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Confessions of a Mask

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Confessions of a Mask tells the story of Kochan, an adolescent boy tormented by his burgeoning attraction to men: he wants to be “normal.” Kochan is meek-bodied, and unable to participate in the more athletic activities of his classmates. He begins to notice his growing attraction to some of the boys in his class, particularly the pubescent body of his friend Omi. To hide his homosexuality, he courts a woman, Sonoko, but this exacerbates his feelings for men. As news of the War reaches Tokyo, Kochan considers the fate of Japan and his place within its deeply rooted propriety.

Confessions of a Mask reflects Mishima’s own coming of age in post-war Japan. Its publication in English―praised by Gore Vidal, James Baldwin, and Christopher Isherwood―propelled the young Yukio Mishima to international fame.

224 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1949

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About the author

Yukio Mishima

446 books6,826 followers
Yukio Mishima (三島 由紀夫) was born in Tokyo in 1925. He graduated from Tokyo Imperial University’s School of Jurisprudence in 1947. His first published book, The Forest in Full Bloom, appeared in 1944 and he established himself as a major author with Confessions of a Mask (1949). From then until his death he continued to publish novels, short stories, and plays each year. His crowning achievement, the Sea of Fertility tetralogy—which contains the novels Spring Snow (1969), Runaway Horses (1969), The Temple of Dawn (1970), and The Decay of the Angel (1971)—is considered one of the definitive works of twentieth-century Japanese fiction. In 1970, at the age of forty-five and the day after completing the last novel in the Fertility series, Mishima committed seppuku (ritual suicide)—a spectacular death that attracted worldwide attention.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,203 reviews
Profile Image for Michael.
655 reviews966 followers
January 27, 2019
An autobiographical novel about a boy struggling to come to terms with his sexuality in wartime Japan, Confessions of a Mask reflects on what it means to conceal desire and deviance while coming of age. The novel follows Kochan, a queer male, from birth to young adulthood as he realizes and reckons with his sense of difference from most boys. Influenced by the work of French modernists, the novel forgoes conventional plot and instead fictionalizes the author’s personal history. In precise, elevated prose, Mishima sketches Kochan’s interiority with great sensitivity over the course of a few hundred pages. The author-narrator focuses on his childhood in the novel’s first half, his teenage years in the second; a failed romance with a friend’s sister structures the last third of the story. Disturbing sadomasochistic fantasies, art criticism, and philosophical musings recur throughout the book, and the Japanese political climate is periodically referenced but not considered at length. Moving and well worth reading.
Profile Image for William2.
746 reviews2,972 followers
February 2, 2020
Second reading. A portrait of the artist as a solipsistic young queen. I think the model here is Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time with a bit of André Gide thrown in. I'm afraid the narrator has also read far too much Freud. It's a wonder then he didn't know something more about the concept of projection. For the early memories "recounted" here, those of a child three or four years old, are clearly imbued with the erotic sensibility of an experienced adult. This aspect of the novel seemed strange to me. I am not sure why the author wanted it. Mishima was 24 when he published the book. You might argue that the novel is pretentious—and, oh God, it is!—but it's also a work of burning ambition and monumental talent. I do long for an alternate translation. This may be naïve of me, but I find it hard to believe that a sentence as wooden as "The pleasure you experience at this moment is a genuine human feeling" could be anything but a failure of translation. And the book is rife with such sentences. So a problematic but fascinating novel, especially for those interested in the issues homosexuals have historically faced in Japanese society. But not a political novel. A novel of inner turmoil and a study into the nature of desire.
Profile Image for Barry Pierce.
560 reviews7,443 followers
June 3, 2018
It is crazy to think that next year we will be celebrating Confessions of a Mask's 70th birthday. Mishima's queer classic, his second novel (written in his early 20s) and earliest currently available in English, is a coming-of-age story of a young boy who struggles with his queerness.

When Kochan happens upon a reproduction of Reni's Saint Sebastian in a book he is immediately drawn to the overt homoeroticism of the work. The perfect male physique pared with the gashes and wounds of the arrows implanted within his torso act as a mirror for the novel itself. For the two main themes of Confessions (and quite a lot of Mishima's other works) are male queerness and sadomasochism. Both are explored beautifully through Mishima's unflinching prose.

When reading this I was somewhat taken aback by its sheer influence on the world of queer literature, particularly in the works of Edmund White. I was not aware of just how much of A Boy's Own Story owns a debt to Confessions. In fact nearly all major coming-of-age queer tales seem to eventually trace their genealogy back to Kochan.

An engrossing and influential tale, Confessions of a Mask is still as fresh (and shocking) in 2018 as it was in 1949. It was the foundations upon which Mishima planted his immense literary legacy. An essential book in the queer canon.
Profile Image for B0nnie.
136 reviews49 followers
March 9, 2012

A book can be a doorway into another human heart - that is the power of reading. The price of entry however is sometimes high - what we find can be so disturbing that we question if we really want to go there, even for a visit.

