NEW MISHIMA THREAD
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Is there a thread for the third book?
Honda in India. Trippy descriptions of life-into-death everywhere. The translation, btw, seems to have gone off--change of translators? (Vintage)
On the tale overall so far--it is an interesting but oddly one-sided view of Japan of the times. One whole book went on fringe right-wing nationalist terrorists because, apparently, only extremes are authentic. "Unadulterated".
The notion bothers me no end. For one thing, it is immensely stupid. For another, applied publicly or in personal life, obviously it can only end up in destruction.
Meanwhile, there's an interesting hint--but only a hint--to the actual big picture, to what was going on at the time, which was nothing less than wholesale destruction of the Japanese left, socialists, communists, anarchists, Christian reformers, syndicalists, the lot. Isao notices that he isn't tortured like the Communists--he and his conspirators simply aren't important enough. The sort of trouble they can make is nothing compared to what the left represents.
But we don't get a single left character, nor is Mishima anywhere voicing THAT clash. (Are there any significant leftist characters in any of his books?) The opposition happens entirely on the right--the conservative nationalists in power vs. the even more fanatical archaising nationalists.
As for Isao's philosophy--translated to us by Honda/Mishima*, it is obviously stupid, and not for just one reason, but, to consider "authenticity" at the moment. Why would conservatives be more "authentic" than modernisers? How can one type of opinion, temperament, ambition, outlook etc. be more "real" than any other? Clearly this is rubbish ("true Scotsman" bull, in short). All the Japanese were real Japanese like all people are real people. Marlene Dietrich AND Hitler and everyone in-between were real Germans. Clearly, the evaluation of "authenticity" is done for political purposes--or should I say genocidal purposes, because this is what extolling "purity" leads to. The "purifiers" sorting out the "real" from the "not-real" based on their rules and aspirations.
*Isao's word is "pure", "purity"; Honda (in translation at least) uses "real".
I feel muddied on where Mishima stands, in short, and like I'm trying to refrain from interpreting his intentions on the basis of what he done did in real life. But yes, removing that, and Mishima, from the text as much as possible seems like a wise move.
*but like, BAD ones.
I'm very curious about how much of overlap or identification there is, because while his sympathy for Isao is evident, he is also critical of him. Right, his own end confuses the matter further, I'm not sure how all that computes into the novel.
For myself, I don't see the lack of leftist characters as troubling as such, to me it gives an interesting insight in how Mishima viewed Japanese society, what he identified as the polarising influences. "Progress" came to Japan in the guise of foreigners, foreign development, foreign custom, foreign liberalism, and the fault lines, to those of Mishima's turn of mind, even in the sixties of the 20th century seem to lie more in the mould of the West's Renaissance and Baroque "ancients vs. moderns" wars, than "left vs. right".
Am I right in thinking he would have been happiest in a feudal "Japan for Japanese" situation, preferably as a samurai? I don't know why, but I keep feeling this is too simplistic, that something more complex is going on, that the feudal dream is really nothing but a desperate dream, an effort to simplify life--and he knows it.
But you are right about ancients vs. moderns, although I remember tomcat telling us at some point all about how very enamoured Mishima was with Western decadence as well. I feel like he'd have done well in the Edo period--kendo in the morning, bathhouse in the evening, no foreigns. (Although a simplistic, desperate dream, like you say--from my understanding, although Westerners were excluded, there was more intercourse between Japan and Asia in the Edo period than ever before, so it's not like it was some pure-land, hermetically sealed society.) Maybe a bit more appealing than real blood and guts samuraiery, like in the warring states era, and dying of dysentery or falling off a boat and drowning on the way to conquer Korea? It seems like both Mishima and Isao faced the catch-22 that the man of action rarely gets to choose or beautify the circumstances of his death.
If it's capital-D artistic and literary Decadence, it fits perfectly--the Decadents were the crustiest bunch of anti-progressivist, anti-liberal, backward-looking traditionalists imaginable--when they weren't outright card-carrying fascists. Shooting up drugs and buggering children in precious velvet and silks while some slave's lyre gently weeps is the sort of fantasy that goes better with the decline of great pagan civilizations than some scruffy schoolteacher's socialist agit-prop for a fair minimum wage.
I'm interested in figuring out Mishima's optics and dioptrics, is all.
BBC's 1985 short docu, The strange case of Yukio Mishima was most interesting, but unfortunately I can't find it online. Mishima spoke pretty good English, with a Brit accent.
And, for a true fan, there's Paul Schrader's Mishima: a life in four chapters. (There's a crisper upload but without the English...)
I get now the reactions of the Japanese public David (dcozy) spoke about.
Still, hardly a cheap shot, he's on record as being VERY bothered about his looks.
None of which diminishes the beauty of his books to me. I wish I could judge them in Japanese, very intrigued by what Nathan said about his command of language.
But, oddly, there's something very un-Japanese about him, possibly precisely because he was so frantic about Japan-ness, bushido etc. In the BBC documentary you could sense the toe-curled embarrassment of the Japanese commenters--why was he so loud, so histrionic, that PEACOCK...
It's a great observation about the peacocking, though. Mishima couldn't be much more different from Haruki Murakami, but I think they've received a bit of the same treatment by the culture-at-large: Mishima's stridency and Murakami's kind of McSweeney's-ready introspection, soft playing to the Western audience, whatever it is, I think it comes across as a kind of self-promotion in Japan, with the effect not only of sucking all the air out of the room but also of making the author (in either case) a kind of representative face of Japan to the outside world, one which people find inaccurate and would wish to dissociate themselves from.
Where did Honda get his freakishness? Was that something developed or are we just supposed to accept something that the author slipped in while he was doing something else, like explaining the human universe between lives.
The last volume is winging its way towards me now, if Barny is to be believed.
Robert, your #34 would do well as a blurb for the book. At least parts of it.