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Description - Mishima by John Nathan

At forty-five, Yukio Mishima was the outstanding Japanese writer of his generation, celebrated both at home and abroad for The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea . In 1970 he startled the world by stepping out onto a balcony in Tokyo before an assembly of troops and plunging a sword into his abdomen a disciple then beheaded him, completing the ritual of hara-kiri. John Nathan's riveting biography traces the life of this tortured, nearly superhuman personality. Mishima survived a grotesque childhood, and subsequently his sadomasochistic impulses became manifest,as did an increasing obsession with death as the supreme beauty. Nathan, who knew Mishima professionally and personally, interviewed family, colleagues, and friends to unmask the various,often seemingly contradictory,personae of the genius who felt called by "a glittering destiny no ordinary man would be permitted."

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780306809774
ISBN-10: 030680977X
Format: Paperback
(197mm x 127mm x 23mm)
Pages: 348
Imprint: Da Capo Press Inc
Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
Publish Date: 17-Mar-2000
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions - Mishima by John Nathan

Book Reviews - Mishima by John Nathan

US Kirkus Review » Mishima looked for three things in life: fame, violence, romance. The triad was, at the age of forty-five, revealed to him through and consummated in a ritual blood bath at the office of Japan's commanding general. Dressed in the garb of the Self-Defense Force, his private army, he disemboweled himself with a short steel sword; his young aide (and lover) then hacked his head from his body, and the news of his spectacular seppuku went out to a shocked world. John Nathan in an interesting critical biography sees in Mishima's "hero's death" the last desperate act of a man who "always wanted to exist but never could." Writer, film maker, actor, international celebrity, husband, father - apparently these roles did not feed his eager appetite for legendary transfiguration. He "savored the romantic dream of the artist perishing and in perishing becoming his own masterpiece." If that is true, then Mishima's self-destruction, though certainly the performance of a "star," has very little humanity in it, bears no relation whatever to the thousand other suicides who die in misery and despair. But since Nathan's evidence for this view comes largely through a subjective reading of Mishima's novels, one wonders whether all the talk of "eroticism" and the "death aesthetic" and "narcissism" is the last word. Though Mishima was often a "confessional" writer, he was always a mysterious one. Both Nathan's book and a recent similar account by Henry Scott-Stokes, The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima (KR, p. 527), have a certain glossy fin de siecle air, touched with Freudian insights, which suggest, at times, a Hollywood "treatment" of a poete maudit. Glamorous Mishima was, but he was also a genius - especially at dissembling. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - John Nathan

John Nathan, the Takashima Professor of Japanese Cultural Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has translated the novels of both Yukio Mishima and the Nobel laureate Kenzaburo Oe. He recently published Sony, a portrait of the giant Japanese corporation.

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