Confessions of a Mask takes us to some dark places.

We all have masks, of course. Living without any form of protection would be living with an open skin. But our masks are usually light, easily taken off or exchanged as need be.

This mask is made of stone.

The title seems to imply a promise - "all will be revealed" - because after all, it is the mask who is confessing. Well, this exposé is more apparent than real.

Written under a pseudonym, Yukio Mishima, we are given what seems to be a story about a youth named Kochan. But surely it is the secret memories, feelings, and pain of one sad little Kimitake Hiraoka. Yes, it is told in a disarmingly simple style that can be easily breezed through, however you'll want to pause, reflect, study it - a careful reading is very enlightening.

And yes, there is violent homo-eroticism in Confessions. That, I think, is a mask within masks. Obsession with death - the painful knowledge of the impermanence of life, and the need to control it, - is the true face underneath the mask. This is a person with a very strong death drive - i.e., a desire to take power from death. The one way to do that is to exit life on one's own terms. And also there's the desire to control beauty - and the strongest power over beauty, like life, is to destroy it.

"For many years I claimed I could remember things seen at the time of my own birth."

This is an opening sentence packed with meaning. There is some ambiguity in the word 'claimed'. There is the very stubbornness of the claim. And as it turns out, there is the imagination, that, like the Little Prince, or David Copperfield, is larger than the grownups around him can handle. Kochan was an "unchildlike child".

His childhood was largely spent in his grandmother's sickroom. She was from a Samurai family, and she implants pride and purpose in him. He obsesses over books, pictures - and on one in particular, of a beautiful knight. When he found out that it was Jeanne D'Arc not a man, why did that knock him flat?

…the sweet fantasies I had cherished concerning his death were now gone.

When he was about 12 years old, and a certain 'toy' made its wishes known to him.

It raised its head toward death and pools of blood and muscular flesh.

There's another image he obsesses over, St. Sebastian and he develops a strong attraction to a boy named Omi. His fantasies go beyond mere sexual attraction. In his mind he invents "a murder theatre" (in one scenario, a student is violently murdered, put on a table at a banquet, and then "I thrust the fork upright into the heart. A fountain of blood struck me full in the face. Holding the knife in my right hand, I began carving the flesh of the breast, gently, thinly at first…"). He becomes "disgusted with my true self" and "feeling the urge to begin living". But how?

To begin living my true life…even if it was to be pure masquerade and not my life…

The price of that decision, at least in part, is paid by the author himself: in 1970, at the age of 45, the real flesh and blood Mishima took a knife, sliced open his stomach, and, as required by the rite of seppuku, was decapitated.

His ideal was 'bunbu ryodo', the way of the pen and the sword. He believed they could join only at the moment of death. We know what he did with the 'sword' - here is what he could do with the pen:
[at a train station after an air raid]
As we went along the passageway we did not receive even so much as a reproachful glance. We were ignored. Our very existence was obliterated by the fact that we had not shared in their misery; for them, we were nothing more than shadows.

In spite of this scene something caught fire within me. I was emboldened and strengthened by the parade of misery passing before my eyes. I was experiencing the same excitement that a revolution causes. In the fire these miserable ones had witnessed the total destruction of every evidence that they existed as human beings. Before their eyes they had seen human relationships, loves and hatreds, reason, property, all go up in flame. And at the time it had not been the flames against which they fought, but against human relationships, against loves and hatreds, against reason, against property.

At the time, like the crew of a wrecked ship, they had found themselves in a situation where it was permissible to kill one person in order that another might live. A man who died trying to rescue his sweetheart was killed, not by the flames, but by his sweetheart; and it was none other than the child who murdered its own mother when she was trying to save it. The condition they had faced and fought against there--that of a life for a life--had probably been the most universal and elemental that mankind ever encounters. Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima

Profile Image for Praj.
314 reviews799 followers
October 4, 2013

“What we call evil is the instability inherent in all mankind which drives man outside and beyond himself toward an unfathomable something, exactly as though nature had bequeathed to our souls an ineradicable portion of instability from her store of ancient chaos.”- Stephan Zweig.

The air grew heavier as the blood soared; the sensuality insect crawled with an unprecedented ardor blinding the intoxication that arose from a monstrous swell. The naked flesh bled to the wraith of arrows and while tranquility festooned youthful fragrance, the insect stirred a storm that thundered as cloudy-white patches filled the empty spaces. The musty smell of the ejaculated sperm mingled with the stale cigarette stink that dangled between the tender lips of an eight-year old squatting on the broken stairs, smoking the discarded stub wondering if she could touch the voluptuous breasts of the woman who smiled at her. A topless Barbie lay besides, the naked breasts of a doll immersed in nicotine fumes. Upstairs, a man admired the lacy lingerie beneath his striped shirt and the adored swell of the breasts hid under the layers of a tightly woven bandage far from the reach of the little girl. A worn sponge was being a dutiful servant to the slapping fingers; white mist covering a bare face.

