THE LIFE AND DEATH OF YUKIO MISHIMA by Henry Scott-Stokes

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF YUKIO MISHIMA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Yukio Mishima must be the most Westernized Japanese writer who has ever lived. His career is reminiscent not of the polite, elegant culture of the Orient, the translucency and tact evoked in flower songs and haiku and The Tale of the Genji, but rather of the extravagance, the occidental disorders and egoism we know so well. He is Rimbaud cursing poetry and fleeing to the wilds of Abyssinia, Dorian Gray before his mirror infatuated with decadence, D'Annunzio leading a squadron of planes in his raid on Flume. These aspects of excess make his books a bit tiresome, somewhat anomalous and forced: an imagination rooted in a foreign soil, private fantasies masquerading in a realistic disguise. Of his numerous writings, only Confessions of a Mask, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, and the autobiographical Sun and Steel have a home of their own, present us with situations and characters and beliefs that ring truthfully, don't seem echoes of European quests and explosions, rehashes of the old narcissistic myths. Mishima committed hara-kiri (or seppuku) in the office of Japan's commanding general; all his faits divers led to that ""glorious moment."" Also, according to his friend, the journalist Henry Scott-Stokes, something else: a ""love-death."" For his companion in the act was Morita, a right-wing student with whom he was apparently having an affair. Mishima, a body-builder, died at forty-five when his body was still ""beautiful,"" a gift for the Emperor. Scott-Stokes, while offering an intimate account of Mishima training his troops on Mt. Fuji, doesn't get particularly far in his analyses: lots of talk about death, blood, purity, the aesthetics of the tragic hero, and so on. The most piercing revelation is that Mishima's wife put up at their home ""the large photograph that had been displayed at the funeral, and by it she placed a smaller one of Morita -- Mishima, after all, had been responsible for his death.

Pub Date: June 17th, 1974
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux