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Admired as both prose writer and poet, he has until now been represented in this country by translations of one novel, "Sound of Waves," and a collection of five modern No plays. This book will increase American awareness of his skill; but it will also, I imagine, arouse in many readers as much distaste as respect.
Like a number of other postwar Japanese novels, this extraordinary narrative, translated into fluent English by Meredith Weatherby, is the story of a lost soul. The younger and middle generations of Japanese writers find themselves, in Matthew Arnold's now hackneyed but pertinently descriptive words, Wandering between two worlds, one dead, The other powerless to be born.
Cut off suddenly from the life-giving traditions of their national past, they have not yet been able to find spiritual nourishments in the Western culture that has been thrust upon them.
Kochan, the narrator of "Confessions of a Mask," is lost for another reason. He is a homosexual who is determined to conceal his true nature from the world, and the story that he tells is an almost clinical account of congenital sexual inversion. His homosexual fantasies, in which sadism plays an increasingly important role, cultimate in cannibalistic visions.
Growing up in wartime, Kochan is consoled by the thought that he will not have to wear his mask for long, for he is certain that he will die young. But when peace comes he faces a dismaying future. Having fallen in love more than once, he has never dared declare his passion.
His life has become a prolonged agony of dissimulation and frustration; and it is with a sense of frustration--but of relief also--that we take our leave of him. In "Confessions of a Mask" a literary artist of delicate sensibility and startling candor, has chosen to write for the few rather than the many.
Save for the shameful portion of my mind, I was exactly like any other boy. The reader need only picture to himself a fairly good student with average curiosity and appetites, of a retiring disposition, quick to blush--and, lacking the confidence that comes from being handsome enough to appeal to girls, clinging perforce only to his books.
Redman is the editor of "The Pleasure of Peacock. Return to the Books Home Page.
Yukio Mishima’s Confessions of a Mask
Confessions of a Mask is a deeply personal, truly confessional book, as the title implies. It feels less like you are reading a novel than the protagonist's diary. My guess is that the first person Rather complicated and sophisticated psychological turmoil of an adolescent gay narrator. Difficult to relate to sometimes, beautiful and moving at others. Magnificent nature evocations, chilling ending.
Confessions of a Mask
Mishima's weakling in a world of military machismo in 'Confessions of a Mask'
A Japanese teenager is overcome with longing for his male classmate. He imagines his body punctured with arrows, like the body of St Sebastian in the painting that obsesses him. Over and over again, each night in his private fantasies, the objects of his lust are tortured, killed and maimed. But, in the rigid world of imperial wartime Japan there is no place for such transgressive desires.