“Indeed of all kinds of decay in this world, decadent purity is the most malignant.”

Lust, they say corrupts the purity of love. Puberty brings lust; maturity bestows love. Love is a shapeless sensation that at times normalizes irrationalities. Love has always been an anomalous creature; sensuality flooding sanity into passionate disorders. If so, then why are we adamant to categorize this amorphous divinity with standardize regularities? What is “normal love”? Who decides its normality stance? We, the so called societal gurus ; prisoners of our very own sins. ‘Confessions of a Mask’, is a convoluted mêlée of a remorseful conscience between the standardized societal normality and abnormalities.

“How would I feel if I were another boy? How would I feel if I were a normal person?”

Kochan keeps referring to himself as an abnormal person. For Kochan, the sensuality of a woman is equated to the same emotion that arises from viewing a “broom” or a “pencil”. He was fascinated with “tragic lives”; a feeling of nothingness that emerged from self-renunciation captivated Kochan. The night-soil man in his dark-blue trousers, the smell of sweat that reeks from the marching soldiers, Omi’s armpits filled with copious youthful hair, fishermen with their naked torsos; seductions that enhanced his puberty. Masturbating to the vision of a young male teacher and not to the thought of a naked woman, made Kochan question the legitimate normality of his pubescence. Mishima keeps homosexuality afloat in the stormy waters of social mores. In a homogeneous spiritual Japanese society, the existence of homosexuality was even more unimaginable than an actor’s factual face in a Kabuki theatre. The protagonist’s continuous struggle is heartbreaking to read, particularly, when in search for a normal life he imposes a Spartan-like self-discipline to evade the indulgence his “bad-habit” (masturbation) and his alter ego masquerading in a costume gala establishing a pre-amble to a counterfeit existence. The idea of being a stranger in a crude savage land seemed more plausible for an unflustered life. The commencing of a platonic love affair with Sonoko further propels Kochan’s remorseful conscience in a claustrophobic existence. The desire of an impassive kiss from a woman; the desperate need for an embryonic feeling of heterosexuality. The prose made me furious at times, to glimpse a world ridden with hypocrisies of insecure minds. A world where rape, incest is placed on a identical immoral dais as homosexuality is certainly a malignant society. A man should not be made to feel guilty if his heart craves the touch of another man. A woman should not be ostracized for loving another woman. Love is a warm shadow where we find refuge from our own wars. So, how dare the heterosexuality elites try to shackle a shadow? If, “normal love” only flourishes through the sole act of a viable reproduction, then what right do we have for pompous declarations of ‘man being the most evolved species’? Why demean the animals when we bestow the same courtesy to our fellow members? Why do we designate homosexuality as a ‘criminal with a death sentence?’ The red lacquer is meticulously spread over a snowy visage amid the cries of a featherless parrot chastised for flying with the robins. Death being the only rescue.

“It was in death that I discovered my real ‘life’s aim’....”

The gory images of mutilation and blood filled hallucinations had always ravaged Kochan’s mind. Right from his childhood, Kochan had an affinity to grief with death being the ultimate seducer of his sensualities. It was as if fate had made him fond of the sinister dwellings of death; a sort of an admonition of his burdensome future. Death plays a dual role in Kochan’s clandestine existences. At times, death becomes the ultimate escapism; a respite to his chaotic predicaments and then there are moments when the thought of death compels him (Kochan) to ponder on the possibilities of an honorable life. Similar to the face of a Kabuki actor that metamorphoses with each dab of paint into a supernatural being, the snippets of death from Kochan’s empathetic soul transcends death to be the pinnacle of eroticism.

The salient features of the ongoing Japanese war further enhance the foundation of death. Death becomes a coveted symbol of equality, demolishing societal discrepancies and at the same time a harbinger with a prejudicial mask.

“With the beginning of the war a wave of hypocritical stoicism swept the entire country”.... “The condition they has faced and fought against there --- that of a life for a life had probably been the most universal and elemental that mankind ever encounters.....”

“Life for a life”; the Hammurabian ethics that rule the entire system of a war, exemplifies the sadistic hypocrisy that thrives in the human society. In order to validate the significance of our own lives and its choices, we condemned the lives of others and curse their preferences. Mishima compares the absurdities of the war with Kochan’s dissolute commotions. In a peculiar way, the onset of the war brings a solace to Kochan with the hope of an annihilation of his secret life. Whereas, the restitution of a peaceful aftermath evokes a personal conflict that Kochan would have to face in on a daily basis. Mishima gives an enlightening inference of how assorted masquerades of life are vanished when humanity dwells at the gates of death.

