Runaway Horses by Yukio Mishima

This second book in the classic tetralogy The Sea of Fertility was published posthumously and is the story of the second incarnation of Shigekuni Honda’s friend Kiyoaki Matsugae. Beginning in 1932, Honda, a judge, replaces a colleague at a kendo tournament. He meets a youth, Isao Iinuma, that has a mole pattern the same as Kiyoaki. On seeing this pattern, Honda believes he is the reincarnation of this friend. After seeing this teenager, he goes from living a very mundane life to feeling “the past makes its appearance again, with all its mingled dreams and aspirations, the delicate tarnish of falsehood left undisturbed upon its silver.” Isao blames capitalism for the depression and upheaval Japan is experiencing and draws Honda into his plans to slay the zaibatsu or economic elite. When Isao is arrested, Honda resigns to defend him. On the day he posted The Sea of Fertility to his publisher Mishima committed suicide in much the same way as Isao intended, making this possibly the darkest of all four novels. Its subtlety, beauty, and complexity steeped with a detailed illustration of Japan’s political landscape during the pre-war years make this a fascinating book worth many revisits. 

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