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Good starting point into the world of Mishima
on February 8, 2004
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!
Although I have a feeling this book will be hard-pressed to please everyone, for me at least it seems like a great insight into the mind and the works of Mishima. No study of modern Japanese literature would be complete without a look at Mishima, and although Confessions of a Mask may not be his greatest work, it is unquestionably an excellent starting point.