“In the fire, these miserable ones had witnessed the total destruction of every evidence that they existed as human beings. Before their eyes they has seen human relationships, love and hatreds,, reason, property, all go up in flame....”

Although war might bring the annihilation of human prejudices with life then becoming the utmost valuable thing, yet, the very origin of war lies in festering prejudices and sadistic verdicts.

“And at times it had not been the flames against which they fought, but against human relationships, against love and hatreds, against reason, against property. At the time, like the crew of a wrecked ship, they have found themselves in a situation where it was permissible to kill one person in order that another might live...."

War had become an identical apologetic entity of auto-hypnosis and self-deceit that Kochan himself had metamorphosed into. In order to save a life it was permissible to kill another. In order to keep a façade of “normality” it became permissible to obliterate the true-self.

It is not surprising to spot the element of death taking the centre stage at many instances. Being, Kawabata’s protégé, Mishima employs similar philosophies seen in Kawabata’s prestigious works – Beauty in death and its opulence lost in its own excessiveness. War, being the perfect example of fading allure of death. The seducer being deceived by it own seduction. In Seppuku, a suicide ritual also exercised by the author himself; the samurais embellished their faces with subtle make-up before succumbing to the self-inserted sword. The samurais ached that their death would restore the very same honor and beauty that life had stolen from them. Given that, this book is also perceived as a semi-autobiographical sketch of Mishima , one can notice glimpses of Kabuki ; a theatrical art that Mishima often viewed as a child along with his grandmother. The decorated mask-like visage being a significant representation of this ancient Japanese art.

“Everyone says life is a stage....”

The freshly sculpted mask stares ardently into the mirror. It viciously smiles in nostalgic moments of twelve year boy masturbating to the standing picture of St. Sebastian and the nascent obsession of an eight year old girl. It howls as it hypnotizes the soul into a mass of self-deceit in a machine of falsehood. Similarly, as the ownership of a travel is lost with its commencement, the journey of mask becomes a reckless place for riots and revolutions.

“Why is it wrong for me to stay just the way I am now? I was fed up with myself and all for my chastity was ruining my body. I had thought that with earnestness”...... “I was feeling the urge to begin living my true life. Even if it was to be pure masquerade and not my life at all, still the time had come when I must make a start , must drag my heavy feet forward.....”...Be Strong!!”

At the end of the day, the mask had cursed the face.

Profile Image for بثينة العيسى.
Author 22 books25.4k followers
October 22, 2009
.. لم يخطر ببالي بأن ميشيما يمكن أن يكون مثلياً.

أقول ذلك لأنني كنتُ قد قرأت الرواية الثالثة من رباعية بحر الخصب " معبد الفجر " قبل أن أقرأ " اعترافات قناع"، سيرته التي امتدت منذ فترة الحرب وحتى العشرينات من عمره، والتي تتمسرح أثناء فترة الحرب العالمية الثانية التي خاضتها اليابان.

وفي معبد الفجر، كانت الطريقة التي عالج فيها جسد المرأة، مفعمة بالحسية لدرجة أن المرء لا يمكن أن يخطر له بأن هذا الكاتب .. مثليّ، وهذه نقطة لصالح ميشيما الروائي، القادر أبدا على الانسلاخ عن حقيقته والتخلق داخل أبطاله.

اعترافات قناع كتاب مخضب بالحس المأساوي المتولد من أوجاع ميشيما المازوشية، والفصامية، بين رغبته بالعادية وبين حقيقته كمثليّ.

.. وقبل أي شيء، يجيء العنوان " اعترافات قناع " ليظلل المشهد برمته ويذكرك بزيف حياة الكاتب التي امتدت طوال عشرين عاماً، وما يربوا عن 250 صفحة من القطع المتوسط.

العبارة التي استوقفتني، هي قوله بأنه يشعر بأن ثمة صراع بين الروح واللحم يغشي حياته، فبينما يحن اللحم إلى العلاقات المثلية، كانت روحه تتمزق في سبيل تأكيد استقامة ميولها، ورغبته الطبيعية بزوجة وحياة .. " عادية!"

أن تطمح بالعادية ويخذلك الواقع .. أعتقد بأن هذه هي الحكاية برمتها، ورغم أنها صيغت بجمل مقتضبة وحذرة، إلا أنني – كقارئ – انتهيت إلى شعورٍ جارف بالمأساة، بفجيعة الذات التي لا تتسق مع عالمها.

قوله عن حزنه " كان بعيداً عن الدرب المطروق للانفعالات الإنسانية "
وقع على رأسي مثل صاعقة.

