled behind a placid mask, stories are fashioned, moralities escaped from the tucked seams and yet , when the aloof shadows of a Noh mask drift on the skin of its performing possessor , the magnanimity of its beauty imbibes the magnetism of the steely needle peeking through the myriad straws of hay. The clandestine beauty of human life.