For most Western observers, the Japanese practice of voluntary death, whether the self-inflicted sword-stroke of a warrior or the simultaneous suicide of lovers, is shocking and difficult to understand. The practice of voluntary death is deeply alien to Western Culture and to the Christian view that God alone is entrusted with power over life and death.
In Japan however, a tradition of voluntary death has existed for more than a millenium. The suicides of samurai warriors, of kamikaze fighter pilots, of artists and lovers are part of a tradition which stretches back over many centuries and which expresses a distinctive way of relating to death.
In this profound and sensitive study, Maurice Pinguet carefully reconstructs this tradition of voluntary death and relates it to other aspects of Japanese culture and society. He shows that, in early Japanese myths and legends, acts of self-immolation were often exalted as an ideal.
This study is a brilliant and absorbing analysis of Japanese culture and society - an analysis which, by focusing on a practice that is radically different from our own, tells us something about Western civilisation as well.
Hardback, 365pp, in very good condition. This English translation published in 1993.