قراءة " اعترافات قناع " تجربة مؤلمة، ومهمة – أزعمُ – لكي ننسلخ عن أنفسنا قليلاً ونجرب آلام الآخر.

Profile Image for Tristan.
112 reviews233 followers
April 3, 2017
Saint Sebastian, Guido Reni

"The black and slightly oblique trunk of the tree of execution was seen against a Titian-like background of gloomy forest and evening sky, sombre and distant. A remarkably handsome youth was bound naked to the trunk of the tree. His crossed hands were raised high, and the thongs binding his wrists were tied to the tree. No other bonds were visible, and the only covering for the youth’s nakedness was a coarse white cloth knotted loosely about his loins.


The arrows have eaten into the tense, fragrant, youthful flesh and are about to consume his body from within with flames of supreme agony and ecstasy. But there is no flowing blood, nor yet the host of arrows seen in other pictures of Sebastian’s martyrdom. Instead, two lone arrows cast their tranquil and graceful shadows upon the smoothness of his skin, like the shadows of a bough falling upon a marble stairway.


That day, the instant I looked upon the picture, my entire being trembled with some pagan joy. My blood soared up; my loins swelled as though in wrath. The monstrous part of me that was on the point of bursting awaited my use of it with unprecedented ardour, upbraiding me for my ignorance, panting indignantly. My hands, completely unconsciously, began a motion they had never been taught. I felt a secret, radiant something rise swift-footed to the attack from inside me. Suddenly it burst forth, bringing with it a blinding intoxication . . ."

It can be argued that human identity is composed of a plethora of masks, each and every one carefully crafted and subsequently picked out for any occasion that might arise.

Some are most comfortable to wear, fitting smoothly on that most expressive part of our bodies, the human face. Others might bring about some slight initial discomfort, but on the whole are quite innocuous, even lending a thrill here and there.

Yet there exists another, more treacherous, type of mask. The one that has spikes protruding from the back of it, poised to mutilate the owner’s face, contorting it, piercing its flesh, causing infected wounds, and ultimately coming very near to destroying it.

Those, the user will come to realize sooner or later, can be worn for a limited period of time. They quickly become menacing existential threats, and have to be dispensed with, ere the abyss opens up before him and swallows him whole.


Being the nigh agonizingly frank reveal of self that it is, Yukio Mishima's Confessions of a Mask ( published in 1949 while its author was still in his early twenties ) has ever since garnered a reputation for being the quintessential 'coming out' novel, serving as an inspiration to homosexuals brought up in socially conservative societies everywhere.

Of course, writings portraying males freely exercising their homosexuality saw a great surge in the post-war years (Gore Vidal's The City and the Pillar and Truman Capote's Other Voices Other Rooms being some of the most notable examples, at least in the US ).

Yet, I think a great disservice is done to Mishima's second work to classify it as merely a 'gay' - albeit semi-autobiographical - novel (does anyone else beside me detest the term?). There are multiple layers of his psyche explored here, themes touched upon, which all would play out in his later work - and, most tragically, life as well.

His apparent awe of the soldier’s calling and military glory in general (even though he feigned illness to avoid the draft), the appeal he found in suicide, which he considered to be one of the noblest actions one could perform, are featured prominently. These passages provide a clear hint for what was to follow.

Also disturbing is the supreme titillation Mishima found in the convergence of male youths, torture and death by all manner of gruesome ways. So while I am vaguely curious how his Japanese readership reacted to knowing which gender he turned his affections to, I'm even more so when it comes to what in essence amounts to his sadomasochism and worship of death. One imagines detailing these grotesque erotic fantasies could either make or break a budding author from the moment he admits to them.

Fortunately for Mishima, it made him an international phenomenon. And for good reason. Confessions of a Mask is a brave and powerful piece of detailed, rather Freudian, self-examination. Throw the clear influence of Huysmans's decadent hero Des Esseintes in there, and you end up with an intriguing recipe for a novel.

Alas, this is not the fully-formed, masterful Mishima I first encountered in his stupendous Spring Snow .

The book is slightly muddled both structurally and prose-wise (perhaps the translation is at fault here?), and at times was unable to grab me as much as I wanted or expected it to. All the elements of his future masterpieces are patently present, but he hadn’t arrived at a controlled, fruitful synthesis of those yet. As a full-length novel, it falls short a tad. He was just too young.

Yet, contained within are some truly gorgeous, descriptive passages to immerse yourself in, which prefigure that older Mishima I cherish so much. His soaring ambition and talent must be obvious to anyone who reads him. It is quite impossible to deny, even by his most ardent detractors.

