Shōgun

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Only by living at the edge of death can you understand the indescribable joy of life.

Shōgun is a 1975 novel by James Clavell, the first novel (by internal chronology) of his Asian Saga. It is set in feudal Japan somewhere around the year 1600 and gives a highly fictionalized account of the rise of Tokugawa Ieyasu (here called "Toranaga") to the Shogunate, seen through the eyes of an English sailor whose fictional heroics are loosely based on William Adams' exploits.

Quotes[edit]

To think good thoughts … requires effort. This is one of the things that disciplinetraining — is about.
What are clouds, but an excuse for the sky? What is life, but an escape from death?
  • Blackthorne was suddenly awake. For a moment he thought he was dreaming because he was ashore and the room unbelievable. It was small and very clean and covered with soft mats. He was lying on a thick quilt and another was thrown over him. The ceiling was polished cedar and the walls were lathes of cedar, in squares, covered with an opaque paper that muted the light pleasantly. Beside him was a scarlet tray bearing small bowls. One contained cold cooked vegetables and he wolfed them, hardly noticing the piquant taste. Another contained a fish soup and he drained that. Another was filled with a thick porridge of wheat or barley and he finished it quickly, eating with his fingers. The water in an odd-shaped gourd was warm and tasted curious — slightly bitter but savory.
    Then he noticed the crucifix in its niche.
    This house is Spanish or Portuguese, he thought aghast. Is this the Japans? or Cathay?
    • First lines, Ch. 1
  • All his life he had heard legends told among pilots and sailormen about the incredible riches of Portugal's secret empire in the East, how they had by now converted the heathens to Catholicism and so held them in bondage, where gold was as cheap as pig iron, and emeralds, rubies, diamonds, and sapphires as plentiful as pebbles on a beach.
    If the Catholic part's true, he told himself, perhaps the rest is too.
    • Ch. 1
  • To think bad thoughts is really the easiest thing in the world. If you leave your mind to itself it will spiral down into ever-increasing unhappiness. To think good thoughts, however, requires effort. This is one of the things that discipline — training — is about.
    • Ch. 5
  • There are no 'mitigating circumstances' when it comes to rebellion against a sovereign lord.
    • Yoshi Toranaga, in Ch. 11; to this John Blackthorne responds: "Unless you win."
  • Now Yabu was certain that Toranaga had decided to remove his head, one way or another, for, by universal custom, your enemy is never more polite than when he is planning or has planned your destruction.
    • Ch. 18
  • First she studied her husband's flower arrangement. He had chosen the blossom of a single white wild rose and put a single pearl of water on the green leaf, and set it on red stones. Autumn is coming, he was suggesting with the flower, talking through the flower, do not weep for the time of fall, the time of dying when the earth begins to sleep; enjoy the time of beginning again and experience the glorious cool of the autumn air on this summer evening...soon the tear will vanish and the rose, only the stones will remain — soon you and I will vanish and only the stones will remain.
    • Ch. 43
  • Only by living at the edge of death can you understand the indescribable joy of life.
    • Ch. 56
  • What are clouds,
    But an excuse for the sky?
    What is life,
    But an escape from death?
    • (Kasigi) Yabu-san, Ex-Daimyo, in Ch. 61; his death poem after being ordered to commit seppuku, ritual suicide and death sentence de facto. He was ordered to do this after Toranaga found out he had let the ninja in after being betrayed by Omi (his nephew).

External links[edit]

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