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The Sea of Fertility 
by Yukio Mishima.
Secker/Penguin, 821 pp., £18, July 1985, 0 436 28160 0
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Mishima on Hagakure 
by Yukio Mishima.
Penguin, 144 pp., £2.95, May 1985, 0 14 004923 1
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The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima 
by Henry Scott Stokes.
Penguin, 271 pp., £3.95, May 1985, 0 14 007248 9
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... Fifteen years after his death Mishima is everywhere. Penguin has just brought out Hagakure, Mishima’s idiosyncratic interpretation of the 18th-century code of samurai ethics, and The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima by Henry Scott Stokes, and Secker and Warburg Mishima’s tetralogy, The Sea of Fertility, in one attractive volume ...

Bruisers and Dreamers

James Fenton, 27 July 1989

... hard to live in Bulacan For bruiser as for dreamer But it’s harder when the mamasan Is – Yukio Mishima! The leading lights of Bulacan – Each dreamer and each bruiser Has bitten off more than a man Can reasonably chew, sir. God help them all in Bulacan. God help them all in Lima. God help us all – whate’ er our tan – Each bruiser and each ...

Unquiet Deaths

Patrick Parrinder, 3 September 1987

Two Lives and a Dream 
by Marguerite Yourcenar, translated by Walter Kaiser.
Aidan Ellis, 245 pp., £9.95, July 1987, 0 85628 160 3
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The Wedding at Port-au-Prince 
by Hans Christoph Buch, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Faber, 259 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 571 14928 6
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Saints and Scholars 
by Terry Eagleton.
Verso, 145 pp., £9.95, September 1987, 0 86091 180 2
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Imperial Patient: The Memoirs of Nero’s Doctor 
by Alex Comfort.
Duckworth, 206 pp., £10.95, June 1987, 0 7156 2168 8
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... his reminiscences and his attempts to prepare for the final agony. Her coldly brilliant essay on Yukio Mishima* culminates in a detailed reconstruction of the gruesome last rites of seppuku performed by the Japanese novelist. The body-count in the first twenty pages of ‘An Obscure Man’, the longest of the three novellas collected in Two Lives and a ...

Sexual Politics

Michael Neve, 5 February 1981

Edward Carpenter, 1844-1929: Prophet of Human Fellowship 
by Chushichi Tsuzuki.
Cambridge, 237 pp., £15, November 1980, 0 521 23371 2
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... must have fitted neatly with a range of Japanese codes of conduct, many of them militaristic. Did Yukio Mishima read Edward Carpenter? The answer could matter quite a lot, as this might rescue the vexed question of ‘sexual politics’ from a purely English discussion, and perhaps throw light on other options within sexual radicalism than those of ...

Number One Passport

Julian Loose, 22 October 1992

Rising Sun 
by Michael Crichton.
Century, 364 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 0 7126 5320 1
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Off Centre: Power and Culture Relations between Japan and the United States 
by Masao Miyoshi.
Harvard, 289 pp., £22.95, December 1992, 0 674 63175 7
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Underground in Japan 
by Rey Ventura.
Cape, 204 pp., £7.99, April 1992, 0 224 03550 9
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... savours cultural inferiority.’ Tanizaki emerges as a kind of contradiction-embracing hero, but Yukio Mishima fares less well. A ‘middle-class prig’ fatally attracted to the West, his books are ‘shapeless and incoherent, taxing the reader’s patience, which might be better expended on other writers’. The only interesting thing about ...


Russell Davies, 18 June 1981

Short Lives 
by Katinka Matson.
Picador, 366 pp., £2.50, February 1981, 9780330262194
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... an array of nationalities wide enough to be almost comforting in these troubled times. The case of Yukio Mishima in particular will remind Americans that the rites of self-extinction practised elsewhere can be even more bizarre. But there is a large preponderance of American names, ranging from Poe to Billie Holiday and Lenny Bruce. The starry cast of ...

Like water in water

Susan Rubin Suleiman, 12 July 1990

Theory of Religion 
by Georges Bataille, translated by Robert Hurley.
Zone, 126 pp., £16.25, April 1989, 0 942299 08 6
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My Mother, Madame Edwarda, The Dead Man 
by Georges Bataille, translated by Austryn Wainhouse.
Boyars, 222 pp., £13.95, October 1989, 0 7145 2886 2
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... at least there is a Publisher’s Note (accurate in all other respects), as well as essays by Mishima and Ken Hollings and an Autobiographical Note (which would have been more useful with a word of explanation about when and for what purpose it was written) in this volume. Theory of Religion, by contrast, a very handsome book on fine paper with extra-wide ...