As for me, I can’t wait to continue my – roughly chronological - exploration of both the man (in all his glorious complexity) and the writer. Forbidden Colours is next on the list.
Profile Image for Rowena.
500 reviews2,474 followers
January 25, 2013
What a great book! Mishima did a great job of depicting the story of a Japanese adolescent in Japanese society realizing that he is gay and thus having to wear a mask to hide his true self. There is so much mental confusion going through the protagonist's head, a great psychological account not only of teen angst but also of realizing you're different in a society that doesn't understand you. I've read quite a bit on Yukio Mishima and he seems to have been an interesting,intelligent and complex character. I look forward to reading more of his works.
Profile Image for Dmitri.
191 reviews136 followers
January 14, 2023
"For many years I claimed that I could remember things from the time of my birth. Whenever I said so the grownups would laugh at first, but then, wondering if they were being tricked, they would look distastefully at the pallid face of that unchildlike child."

"For over a year now I had been suffering the anguish of a child provided with a curious toy. This toy increased in size at every opportunity and hinted that if rightly used it would be quite a delightful thing. But directions for it's use were nowhere written, and so when the toy took the initiative of wanting to play with me my bewilderment was inevitable."

"Everyone says that life is a stage. But most people do not become obsessed with the idea, at any rate not as early as I did. By the end of childhood I was firmly convinced that it was so, and that I was to play my part on the stage without ever revealing my true self."

"Contrary to my expectations, that everyday life which I feared showed not the slightest sign of beginning. Instead it felt as though the country was engaged in a sort of civil war, and people were giving even less thought to tomorrow than they had during the real war."


Yukio Mishima was drafted in 1944 and narrowly missed fighting in the Philippines due to a failed medical exam. He wrote this novel shortly after he graduated law school in 1947. After a year he quit his job at the Ministry of Finance and became a full time writer. He was already published in high school, receiving recognition, but his father opposed writing as a career. 'Confessions Of A Mask' released in 1949 became a bestseller. It was translated to English in 1958.

Although written as a novel this book is a barely fictionalized autobiography of Mishima's life from birth in 1925 to age 24. An imagined life and affinity for myth make it anything but a literal account. Kochan, a form of the author's given name, recalls his postnatal bath and naming ceremony at one week old. Picture books of Joan of Arc, movies of Cleopatra, fairy tales of Andersen, kabuki and magicians fill his dreams. He begins to dress up like the feminine characters he has seen.

Kochan's family life mirrors Mishima's. He sleeps in the sick room of his aristocratic grandmother, his grandfather a failed businessman. His father is a bureaucrat, always away, mother busy with his siblings. From his gate he watches the soldiers march by. Smelling their sweat he has fantasies of death and blood. Slayers of dragons endure torture ordeals awakening masochistic yearnings. Frail in health, forbidden to play with boys, he spends his days with nurses and maids.

As he gets older he is expected to display a more masculine side, an imposition he sees as a masquerade. In games with girls, of make believe war, he pretends to die in battle. At twelve he begins to notice the half naked bodies of men at processions and seashores, of samurai warriors and sumo wrestlers. Moving back to his parents home he discovers the art of Greece and Rome, and ultimately the martyrdom of St. Sebastian, as his grandmother grieves for the loss of her boy.

In middle school Kochan falls in love with his classmate, a mature but delinquent youth, yet jealousy overcomes his infatuation. Instead he attempts to conceal from himself the nature of his desires. War begins as he enters high school, military drills de rigueur; smoking, drinking, dirty jokes and adolescent urging to kiss his friend's elder sister. Near the end of the war his father insists he attend college, a futile pursuit as he expects to die in battle, his family in air raids.

Kochan convinces himself he can fall in love with a woman without feeling passion, a concept of platonic love in conflict with his basic instincts. Rather than a glorious end he is sent to work building Zero planes in an industrial cult of suicide. He lies about his health in an army examination and is filled with shame. In the bombing of Tokyo buildings are knocked down to control the flames. The sister of a friend leaving for the war is led on by him, and he becomes anxious to escape.

This breakthrough novel is brilliant and disturbing. In a letter to his publisher Mishima had vowed to be as 'precise as possible' and to make himself both the 'executioner and executed'. He delivered as was promised, with painful and searching detail. It is a document of his suffering and self discovery, and one that may have hurt others along the way. Many growing up have experienced some similar struggles, although perhaps not as dramatically as told in this account.

Mishima's later life is even more startling than the story of his earlier one; worldwide celebrity, shots at the Nobel, fame as actor/model and for a plot to overthrow the government ending in ritual suicide at the headquarters of the army. His literary career encompassed 35 novels, 50 plays, 25 short story collections and 35 books of essays before his death in 1970 at age 45. As a modernist writer in postwar Japan he delved unsparingly into the psychology of his fictional self.
Profile Image for Seemita.
180 reviews1,589 followers
April 30, 2017
Confession , as a word, has a strong connotation – prelude to its utterance is a hesitation, and that hesitation alone, is sufficient to engulf the confession-maker with an odour that reeks of both delay and guilt.

