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Yukio Mishima


27 Aug 2004
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Hello all. The following is my own brief little hypothesis about
Mishima, primarily drawing from John Nathan's biography, Sun and
Steel, and Confessions of a Mask . I'm sure there isn't much(or
anything) that's new, and I think it is entirely possible that I am
wrong on some of these points, but here goes:

Yukio Mishima saw himself possessing an essentially unknowable inner
self, one who differs in nature from those around him. This sense of
alienation may be partly rooted in his unusual childhood
circumstances, his sexuality, and in the criticism he received from
his father. He wishes, by means of a process of self-transformation,
to forge for himself an outer "mask" which possesses the
characteristics he feels he is himself lacking: Simplicity, vitality,
physical prowess and courage, but most of all the ability to "see
things as others see them"-That is, to somehow absolve himself of his
state of alienation by creating a mask which fits him so perfectly
that the inner nature which he bears within him is made irrelevant(as
the Zen priest advised the young acolyte with a similar issue
in "Temple of the Golden Pavilion": If one wears the mask perfectly
enough, one becomes it), so that he can live lives as he imagines
others do, devoid of self-consciousness.

There was undeniably an erotic component to this willed process of
internal alchemy: Transforming himself into the object of his desire.
Mishima's writings are full of descriptions of beautiful, muscular
youths drenched in pheromone-laced sweat-And importantly, blood.
These youths are described by Mishima as not possessing an especially
intellectual character, not being literary-minded, but possessing an
earthy sort of "jock" masculinity. They bear, in short, the
characteristics which Mishima himself wishes to wear as a tight-
fitting mask.
Mishima's inner self-transformation involved making himself into the
object of his own sexual desires.

In Confessions of a Mask, the narrator describes a series of sado-
masochistic fantasies. Monsieur Freud would have a field day, I
think. Recurring features are muscular youths being penetrated by
arrows, swords or spears, fantasies of cannibalism etc. In short,
Mishima wants to penetrate the muscular flesh, to carve into it and
expose the "hidden core" of the man-In the sense of the existential
epiphany which one has in the moments of agony preceding a violent
death, in the sense of a visceral tragedy which has shades of the
Eastern Mediterranean dying god cults.

And here we reach the next stage of Mishima's process of self-
transformation: Once he has achieved his metamorphosis into the
spitting image of his own sexual ideal, he now wishes to have his own
fantasies inflicted upon him-Having his flesh penetrated by steel,
his inner core brought to light through the ecstatic agony of violent

Through this process, Mishima was now able to complete the final
stage of his thanato-erotic alchemical process: The exposure of the
unknowable self to light, to be united to his outer self by the
mediating axis of steel linking core to surface as a tiny plastic sword
connects sandwich bread to meat. Assuming the mask of his own erotic
and existential longing was not enough-He had to consummate his
sexual fantasy of violent death, and his mystomagical act of ecstatic
agony, in order to complete the process that he had brought into
being first with words, and then with their antithesis: Action.

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