Entry updated 31 July 2023. Tagged: Author.
Pen name of Kimitake Hiraoka (1925-1970), a controversial Japanese author, playwright and sometime actor. Mishima's domestic output alternated between highbrow literary works and bill-paying potboilers, but only the former have been translated into English; the bulk of his work is non-sf, but as the sales of his literary works declined in the early 1960s, Mishima placed greater emphasis on genre forms (see Equipoise). A recurring though inexplicit subtext in his fiction implies that Japan was destined for Holocaust in World War Two, and that book, writer and reader co-exist in an abnormal Parallel World.
Utsukushii Hoshi ["Beautiful Star"] (October 1962 Shinchō; 1967; trans 2022 as Beautiful Star) draws on the Paranoia typified by Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), with protagonists convinced that they are undercover Aliens, assigned to protect the Earth. A second group self-identifies as agents who must initiate a global nuclear World War Three as a signal to off-world observers. The Sea of Fertility sequence (1964-1970 Shinchō) [for book details see Checklist], which takes its name from the Moon's Mare Fecunditatis, is similarly readable as either delusion or genre fiction. Its narrator comes to believe in the Reincarnation of his deceased boyhood friend, first as a suicidal revolutionary, and then as a foreign princess. The Near Future conclusion of Tennin Gosui (1971; trans 1974 as The Decay of the Angel) posits that even divine creatures have a finite lifespan, and that the latest presumed incarnation, a scheming hooligan, is doomed and corrupt. The desolate, Zen-influenced ending rejects not only this conceit, but the existence of the narrator himself, in a twist worthy of Philip K Dick.
Mishima's spectacular Suicide, committed on the official completion date of Tennin Gosui, will forever colour his work, as was his intention. Paul Schrader's film Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985) accurately frames it as extreme performance art by an author who once wrote "stage blood is not enough." In the years since, Mishima's florid narcissism and poetic Japanese have often rendered him impenetrable to modern readers, and the antithesis of the direct, laconic prose of US-influenced authors such as Haruki Murakami. [JonC]
born Yotsuya [now Shinjuku], Tokyo: 14 January 1925
died Shinjuku, Tokyo: 25 November 1970
Sea of Fertility
- Haru no Yuki (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1968) [Sea of Fertility: hb/]
- Spring Snow (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1972) [trans of the above by Michael Gallagher: hb/]
- Homba (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1969) [Sea of Fertility: hb/]
- Runaway Horses (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1973) [trans of the above by Michael Gallagher: Sea of Fertility: hb/]
- Akatsuki no Tera (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1970) [Sea of Fertility: hb/]
- The Temple of Dawn (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1973) [trans of the above by E Dale Saunders and Cecilia Segawa Seigle: Sea of Fertility: hb/]
- Tennin Gosui (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1971) [Sea of Fertility: hb/]
- The Decay of the Angel (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1974) [trans of the above by Edward G Seidensticker: Sea of Fertility: hb/]
- Utsukushii Hoshi ["Beautiful Star"] (Tokyo: Shinchō Bunko, 1967) [pb/]
- Beautiful Star (London, Penguin Random House/Penguin Classics, 2022) [trans of the above by Stephen Dodd: pb/]
- Acts of Worship: Seven Stories (New York: Kōdansha America, 1989) [coll: trans by John Bester: hb/]
about the author
- Mishima: A Biography by John Nathan (New York: Little, Brown, 1974) [nonfiction: hb/]
- The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima by Henry Scott-Stokes (London: Peter Owen, 1975) [nonfiction: hb/]
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