But Mishima’s protagonist can take the liberty, because he is behind a mask. His frail body that fails him in school, denigrating his boyish flavour to a handful of jokes, holds up its masculine remnants at nights, because he is behind a mask. His impressionable juvenile mind that refuses to be grinded between familial ties bordering on love and authority, surrenders to erotic one-upmanship of images on discarded and hidden magazines, because he is behind a mask. His hasty, dubious shot at making a girlfriend and heaping her with a partner’s touch despite wriggling out of it mentally (and physically), continues to go unreprimanded because he is behind a mask. His unexpected but secretly nurtured corporeal attraction towards his senior, Omi, survives the onslaught of conservatives, because he is behind a mask.
It is not pain that hovers about his straining chest, his tense abdomen, his slightly contorted hips, but some flicker of melancholy pleasure like music. Were it not for the arrows with their shafts deeply sunk into his left armpit and right side, he would seem more a Roman athlete resting from fatigue, leaning against a dusky tree in a garden.
I had a presentiment then that there is in this world a kind of desire like stinging pain. Looking up at that dirty youth, I was choked by desire, thinking, "I want to change into him," thinking, "I want to be him.
But masks fall, and with them, fall something that cannot be defined in lumps of clay or words.

Mishima’s tale is an exploration undertaken by a young man into the lanes of his sexuality. This journey turns daunting because during it, he encounters, not just his homosexuality, but his homosexuality hanging as an ugly prop over the backdrop of a war-ravaged land in WWII. Part-autobiographical, part-allegoric, Mishima rips open his heart to bare his innermost battles and jumps in its midst as the lone wager from both sides. Even in his salacious exploits, one can notice his disdain towards the outcomes of war.
I was the only one who did not have genuine lung trouble. I was pretending instead that I had a bad heart. In those days, one had to have either medals or illness.
His initiation of the reader into the Tokyo of 1940s is authentic, and unenthused, and thus, not without merit. The beauty captured in his language dances to its master’s intent, which is, yet again, expectedly tainted with hues of melancholy and unfulfillment.
And later, as I looked down at the city from a window of the elevated train, the snow scene, not yet having caught the rays of the rising sun, looked more gloomy than beautiful. The snow seemed like a dirty bandage hiding the open wounds of the city, hiding those irregular gashes of haphazard streets and tortuous alleys, courtyards and occasional plots of bare ground, that form the only beauty to be found in the panorama of our cities.
In his account of beauty and love, affection and bravery, friendship and isolation, lies a seething pain that is not hungry for an antidote; instead, it breathes on its charred body, heavily and without restraint. The narrative turns, in time, raucously masochistic, and this is precisely where I leave his company for my errands. His obsessive relationship with the nature of his confessions, which emerge dyed in dark, dingy varnishes, run like a treasured vinyl but repeated runs rob it of its haunting melody and its crushing palpability. But one doesn’t discard such souvenirs because....
The moment for parting stood waiting eagerly. A vulgar blues was being kneaded into time.
Profile Image for Henk.
851 reviews
November 2, 2020
A surprisingly modern and introspective account of dealing, or at least acknowledging, one's true nature and desire
Prudery is a form of selfishness, a means of self-protection made necessary by the strength of one's own desires.

Less impressed compared to how I felt when I first read this 10 years ago, but I still feel the 4 stars are valid for the very frank depiction of sexual awakening, being different and the constant, almost surreal threat of the war years.

We follow the narrator in this clearly autobiographical tale of Yukio Mishima from his childhood till his early twenties. He is scion of a formerly influential and rich family, who undergo hardship in pre war Japan. The main focus of the book however is the sexual awakening of the main character, who finds out not only that he is gay but also into quite violent and bloody aspects of sex and domination. The intricate bond between desire and the wish to be dominated and humiliated is very frankly depicted by Mishima in his Confessions of a Mask.
Probably his desires are also stemming from the militaristic government in Japan before the Second World War and the wish, the unconscious striving for something one is not. Also a fascination with death is clearly visible.

Already quite young the narrator gets his first orgasm on the depiction of the convoluted and pained body of Saint Sebastian of Guido Reni. During his high school years he narrates his crush on bad boy Omi, who in everything is different than he is. He is muscular, not intellectual and older.

The influence of the war is depicted as a constant, mind numbing uncertainty, lying over the life of Kochan. The constant threat of dead is even partly welcomed by our main character, as an “easy” way out of his future life in constant conflict with himself:
When I arrived at the house in the suburbs that night I seriously contemplated suicide for the first time in my life. But as I thought about it, the idea became exceedingly tiresome, and I finally decided it would be a ludicrous business. I had an inherent dislike of admitting defeat. Moreover, I told myself, there's no need for me to take such decisive action myself, not when I'm surrounded by such a bountiful harvest of death—death in an air raid, death at one's post of duty, death in the military service, death on the battlefield, death from being run over, death from disease—surely my name has already been entered in the list for one of these: a criminal who has been sentenced to death does not commit suicide. No—no matter how I considered, the season was not auspicious for suicide. Instead I was waiting for something to do me the favor of killing me. And this, in the final analysis, is the same as to say that I was waiting for something to do me the favor of keeping me alive.

