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Confessions of a Mask Paperback – January 17, 1958

4.3 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

““Yukio Mishima was one of the greatest avant-garde Japanese writers of the twentieth century.”” (Judith Thurman - New Yorker)

““We read the bloody details with wonder…such is the power of his writing.”” (Gore Vidal - The New York Review of Books)

““Confessions of a Mask follows in the spirit of Oscar Wilde’s dictum that ‘man is least himself when he talks in his own person. ‘Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.’” ” (Wired)

From the Back Cover

This book is one of the classics of modern Japanese fiction. It is the story of an adolescent who must learn to live with the painful fact that he is unlike other young men. Mishima's protagonist discovers that he is becoming a homosexual in a polite, post-war Japan. To survive, he must live behind a mask of propriety.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions; 2nd Printing edition (January 17, 1958)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081120118X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811201186
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. E. Stevens VINE VOICE on February 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
Reading other reviews of Confessions of a Mask, I see that many readers are looking at it from a perspective of "gay literature" and seem disappointed that Mishima is not really a supporter of the cause. But from my perspective, as someone interested in Mishima as a giant in Japanese literature, Confessions of a Mask is a great introduction into the literary world of Mishima Yukio.

Without giving away too much, the main forces that propel the protagonist in this semi-autobiographical work, are a secret lust for masculine beauty and an attempt at heterosexual "normalcy" attempted mainly through a painfully flawed try at loving a sister of his friend. Other reviewers have commented that the second half of the story flags a bit, but for me, the frustration and concealed emotion that is tangible in the conversations between the protagonist and Sonoko is both convincing and intriguing.

However, I would agree that the first half of the book is probably more interesting. Mishima's work is less about homosexuality (with the emphasis on sex) and more about an almost reverent approach toward masculine virtue and beauty. These ideas and the struggle within the protagonist start to flag as the war draws to an end and he becomes involved with Sonoko.

I have yet to read many of Mishima's works, but the two main things that appeal to me are his staunch commitment to an ideal or perfection of some sort, and also the amazing penmanship that his stories exhibit. As with most Japanese literature, this sort of subtle detail is lost in translation, so I encourage all who have the ability and time to read the originals!
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Format: Paperback
Mishima's sadomasochistic homosexuality asserted itself early. While still a tiny child he responded instantly to certain kinds of masculine beauty and found a mysterious fascination in images and narratives of heroic men being tortured and, ideally, killed. The supreme example was a picture of the martyred St. Sebastian, bound and riddled with arrows, which the child Mishima experienced as the world's heaviest turn-on. Naive as he was, the young author still knew somehow that his interests were unusual and disgraceful, so he kept them secret. The story of his early inner life, with its crushes and fantasies, takes up the first half or so of the book and is fascinating.
But then, during young manhood, Mishima tries to become "normal" and fall in love with a girl. Though he likes her very much, he isn't attracted to her physically. The story of this doomed relationship takes up the second half of the book. Being more or less devoid of incident, and (obviously) lacking in erotic passion, it's much less interesting than the foregoing chapters.
Confessions of a Mask ends disappointingly but the earlier section of the book gives a candid, moving, and memorable account of a child's confused and troubled emerging sexuality.
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By A Customer on November 21, 1998
Format: Paperback
This book operates on several levels, as an existential novel, portrait of war-time Japan, and as a coming of age story. I will leave it to others to comment on the other aspects of the book. As a gay story, the author confronts his present and future as a homosexual in a society that hardly recognized the existence of such persons. It is a tragic, but surprisingly not depressing, story written in direct, occasionally dark, prose.
As a gay man, I have given this book to several of my straight friends to help them understand the complex feelings gays, especially those coming out, have about their identity and place in society.
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Format: Paperback
Here in Japan, a lot in life is kept behind closed sliding doors and emotions rarely surface in public. Private and public are clearly delineated. The narrator courageously allows us into his complex private world of tangled emotions. Complicated sexual desire, an artistic sensibility, wit and intelligence create a picture of a precocious teenager that will remind you of Salinger's and Joyce's jaded teens. The narrator is intensely introspective, sympathetic, and has an active imagination fixated on death, sex, and workingclass muscular male bodies. Gay and straight readers alike will find this novel engaging and full of meaning about growing up behind a mask.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What an incredible book, unlike anything I have read before. It took me awhile to read, as almost every paragraph carries the weight of a poem. This is a story of a young Japanese man discovering he is gay, set against the U.S. air war in the mid 40's. It speaks to the split that occurs in one's psyche for those who do not meet the social norms. It tears the soul in two at so many different levels. The entire book focuses on the author's inner life. All his thoughts, feelings, fantasies, and hungers are laid bare for the reader to digest. His later introduction to a woman he cannot forget seems to represent some sort of purity, yet even this is fraught with contradictions. One cannot change the core of who they are, and a hidden life often brings torment. The raw honesty and stark reality of this book will not soon be forgotten.
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