Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa - translated from the Japanese by Charles S. Terry.
With a foreword by Edwin O. Reischauer.
First published 1971.
The Classic samurai novel about the real exploits of the most famous swordsman.
The 970p volume is separated into seven different books and we're reading one for each 9 day period of the readalong.
Book 1 - Book 2 - Book 3 - Book 4 - Book 5 - Book 6
Book 7 - The Perfect Light
I remember when we began at the beginning of October and the end of November seemed a long way off . Now this unique reading experience has ended and I felt quite bereft as I turned the the final page on Sunday.
This last book was a little different than I expected but in the best possible way. It begins by bringing together all the main characters ........
Otsu and Osugi are once again at loggerheads but events lead to reconciliation and Osugi becomes a completely changed person.
Matahachi , who has been training to be a priest , has a change of mind when he suddenly sees Atemi again . Realising the child she carries must be his he now wants to be with them.
Jotaro, Iori and Gonnusake.........and many more of the characters we've met , both friend and foe of Musashai - all now begin to move towards Funajima Island.
The Musashi - Kojiro Duel
Sometime through Book 5 I realised that the book was not going to be the whole story of Musashi's life and that it was most likely the famous duel between Musashi and Kojiro that would provide the climax. Instead the author chose to use it as a finale - no fireworks, no great dramatic action - a quiet and very moving ending. I never thought I'd ever be describing a fight as beautiful!
Before the duel, for which in typical fashion Musashi is once again late, he has a few moments with Otsu. She is so ill ......
“But … but …” She was sobbing with her whole body, but with a burst of strength, she seized his hand and cried, “Say it. Say I’m your wife throughout this life.”
He nodded, slowly, silently. Then one by one, he pulled her delicate fingers from his arm and stood erect. “A samurai’s wife must not weep and go to pieces when he goes off to war. Laugh for me, Otsu. Send me away with a smile. This may be your husband’s last departure.”
The duel is fought and Kojiro dies.
I began my first post with the opening sentences...........I end the last with the final, very beautiful paragraphs.
"People do not give up their loves and hates as long as life lasts. Waves of feeling come and go with the passage of time. Throughout Musashi’s lifetime, there were those who resented his victory and criticized his conduct on that day. He rushed away, it was said, because he feared reprisal. He was confused. He even neglected to administer the coup de grace.
The world is always full of the sound of waves.
The little fishes, abandoning themselves to the waves, dance and sing and play, but who knows the heart of the sea, a hundred feet down? Who knows its depth? "
Thank you, Jenners
It has been a real pleasure to share this journey with you. I doubt I would ever have crossed paths with Musashi and even if I had a fleeting glance would have been all he received before I moved on. At the beginning I doubts but apart from a brief period during Book 5 none of them materialized. I did worry that I might not be able to keep up the posts but found they became something I really looked forward to doing. One of the great things about readalongs is having to stop reading which leaves time for googling and research which I really enjoy - I love adding the images to posts.
I've learnt much about 17th century Japan and that having a good sense of the ridiculous adds so much to the enjoyment of this story. I've loved the diverse characters , the descriptions of nature and even the fights. Like Musashi I've learnt that being a samurai is not all about swordfights but has a deep inner Zen spiritualism at its core and that Musashi's journey is actually the same one we're all on. I'm very glad I had to buy the book because, although I doubt I'll ever read it again in its entirety, I look forward to dipping into its pages now and then. I love randomly opening a page for quotes for daily reflection - sometimes the results are surprising.......like now........p678
Kampai, Jenners."On the day of the celebration, the men arrived with great jars of sake".