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literature

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

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Mishima, Yukio (1925-1970)  
 
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"Choked with desire," he longs to be this man--desires to identify and unite with him. Watching the young man, the protagonist realizes that his sensuous attraction originates from both the "feeling of tragedy" and the "feeling of intimacy with danger," which the man emanates. Obviously, this is the narrator's subjective reading of this young man; he projects his imagination onto the object of his love.

To the narrator, homoerotic sensuousness should be accompanied by tragedy or danger. In extreme cases, tragedy and danger should take the form of violence, blood, and death. As a result, Confessions proliferates with bloody sadomasochism and death linked with homoeroticism. Guido Reni's painting of Saint Sebastian represents all these facets and incites the protagonist at the age of twelve to experience his first masturbatory ejaculation.

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In correlation to this emphasis in Confessions, a couple of months before his coup d'état, Mishima had his photograph taken posing as Saint Sebastian, bound to a tree and pierced by arrows--a harbinger of his seppuku, or martyrdom.

In addition, his necrophilic predilections linked with eroticism surface in many of his later works: "Patriotism" (1960), The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea (1963), Sun and Steel (1968), and Runaway Horses (1969), whose heroes incarnated Mishima's ideal types.

As its title suggests, Confessions of a Mask is narrated by the protagonist wearing a "mask," or conversely, by the mask wearing a human face--a mask without a face behind it. The reader is put in an ambivalent position: whether to take this confession as a lie or fiction by a masked person, or as an autobiography craftily disguised as fiction by the use of the "mask," or as truth inseparably intertwined with imagination.

According to some Mishima critics, Confessions is a faithful documentation of the author and his family. In any case, the title and style of the book indubitably attains Mishima's intention of puzzling the reader about his sexuality.

Forbidden Colors

Another of Mishima's stories that shocked the public with its homosexual theme was Forbidden Colors (1951-1953). Before writing this novel, Mishima openly frequented a Tokyo gay bar under the pretext of doing research for this work. According to Mishima, he wanted to eradicate the generalized Japanese correlation of the homosexual relationship between two men with that of two heterosexuals, in which male (active) and female (passive) roles are played. He therefore set forth the premise that male love was no more than the love between two men, surpassing such role playing as masculine or feminine.

This novel has a more sociological approach to homosexuality than Confessions. In Confessions, Mishima described a solitary young gay man, who uses his "confessions" as the means for an abrupt "coming out," but within the story remains closeted.

In contrast, the hero of Forbidden Colors, Yuichi, comes out of his solitary closet into a wider one--Tokyo's homosexual society. Yuichi is amazed at "the unexpected scope of [the homosexual] world" and the ubiquitous existence of gays, who are, in appearance and professions, indistinguishable from "normal" men.

He identifies with them in longing for the time when "the truth that man loves man would overthrow the old truth that man loves woman." He realizes that fraternal relationships such as "friendship, the love of comrades, philanthropy, the love of master and protégé" are in fact variants of homosexual love.

By today's standards, these ideas sound naive, but in Mishima's day, they were epoch-making statements. In fact, one of the merits of this novel lies in Mishima's vivid depiction of Tokyo's gay underground society soon after World War II. Further, his iconoclastic approach to the prescribed Japanese masculine ideas of the early 1950s--though not extensively pursued--makes this book a harbinger of contemporary gay studies.

In Forbidden Colors, while displaying his misanthropy and misogyny, Mishima was also interested in describing the demonic nature of a beautiful young man, Yuichi, and the interaction with his contrasting double, an old hideous-looking writer, Shunsuke. Through this contrast, Mishima exemplified the supremacy of physical beauty over spiritual maturity or intelligence, making Yuichi his unapproachable ideal. Soon after finishing this novel, he accordingly decided to make himself into a "Yuichi" through body-building.

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