MISHIMA: A Biography by John Nathan

MISHIMA: A Biography

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Mishima looked for three things in life: fame, violence, romance. The triad was, at the age of forty-five, revealed to him through and consummated in a ritual blood bath at the office of Japan's commanding general. Dressed in the garb of the Self-Defense Force, his private army, he disemboweled himself with a short steel sword; his young aide (and lover) then hacked his head from his body, and the news of his spectacular seppuku went out to a shocked world. John Nathan in an interesting critical biography sees in Mishima's ""hero's death"" the last desperate act of a man who ""always wanted to exist but never could."" Writer, film maker, actor, international celebrity, husband, father -- apparently these roles did not feed his eager appetite for legendary transfiguration. He ""savored the romantic dream of the artist perishing and in perishing becoming his own masterpiece."" If that is true, then Mishima's self-destruction, though certainly the performance of a ""star,"" has very little humanity in it, bears no relation whatever to the thousand other suicides who die in misery and despair. But since Nathan's evidence for this view comes largely through a subjective reading of Mishima's novels, one wonders whether all the talk of ""eroticism"" and the ""death aesthetic"" and ""narcissism"" is the last word. Though Mishima was often a ""confessional"" writer, he was always a mysterious one. Both Nathan's book and a recent similar account by Henry Scott-Stokes, The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima (KR, p. 527), have a certain glossy fin de siecle air, touched with Freudian insights, which suggest, at times, a Hollywood ""treatment"" of a poete maudit. Glamorous Mishima was, but he was also a genius -- especially at dissembling.

Pub Date: Nov. 25th, 1974
ISBN: 030680977X
Publisher: Little, Brown