Mishima (In Translation)

To be honest I don’t know how I discovered Yukio Mishima, or even exactly when. It was in late 60’s or early 70’s. I may have read a review of one of his novels recently translated into English, or I may have seen a photo of him in a magazine. I didn’t know from the very first he was bi, leaning toward gay. I think the first novel of his I read was “The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea.” It is a stunning work, even in translation.

On my shelf I have: Confessions of a Mask, Death in Midsummer, Thirst For Love, The Sound of Waves, The Temple of the Gold Pavilion, After The Banquet, The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea, On Hagakure, Sun and Steel, Spring Snow, Runaway Horses, The Temple of the Dawn, The Decay of the Angel, Acts of Worship, Madam Se Sade. The Life & Death of YM – Henry Scott-Stokes; Mishima – A Biography: John Nathan; Mishima’s Sword: Christopher Ross; Mishima – A vision of the void: Marguerite Yourcenar. Plus the dvd of The Sailor etc. and Paul Schrader’s: Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters.

Yes I am a bit fanatical. Yes I have read them all the books, some multiple of times. It is impossible for me to pick a favourite novel/short story. Perhaps if I could read them in Japanese but all I have are in translations. On Hagakure, Sun and Steel are his essays; Madam Se Sade is a collection of his plays. I can remember checking book stores on my visits to Halifax scouring for more. Our little books store in Sydney was not much for Japanese literature, for some reason 🙂

His ability to depict the psychology of desire, shame, spiritual searching though lives of flawed men and women inspires me still. They are often ordinary people caught up in a social system that encouraged & suppressed their goals at the same times. His earlier work dealt with male homosexual life in Japan after the war & it was compelling to me. As far as I knew there was no English language equivalent of this queer writing.

Was he queer? This aspect of his life has been either ignored or minimized – his estate has suppressed mentions of it in bios, movies etc. One critic suggested it was merely an artifice – something his espoused to appear more artistic & edgy – another mask, as it were. 

I don’t read Japanese so I only know these English translations so maybe it’s the translators I am inspired by? One thing I know is that these books are what is seen by the translators eye so I not sure how accurate or true they are to the author’s intention. They may be expurgated of dialogue, scenes, or use of vulgar language the translator (or the estate) felt wouldn’t reflect well on the work itself. I have read work in which, the word ‘cock’ as used in the original German has been rendered as ‘gentialia’ in English translation. 

Black Flies



To chance encounters

Stories to share

Suffering to compare




Careful scarves

Fleshy destinations


Darting black flies

Looking for blood




every Tuesday

October 5/6/7 – Gratitude Round-Up


September or October but to be confirmed – feature – The Art Bar, Free Times Cafe

June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

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