Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima

Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima

by Naoki Inose
     
 

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Yukio Mishima (b. 1925) was a brilliant writer and intellectual whose relentless obsession with beauty, purity, and patriotism ended in his astonishing self-disembowelment and decapitation in downtown Tokyo in 1970. Nominated for the Nobel Prize, Mishima was the best-known novelist of his time (works like Confessions of a Mask and The Temple of the Golden

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Overview

Yukio Mishima (b. 1925) was a brilliant writer and intellectual whose relentless obsession with beauty, purity, and patriotism ended in his astonishing self-disembowelment and decapitation in downtown Tokyo in 1970. Nominated for the Nobel Prize, Mishima was the best-known novelist of his time (works like Confessions of a Mask and The Temple of the Golden Pavilion are still in print in English), and his legacy—his persona—is still honored and puzzled over.

Who was Yukio Mishima really? This, the first full biography to appear in English in almost forty years, traces Mishima's trajectory from a sickly boy named Kimitake Hiraoka to a hard-bodied student of martial arts. In detail it examines his family life, the wartime years, and his emergence, then fame, as a writer and advocate for traditional values. Revealed here are all the personalities and conflicts and sometimes petty backbiting that shaped the culture of postwar literary Japan.

Working entirely from primary sources and material unavailable to other biographers, author Naoki Inose and translator Hiroaki Sato together have produced a monumental work that covers much new ground in unprecedented depth. Using interviews, social and psychological analysis, and close reading of novels and essays, Persona removes the mask that Mishima so artfully created to disguise his true self.

Naoki Inose, currently vice governor of Tokyo, has also written biographies of writers Kikuchi Kan and Osamu Dazai.

New York–based Hiroaki Sato is an award-winning translator of classical and modern Japanese poetry, and also translated Mishima's novel Silk and Insight.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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

Library Journal
An 800-page biography of a challenging writer will not always make for a compelling tale, but Mishima (1925–70) led a life that continues to intrigue. This study of his life and death takes off almost immediately with an ominous air of mystery and moves toward the author's ultimate suicide by seppuku (disembowelment). Mishima overcame his destiny as a Japanese bureaucrat to become a Nobel Prize-nominated novelist and a figure whose talents and philosophies are still debated today. 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. Inose (vice governor of Tokyo; The Century of Black Ships) explores Japan's nationalism as well as cultural notions of pride and shame, educating the reader about recurring themes that would emerge again in the work of later novelists such as Haruki Murakami. VERDICT 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. Extensive notes and bibliography support this volume's research value.—Elizabeth Heffington, Lipscomb Univ. Lib., Nashville, TN

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781611720082
Publisher:
Stone Bridge Press
Publication date:
01/01/2013
Pages:
864
Sales rank:
1,378,391
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 10.00(h) x 2.10(d)

Meet 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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