Sunday, 21 November 2021

Confessions of a Mask - Yukio Mishima

Confessions of a Mask is Mishima's first major novel, published when he was only 24.  It is a roman a clef, heavily autobiographical, about a young man coming of age in the dying days of the Second World War.  It is different and daring in that it is about the hero's burgeoning homosexuality, which he hides behind a 'mask' of normality by courting a young woman he tries hard to convince himself that he loves.  I hadn't realised before that 'Yukio Mishima' is itself a mask, a pen-name adopted to shield his respectable and strait-laced family.  Nothing Mishima writes is ever likely to be bad.  He is, to my mind, one of the finest writers of the Twentieth Century, the great 'lost' Nobel Laureate.  But personally, he is repellent - moreover, he knows it.  Here there are passages in which you very nearly hate him, yet he saves the situation because you cannot possibly feel more repelled by Mishima than Mishima himself does.  Knowing what he ultimately did makes the frequent references to suicide in this young man's text all the more ominous.  Confessions of a Mask is a masterpiece, no question, but it's not a comfortable one.

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