Acts of Worship: Seven Stories

Acts of Worship: Seven Stories

by Yukio Mishima
     
 

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When Mishima committed ritual suicide in November 1970, he was only forty-five. He had written over thirty novels, eighteen plays, and twenty volumes of short stories. During his lifetime, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize three times and had seen almost all of his major novels appear in English. While the flamboyance of his life and the apparent fanaticism of

Overview

When Mishima committed ritual suicide in November 1970, he was only forty-five. He had written over thirty novels, eighteen plays, and twenty volumes of short stories. During his lifetime, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize three times and had seen almost all of his major novels appear in English. While the flamboyance of his life and the apparent fanaticism of his death have dominated the public's perception of his achievement, Japanese and Western critics alike are in agreement that his literary gifts were prodigious.

Mishima is arguably at his best in the shorter forms, and it is the flower of these that appears here for the first time in English. Each story has its own distinctive atmosphere and each is brilliantly organized, yielding deeper layers of meaning with repeated readings. The psychological observation, particularly in what it reveals of the turmoil of adolescence, is meticulous.

The style, with its skillful blending of colors and surfaces, shows Mishima in top form, and no further proof is needed to remind us that he was a consummate writer whose work is an irreplaceable part of world literature.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This beautifully translated collection contains some Mishima's finest stories, none of them previously collected in an English edition. In the moving title story, the loyal, self-effacing housemaid of a solitary professor-poet ferrets out the secret of his lifelong sadness. Jack, in 'Raisin Bread,' a pill-popping failed suicide at 22, his 'sole aim to become quite invisible,' is a 1950s anti-hero who seems very contemporary. A proud youth in 'Fountains in the Rain,' breaking up with his girlfriend, becomes captivated by a splashing fountain, which we see as a symbol of his own flamboyant egotism. 'Sword,' a sweaty plunge into the world of college fencing, pits youth vs. age, animal pleasure vs. mental rigor, muscular prowess vs. meditative rapture. The seven stories vary in tone and subject matter, yet each reveals Mishima's total control, his gift for striking imagery and psychological insight." -Publishers Weekly

"The acclaimed Mishima (1925-1970) is the best-known Japanese novelist of the post-war period. Reflecting Mishima's fascination with power through hermetic displays of egotism and machismo, the tightly crafted stories in this collection-published to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his death-appear here for the first time in English. The protagonists are callous adolescent males compelled to dominate their schoolmates and girlfriends. A poignant variation on this theme is played out in the title story, where a plain, middle-aged woman slavishly devotes herself to the whims of her employer, a cold and pretentious literary scholar. This capable translation captures Mishima's strengths and weaknesses as a writer. For collections strong in international or Asian fiction." -Library Journal

"Most of the elements in Mishima's novels-homoeroticism, worship of the body, death games-are foretold in this thoughtful new collection." -International Herald Tribune

"Beautifully translated ... skillfully wrought." -Washington Post Book World

"Reveals another side of Mishima's skill with words: his delicacy and subtlety." -The New York Times

"A great, dark talent which yet attains a crystalline brightness." -San Francisco Review of Books

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This beautifully translated collection contains some Mishima's finest stories, none of them previously collected in an English edition. In the moving title story, the loyal, self-effacing housemaid of a solitary professor-poet ferrets out the secret of his lifelong sadness. Jack, in ``Raisin Bread,'' a pill-popping failed suicide at 22, his ``sole aim to become quite invisible,'' is a 1950s anti-hero who seems very contemporary. A proud youth in ``Fountains in the Rain,'' breaking up with his girlfriend, becomes captivated by a splashing fountain, which we see as a symbol of his own flamboyant egotism. ``Sword,'' a sweaty plunge into the world of college fencing, pits youth vs. age, animal pleasure vs. mental rigor, muscular prowess vs. meditative rapture. The seven stories vary in tone and subject matter, yet each reveals Mishima's total control, his gift for striking imagery and psychological insight. (Nov.)
Library Journal
The acclaimed Mishima (1925-1970) is the best-known Japanese novelist of the post-war period. Reflecting Mishima's fascination with power through hermetic displays of egotism and machismo, the tightly crafted stories in this collection--published to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his death--appear here for the first time in English. The protagonists are callous adolescent males compelled to dominate their schoolmates and girlfriends. A poignant variation on this theme is played out in the title story, where a plain, middle-aged woman slavishly devotes herself to the whims of her employer, a cold and pretentious literary scholar. This capable translation captures Mishima's strengths and weaknesses as a writer. Christine Stenstrom, New York Law Sch. Lib.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9784770028938
Publisher:
Kodansha International
Publication date:
09/13/2002
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
7.40(w) x 5.30(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

YUKIO MISHIMA, one of the most spectacularly gifted writers in modern Japan, was born into a samurai family in 1925. He attended the Peers' School and Tokyo Imperial University, and for a time worked at the Ministry of Finance. His first full length novel, Confessions of a Mask, appeared in 1949, and since then he published over a dozen novels, almost all of which were translated into English and other languages during his lifetime. They include: Thirst for Love; Forbidden Colors; Death in Midsummer; The Sound of Waves; The Temple of the Golden Pavilion; After the Banquet; The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea; and Spring Snow.

Mishima's reverence for the Japanese martial arts led him to take up Kendo (a type of fencing, with wooden swords) and Karate, as well as body-building, and by 1968 he had become a Kendo master of the fifth dan. He also organized a "private army" called the Shield Society, and in November 1970 he and his group forced their way into a Self-Defense Force headquarters in Tokyo, where Mishima, after reading out a proclamation, committed ritual suicide with a young follower in the commanding officer's room. On the morning of his death, the last volume of Mishima's tetralogy, The Sea of Fertility (The Spring Snow, Runaway Horses, The Temple of Dawn, The Decay of the Angel) was delivered to his publisher.

The Translator: JOHN BESTER, born and educated in England, is one of the foremost translators of Japanese fiction. Among his translations are Masuji Ibuse's Black Rain, Kenzaburo Oe's The Silent Cry, Fumiko Enchi's The Waiting Years, Junnosuke Yoshiyuki's The Dark Room, and Mishima's autobiographical Sun and Steel. He received the 1990 Noma Award for the Translation of Japanese Literature (for Acts of Worship).

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