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Written on August 21, 2007
I've always been interested in novels which portray plots concerning Japan's history, people or culture. I am fascinated by anything Japanese. Maybe it's because of their neat mind, simple looks, behavioral traditions, good manners and strong will. I am not exactly sure why I like Japan, but the one thing I am certain about is that my fascination about it was deepened when I read the novel "Memoirs of a Geisha".
The novel is by the brilliant author "Arthur Golden" and I honestly believe he should win a Nobel Prize for it! It is about a girl who becomes a geisha just because her life leads her to that, without even being allowed to make the least decisions about how she wants to live her life, but decides to take a stand when she is over 30 years old already and tries to win the man she's always loved. The depiction, plot, characters...simply everything was well chosen and perfectly done. I can't call this novel anything but inspiring, affecting, moving and though I am not professional enough to judge its frankness, but I can see it said the truth and opened a taboo on a real important issue that affected nations and cultures, as well as a vast number of human beings who were involved.
Some people criticized this novel for being a bit forward and 'frank' about certain scenes in it like the rape ones and so forth, but I would just say one thing, if you don't feel disgusted while reading those horrible stuff, then you don't get the message the author is trying to convey...This is exactly how he wants you to feel: the misery of the girl, the sorrow in her soul and the helplessness situation she is at, otherwise, the novel would be useless! On the other hand, why do we criticize someone for saying the truth?! I am absolutely sure that the author set his point in a correct way that wouldn't hurt the reader; it was respectful and he didn't cross the line nor turned the novel into "Memoirs of a Prostitute". As he said in the book, geisha means artist, and it was like that in every possible way. The character of the geisha in the novel named Sayuri was in every way artistic: her ways, talks, manners and looks. She in a certain sense, weird enough for some people to hear, has even set a role model for sacrifice, love, devotion, good-heartedness throughout her journey in fighting for the man of her dreams, because all she wanted from life was someone to understand and be kind to her.
I suppose someone who's gone through hardships like the one Sayuri in the novel went through has all the excuses in the world to turn into someone as evil as a murderer, because no human being can bear such injustice and the not-being-able state of controlling his life's path. Yet, this remarkable piece of artistic literature shows how someone can stand up courageously for his life even when hope is almost non-existent...because at the end of every dark tunnel, you'd always find the least flashes of light to guide you.
What I definitely feel about this novel regardless from its plot, is that the way the Arthur Golden writes his words is nothing more than enchanting and inspiring...the beautiful description of the smallest of details and the marvelous choice of simple examples to illustrate his point was very clear throughout the pages of this masterpiece. For example, in chapter ten, when Sayuri talks about her trial to escape with her sister, which didn't work out well for her, she says "This was the moment when I began to understand how unaware I'd been--not only in planning to run away, but in everything. I'd never understood how closely things are connected to one another. And it isn't just the zodiac sign I'm talking about. We human beings are only a part of something very much larger. When we walk along, we may crush a beetle or simply cause a change in the air so that a fly ends up where it might never have gone otherwise. And if we think of the same example but with ourselves in the role of the insect, and the larger universe in the role we've just played, it's perfectly clear that we're affected every day by forces over which we have no more control than the poor beetle has over our gigantic foot as it descends upon it. What are we to do? We must use whatever methods we can to understand the movement of the universe around us and time our actions so that we are not fighting the currents, but moving with them."
The novel amazes and grips you all the way through, till Sayuri ends her memoirs and the writer ends his novel by saying a conclusion about life and destiny: "When my mother died and I was cruelly sold, it was all like a stream that falls over rocky cliffs before it can reach the ocean." Then says a few more lines and finalizes with "Now I know that our world is no more permanent than a wave rising on the ocean. Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on paper."
If you love artistic and fascinating literature, I don't think you should ever skip reading "Memoirs of a Geisha" because it will hang in your memory for as long as your life lasts...