Justin's Reviews > Confessions of a Mask

Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima
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Jan 29, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: japanese-lit
Read from January 20 to 29, 2011

Mishima Yukio is considered one of Japan's great post-WWII authors and I had wanted to read some of his work for sometime. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature three times, though he never won it, and he died at the age of 45 (Nov. 25, 1970) after committing ritualistic suicide - seppuku - and having his he cut off. An interesting life to say the least.

Confessions of a Mask is his first novel and was published in 1948 when he was just 23 years old. It is said that it is semi-autobiographical, though there's no way to know how true to actual life events it is. The entire book is written in the first-person and is basically a window into the narrators inner self, a self that is at odds with itself. Themes of sexuality, homosexuality, death, love, and normality are prevalent and they provide a fascinating view on subjects that are often still regarded as taboo to this day. If the raciest book you've read is Pride and Prejudice, then you may want to avoid this one. There are numerous instances of masturbation, mutilation, necrophilia, homosexual fantasy, and, believe it or not, armpit fetishism. Through it all though is a truth that is rarely recognized, much less spoken of. It may be hard to pity the narrator at times, while at times he is very pitiable, but you may find yourself surprised in how many ways you can relate to him. I know I was.

This is a translation so it to be expected that some things will get lost along the way. While I haven't read this in Japanese, I can tell that some of his poetry does get lost in translation. It's not so bad that it's unreadable, it can just be a bit heavy handed at times.

Overall I found this to be a good read that only got better as it went on. It's not hard to see why this is a modern classic of Japanese literature and how it remains relevant some 60 years later. Definitely worth a read for those looking for something different.
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01/21/2011 page 34
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message 1: by Marion (new)

Marion Armpit fetishism?! That's one I'd not heard of.

In what ways did you relate to the central character? And did that give you greater insight into yourself?

I have certainly read many books far more graphic than Pride and Prejudice (a great book, by the way), including the one I am reading now, but I will probably pass on this one.

Justin I guess I could relate to the narrator in a general sense that there isn't a guidebook to life when you're growing up and that you kind of have to figure out some pretty serious things on your own. While I couldn't really relate to some of the specific issues he was dealing with, like his attraction to the ephebic, I could certainly relate to his more introspective nature. I also think there are a lot of similarities in the society he grew up in and that of Utah. Societies where the subjects of sexuality and deviant thinking are held in relative taboo.

You remember that Murakami book we read together? That book may as well be considered as graphic as Pride and Prejudice in comparison to this one. You'll probably want to pass on this one mom.

message 3: by Marion (new)

Marion I was going to say that there isn't a guidebook to life when you're grown up either; you still have to figure out things on your own, only when you're older, they can be very serious things indeed. But there is actually a guidebook - the scriptures coupled with the gift of the Holy Ghost. Sometime we forget that we have these great gifts or we haven't learned how to access them. Even with them, life is often hard. As a parent, it is hard when you want to be that guidebook for your child, to help them when they don't know how to help themselves; to help them learn to help themselves. But so often we don't know what our children are thinking, feeling, facing. And even when we do, we're still learning ourselves.

Interesting parallel between Utah and Japan.

If Murakami is on par with Austen when compared to this book, I'll definitely pass!

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