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Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima Hardcover – January 1, 2013

3.8 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Mr. Sato has performed something of a miracle in skillfully and patiently adding layer after layer of information, both about the writer and the social and political context in which he worked, in order to give us not only a comprehensible account of the novelist’s complex personal vicissitudes but what is in effect a trenchant commentary on the history of cultural and political life in postwar Japan. . . . Persona now joins a very small group of studies that succeed in portraying, rather than simply sketching, the life of an iconic figure in modern Japanese culture."—J. Thomas Rimer, Professor Emeritus of Japanese Literature, Theatre, and Art at University of Pittsburgh

"This is a whale of a book—both unusually massive and extremely informative and stimulating. . . . Those who are interested in the brilliantly gifted writer of mid-20th century Japan who is its subject will learn much from this volume, and should be stimulated to go back and read, or re-read, what Yukio Mishima has left us."—Paul McCarthy, The Japan Times

"From this biography the reader gains a great sense of the milieu from which Mishima arose, the approaches he took in his cutting-edge writing, and his increased fascination with conservative, hypermasculine Japanese traditions... this is an essential addition to all collections with a strong emphasis on world literature and Japanese history, and for English-reading students of 20th-century Japanese literature."—Library Journal, November 2012

"Naoki Inose's biography is immensely detailed and punctilious and not easy reading for a foreigner not versed in Japanese culture and history... but does show him to have been an extraordinary man, in many respects a sympathetic one, and a writer of extraordinary range... I hope that this biography revives interest in the best of his novels, especially in the tetralogy. "—Wall Street Journal, December 2012

"Personais a book about Japan itself, as filtered through the life of one of its perhaps most important creations.... If Japan truly represents the Occident and the Orient as so many would have us believe, it’s because of icons like the talented, tragic Mishima."—Will Eells, Three Percent

"Mishima's life and his many interests... make for fascinating reading, and Persona is a riveting account."—M.A. Orthofer, The Complete Review

"Persona deftly reveals to us the actual man and writer who willingly traded his life for a legend: Yukio Mishima. Lurching forward vivid drama by drama and then backtracking to provide us with context, the biography opens up a whole epoch of sexual, literary, and artistic creativity, guiding us through the fiction, the friendships, and the passions that ultimately made Mishima Mishima." —poet Forrest Gander, 2012 Pulitzer Prize finalist

About the Author

Naoki Inose: Naoki Inose is a prize-winning Japanese author and vice governor of Tokyo.
Hiroaki Sato: Hiroaki Sato is a prize-winning translator of classical and modern Japanese poetry into English. He has also translated Mishima's novel, "Silk and Insight," and his dramas, "My Friend Hitler and Other Plays." Since 2000 Sato has written a monthly "Japan Times" column, "The View from New York." Since 1998, he has been an adjunct at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 864 pages
  • Publisher: Stone Bridge Press (January 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611720087
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611720082
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,137,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
My introduction to Japanese literature was through Yukio Mishima's tetralogy The Sea of Fertility. Ever since, I have been fascinated by his life and works. It has been nearly forty years since a major biography on Mishima has been released in English. I was very excited when I learned that Stone Bridge Press would be releasing Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima by Naoki Inose and Hiroaki Sato at the end of 2012. The English-language edition is actually an updated and expanded version of Inose's 1995 Japanese Mishima biography Persona: Mishima Yukio den. Sato was primarily responsible for the adaptation, expansion, and translation of the English-language edition of Persona. It is a mighty tome. With over 850 pages, Persona promised to be the most comprehensive and complete biography of Mishima available in English.

Yukio Mishima, the pen name of Kimitake Hiraoka was born on January 14, 1925 to Azusa and Shizue Hiraoka. His upbringing was a bit peculiar--his controlling grandmother snatching him away from his parents. As a child he often struggled with health issues, but exhibited an intellectual precociousness and a talent for writing at a young age. Mishima would eventually become one of the preeminent and most visible authors of his day. He was also an extremely prolific writer, responsible for creating thirty-four novels, more than one hundred seventy short stories, close to seventy plays, six hundred sixty poems, and numerous essays, articles, and other works. Many of Mishima's writings have been translated, but only a fraction of his total output is available in English. He was also involved in the film industry, served as a subject and model for photographers, and was active in martial arts and bodybuilding.
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Format: Hardcover
I agree with Thiessen for the most part. Maybe there are some mistakes here--HITOKIRI is usually translated as MANSLAYER, for instance--but the overall effect is excellent and very detailed. The translation of KARAKKAZE YARO as WINDBLOWN DUDE is the best yet, though I hate the word "dude." There's much new information here and Mishima seems more human than usual--he did get drunk more than once in his life, we learn. People not familiar with Mishima will have trouble with the writing but critics and fans will be mesmerized. It's not easy reading but it's well worthwhile. The lack of any photographs is a drawback--one had hoped to see some new ones--but we can't have everything. Anyway, if you like Mishima you should like this book. In over 800 pages there are bound to be a few mistakes but those are minor quibbles in the overall grandeur of this work. Jerry Piven's The Madness and Perversion of Yukio Mishima is still the best critical psychobiography of Mishima and his works but this new book is a long-awaited treasure.
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Format: Hardcover
This brief review is based on a partial reading of the text, due to... struggle and boredom....
It contains many details that fascinate, but the sentence structures, and the often literal-feeling translations, make it such an effort to read that all joy in learning or knowledge gained is seriously vitiated.
Compared to the translations of Mishima's own work for Tuttle by Gallagher or Marks, that sparked my love of Mishima's subtle, evocative and directly human explorations of man in society, this is a tremendous, anti-literary let-down.
In addition, the writer seems to feel that listing out everything is sufficient, but there is little in the presentation of facts to layer their relative importance, which is a task all good authors perform on behalf of the reader... Ruskin, George Steiner, Donald Richie, Ruth Benedict, Susan Sontag, &c all managed it.
On balance, I'm pleased to own this book, but what a struggle to read it!
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Format: Hardcover
While maybe not quite as smooth as John Nathan's biography on Mishima, this one is every bit as detailed and comprehensive, if not more so. I highly recommend it to those who are fans of Yukio Mishima. Those who are not familiar with Mishima or with his writings probably won't enjoy it as much.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima (Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 2012), written by Neoki Inose with Hiroki Sato, is a superb addition to our understanding of Japan’s most renown prose writer, poet, dramatist, and cultural commentator.

The physical description of this 852 page creation deserves comment. There are few books in which I resist scribbling my multiple and detailed impressions, but this is one. I admit washing my hands before handling the book and take care in turning the pages.

The cover art is exceptionally pleasing, showing a samurai sword blade plucking off one petal of a red rose, surrounded with ghostly grey on black images of falling rose petals. It is a perfect understanding of Mishima’s pursuit of the “Divine Spirit” of Japan through the twins of aristocratic samurai dedication and the softer bed of Japanese art, poetry, and emersion in death.

Removing the soft cover, the reader sees a more stark representation of the samurai blade on a hazy black hard cover background, matching perfectly the blade position seen on the soft cover. In short, what we have is a beautifully written and visually illustrated account of one of the most influential Asian writers and social commentators of the last century. And, he was productively Machiavellian in personality, with a narcissist lifestyle, somewhat callous in his personal interactions, lacking empathy with those who opposed him, manipulative, and low in fear. He was also a risk-taker and highly sensual, with startling obsessions about his place in history.

The authors trace all of their statements and analyses through original sources from Mishima’s insatiable and productive life. We also see how he was seen by his contemporaries and those outside his immediate sphere.
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