April 19, 2008

Mishima's head on a plate

When I was in college I used to have a serious idea that the first third of your life, say until 25 or so, was what formed you, the second part saw this bloom, and the last part was you dealing with the consequences.

It's not something I think about these days, but it came back as I was working on a project to revisit the authors who meant a lot to me when I was in high school. One of these was Yukio Mishima.

Perhaps I know now that he's more insane than cool, that his longed-for 'great cause' should have been his family or a lover, not nationalism and blood. But when I open anything of his the discipline, solitude, cruelty, and masochism draw me into that world again, a super-heightened teenage sensibility. I think I like his writing even more as I get older, and his style in general. Why not cut your belly open and have someone chop your head off after making an ill-considered, ill-received, and totally pointless grand gesture? Look at the severed head, above, he's smiling.

A few weeks ago I picked up a secondhand copy of Mishima: A Biography, by John Nathan [who knew Mishima in the '60s and translated his works]. It's my reading this weekend to break the run of science and psychedelia, to bring me back to the flesh. From the preface to the original edition:

In two months, Mishima would have been forty-six. He had written forty novels, eighteen plays, [...] twenty volumes of short stories, and as many of literary essays. He was a director, an actor, an accomplished swordsman and a muscle man [...]; seven times he had been around the world, three times he had been nominated for the Nobel Prize. He was, besides, an international celebrity with a famous zest for life, a man who always seemed singularly capable of enjoying the rewards of his prodigious talent and superhuman will. A few days before his suicide he had been planning for fully a year, he confided to his mother that he had never done anything in his life he had wanted to do.

What claims to be Mishima's last interview

1 comment:

Gato said...

mishima spoke to me as a young boy. his writing, his beliefs, aesthetics, way of life, and his death, are so deeply etched in my being. he is a force in every aspect of my life. thank you for posting such a great page. you are right, his work develops more meaning the older you get. cheers! >^.^<