Memoirs of a Geisha
A book that has been lying there waiting on my wishlist while I waited on the mysteries that fascinated me and the thrillers that excited me. The more I delve into the world of historical fiction it feels like I am in a whirlpool of white foam out in the Pacific, while my vessel stays still in the eye of the whirlpool I feel the pressure that surrounds me, that slowly sucks me in, overlapping and enveloping to an extent that doesn't arbitrate an escape. For an admirer of mystery, it is a growing sensation, the genre of Historical fiction that gently grasps me to fixate my presence in its clasp, which almost feels permanent to my bookish heart.
I had never bared myself to the reviews or any views that have been exposed about this book, now that I have read it and also been through some of the things said about the book I feel that if I had gone through those texts, I might have felt differently about the book. Therefore, it can be said that my views on the book are not biased in any way possible but do not worry I will shed some light on the contradictions that have prevailed throughout the book and expressed by a lot of different individuals.
Geishas have been an important shard of the imperial mirror of Japanese culture. A shard so powerful and intimidating to the functional society that even in the direst of times during World War 2, when Nihon was submerged in the valley of darkness, One section of the society flourished and that being the Geisha of Gion District. Let us take a closer peek into the book which Arthur Golden has written as a true portrayal of Japanese history and culture.
The translators note in the beginning of the book made me believe the narrative I am reading is a real story of a geisha but unfortunately the translator's note is the same as the book, a fiction. I read the book without realising that I am reading fiction. It is post reading the book when I opened myself to the internet on this subject when I came to realise it is nothing but fiction.
Living out in a poor fishing district of Japan, little Chiyo hasn't seen a lot of luxuries out in the world, living in a world illuminated by traditional lamps even Electric lights were a source of bliss for the little eyes to envision. In the world of starvation and a mother who is terminally ill, Chiyo became aware of a lot of things, things that not a lot of children of her age should think about. Things like life, things like death. Realizing that her mother won't be around for much longer, Chiyo had to think about herself and her sister.
There were some turning points in the life of Chiyo that have changed the course of her lifestream for the better and for good, and the first, of those turning points, have to be Mr Tanaka's discovery of the little girl Chiyo. Enthralled by the only businessman in town and drowning in her Charisma, Chiyo imagined Mr Tanaka to be their family's saviour only to realise later that Mr Tanaka had filled his purse by selling the two sisters into slavery. That was the first taste of deception that Chiyo felt in her life. Although a cruel instance and a vile way to go through with life it was seen later that Chiyo's transition to Sayuri a prime Geisha of Gion was something that couldn't have been possible unless that single unwanted thing transcended into the lives of Chiyo and her sister.
It is said that people who have a personality of water are the ones who tend to adapt to any circumstances better than anyone else. A watery personality will sit in any place it fits, in any pit that life throws you into that person will reshape to win in the circumstance. The watery blue eyes of Chiyo was a reflection of this all, her capability and her undying endurance to smile in the face of distress and patience that beats even ants.
The second point of significance in Sayuri's life happens to be when separated from her sister, broken from within, Sayuri cries her eyes out down by the Shirakawa stream. The only person to come to the aid of a girl who isn't even an apprentice Geisha. The kindness shown by The Chairman of Iwamura Electrics is something that will be etched in stone in the deepest corners of Sayuri's heart. The day when the little girl exasperated by the world finally decides to hold her destiny in her own hand and do whatever comes at her to be united with the Chairman once more.
Little by Little Sayuri transforms into a Geisha that far surpasses the beauty and success of any that ever existed.
This note on a memoir written about a Geisha and everything that concerns her is a goldmine of information on Geisha Culture. There are levels on being a Geisha, from serving as a maid to the Okiya, the house that trains a girl to be a Geisha to enrolling into a school that teaches Geisha arts. Learning to dance, play the Shamisen as well as learn the pleasant way of talking and entertaining people of taste. Being a Geisha in Japanese culture is a form of art that has been cultured to the last drop of beauty in the Imperial Eyes of Japan.
This book is a document that sets apart the misinformation that makes people think that A Geisha is nothing but an Oiran or Courtesan in Japanese. The performance of a Geisha are kept strictly artistic, with a flair of flirtatious conversation but in no case involves any carnality. Some parts of the book have mentions of a ritual called Misuage, according to sources it has been revealed that the particular mention of the ritual in the book pertains to the mizuage ceremony for Oirans and not Geishas. Although people are divided to this point and there are Geishas that claim that their Mizuage has been conducted in the way that is mentioned in the book but finding out the truth is particularly difficult for the vows of secrecy that the Geishas Adhere to.
Mineko Iwasaki, the Famous Geisha of the '70s was the inspiration of Sayuri, Arthur Golden has apparently taken some parts of Mineko Iwasaki into the accounts of Memoirs of Geisha and granted those traits to Sayuri and her circumstances.
My thoughts on the book, despite all the hearsay, are the dispute between Arthur Golden and Mineko Iwasaki. There are a lot of things to be concerned about the ethics displayed by Mr Golden in revealing private conversation that has been deemed important by Mineko Iwasaki. There might even be the case of Golden not being entirely accurate in his accounts of representing a culture of an entire nation of which he is not part. His research has played out on whole as to look at the enthralling plot he created with sublime details. But the fact remains straight that however adept we may be in faking an accent the people of the culture often realise the mistake.
On another note, the story of Sayuri is fascinating and fantastic, the way all of this has been imbued into the essence of a lost girl is something I find a heart in. The story gives you hope in the valley of darkness, pushes you forward to overcome all the hassles in your path but it makes clear that destinies can never be overlooked. What is written in the scrolls for you always comes to pass, not by your hand but in some mystical way it occurs leaving you blank in mind. I will suggest you read this book to overcome the hearsays about Geishas, to experience an imperial culture even though it is tainted with western practices still a trove that should not be ignored.
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