Michi and Meiji

Nobuko Albery, 24 July 1986

Principles of Classical Japanese Literature 
edited by Earl Miner.
Princeton, 281 pp., £25, August 1985, 0 691 06635 3
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The Princeton Companion to Classical Japanese Literature 
by Earl Miner, Hiroko Odagiri and Robert Morrell.
Princeton, 570 pp., £39.50, March 1986, 0 691 06599 3
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Mitford’s Japan: The Memoirs and Recollections, 1866-1906, of Algernon Bertram Mitford, the First Lord Redesdale 
edited by Hugh Cortazzi.
Athlone, 270 pp., £18, October 1985, 0 485 11275 2
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... of Tokyo, is famous as the place where these tardy authors are locked up by anxious editors. Yukio Mishima, who was known to be seldom late in delivering his manuscript, joked that his body-building was a gesture of defiance against the limp, greenish, unslept writers sequestered in the Yamanoue Hotel. Whilst I remain somewhat sceptical about the ...

Making strange

John Sutherland, 19 March 1981

Other people 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 223 pp., £5.95, March 1981, 0 224 01766 7
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The Magic Glass 
by Anne Smith.
Joseph, 174 pp., £6.50, March 1981, 9780718119867
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The Book of Ebenezer Le Page 
by Gerald Edwards.
Hamish Hamilton, 400 pp., £7.50, March 1981, 0 241 10477 7
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Sharpe’s Eagle 
by Bernard Cornwell.
Collins, 266 pp., £6.50, February 1981, 0 00 221997 2
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by Len Deighton.
Hutchinson, 397 pp., £6.95, March 1981, 0 09 144570 1
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... Death is one of the more effective publicity stunts which the author has at his disposal. Yukio Mishima did his sales no end of good by ritually disembowelling himself in front of the world’s press cameras. In a quieter way, it is hard to see how this work could have merited print, had it not been for the interesting failures of Edwards’s ...

Smilingly Excluded

Richard Lloyd Parry: An Outsider in Tokyo, 17 August 2006

The Japan Journals: 1947-2004 
by Donald Richie, edited by Leza Lowitz.
Stone Bridge, 494 pp., £13.99, October 2005, 1 880656 97 3
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... the artist Tadanori Yokoo, and Tatsumi Hijikata, the founder of butoh dance. Richie met Yukio Mishima as a young celebrity in the 1950s; the two even went to Mishima’s gymnasium together, and a famous sequence of photographs of the novelist posing in his loincloth in the snow was shot outside Donald’s ...

Soul to Soul

Ian Buruma, 19 February 1987

The Myth of Japanese Uniqueness 
by Peter Dale.
Croom Helm, 233 pp., £25, September 1987, 0 7099 0899 7
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... social exclusion – dandies from the aristocracy, Edo playboys from the samurai class. The writer Mishima Yukio was much taken by the idea of iki; he was also a great admirer of 19th-century European dandyism. Both Kuki and Mishima shared with Baudelaire a profound contempt for the democratic vulgarity of the ...

In Praise of History

Earl Miner, 1 March 1984

A History of Japanese Literature. Vol. I: The First Thousand Years 
by Shuichi Kato, translated by David Chibbett.
Macmillan, 319 pp., £20, September 1979, 0 333 19882 4
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A History of Japanese Literature. Vol. II: The Years of Isolation 
by Shuichi Kato, translated by Don Sanderson.
Macmillan, 230 pp., £20, October 1983, 0 333 22088 9
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A History of Japanese Literature. Vol. III: The Modern Years 
by Shuichi Kato, translated by Don Sanderson.
Macmillan, 307 pp., £20, October 1983, 0 333 34133 3
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World within Walls 
by Donald Keene.
Secker, 624 pp., £15, January 1977, 0 436 23266 9
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Modern Japanese Poets and the Nature of Literature 
by Makoto Ueda.
Stanford, 451 pp., $28.50, September 1983, 0 8047 1166 6
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Low City, High City: Tokyo from Edo to the Earthquake 
by Edward Seidensticker.
Allen Lane, 302 pp., £16.95, September 1983, 0 7139 1597 8
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... Kafu, Tanizaki Junichiro, Shiga Naoya, Akutagawa Ryunosuke, Dazai Osamu, Kawabata Yasunari and Mishima Yukio. It is difficult to say whether these writers were chosen because some works of theirs have been translated into English. Other writers from Mori Ogai to Inoue Yasushi (and various women) might have been included. It is striking that – in ...

Looking to Game Boy

R.T. Murphy: Modern Japan, 3 January 2002

The Making of Modern Japan 
by Marius Jansen.
Harvard, 871 pp., £23.95, November 2000, 0 674 00334 9
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... wonder what, if anything, Jansen thought about recent events in Japan. For instance, he dismisses Mishima Yukio as a ‘brilliant stylist who lost sight of the distinction between art and reality’ and the public reaction to his suicide in 1970 by seppuku (‘disembowelment’) as one of ‘astonishment’. ...

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