At the end of the book he tries to pick up a relationship with Sonoko, a beautiful and kind heartened girl, but fails against his nature and feels doubly bad about both this defeat at being normal and his deceit of her.

A work that feels quite timeless and impresses with it's frankness, especially taken into account it was written in post war Japan during the 1940's.

Dutch quotes:
Ik begon te begrijpen dat, wat ouderen mijn aanstellerij noemden, in werkelijkheid mijn eigen aard was, en dat wat zij voor mijn echte karakter hielden, mijn masker.

Waarschijnlijk was mijn voorgevoel van dat verlies zelfs de kern van mijn genot

Maar bestaat er geen wroeging die aan de zonde voorafgaat? Voelde ik wellicht wroeging over het simpele feit, dat ik bestond?
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Axl Oswaldo.
332 reviews146 followers
June 29, 2021
Lo que me sucedió con este libro fue algo curioso: fue como estar en lo alto de una montaña, tener una vista espectacular pero de pronto tropezar e ir rodando hacia el abismo sin retorno. Me explico: la historia la pensaba como una novela con temática LGBT+ y de tipo autobiográfico, y al ver que el autor retrataba su infancia y juventud esperaba encontrar algo como la búsqueda de la identidad, el preguntarse quién soy y hacia dónde me dirijo, y sobre todo el atisbo del primer amor.

Y la pregunta es: ¿encontré lo anterior? En principio, sí. Hay un retrato muy bien escrito de la infancia y adolescencia de nuestro protagonista, hasta el punto en que su vida se cruza con la de un chico llamado Omi, un compañero de escuela, y comienza lo que para mí es lo mejor del libro: una introspección que lo lleva a preguntarse qué es aquello que siente por él y cómo hace para vivir con ello. Fue sin duda mi parte favorita porque si te ocurrió algo parecido es sencillo identificarse; si bien no tiene que ser específicamente con los acontecimientos, sí con muchas de las reflexiones que se hace el personaje a sí mismo. Hasta aquí —primera tercera parte del libro— todo excelente.

Ahora bien, mi problema se divide en dos: el primer punto es que en ocasiones cuando se ponía a reflexionar sobre lo que estaba viviendo en un determinado momento el protagonista solía irse por las ramas y profundizaba en cosas que no me parece que aportaran mucho a la historia. Es como si tuviera que ir de un punto A a un punto B, pero en vez de hacerlo por un camino adecuado, le daba vueltas y vueltas y eso a la larga terminó cansándome y por ende, aburriéndome.
El segundo punto lleva nombre y es Sonoko. A partir de que aparece este personaje (un poco más allá de un tercio del libro), quien es la hermana de un amigo suyo, todo empieza a perder fuerza y empiezo a perder el interés. Honestamente, no me estaban gustando ni los personajes que se introdujeron a partir de entonces, ni la historia que se desarrolla entre el protagonista y Sonoko, ni toda la trama en general (era como si no pasara nada que valiera la pena ser contado y sólo avanzaba sin razón). Además, si me pongo a pensar que yo leía inicialmente esta obra pensando que sería LGBT+, pues eso en cierto sentido se esfumó y mi lectura se convirtió en una decepción.
Aclaro que no pongo en duda si lo que relata aquí el autor haya sido exactamente lo que él vivió, pero yo me esperaba algo completamente diferente a lo que me encontré, al menos en su mayor parte.

Por otro lado y como algo positivo, se me hizo interesante ver que la historia se ambienta durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial y creo no haber leído antes ninguna obra que retratara esta guerra desde un punto de vista en Japón. Sin embargo, ni este tema ni la primera parte fueron suficientes para que esta historia no se me hiciera como bola de nieve, cada vez más y más grande hasta el punto en que ya solo estaba leyendo con el único fin de terminarla y fastidiado (es muy raro que esto me suceda) casi al llegar al final del libro.

En conclusión, no me gustó, no era lo que esperaba y bueno, así las cosas. Lo que sí haré será volver a leer al autor, porque sí que me gustaba en un principio su manera de escribir —hay frases muy buenas para enmarcar—, y pienso que eso amerita darme una oportunidad más con otra de sus obras.

“¿Qué más podía hacer cuando ignoraba que amar es buscar y ser buscado al mismo tiempo? Para mí el amor sólo era un diálogo de acertijos sin solución. Y en lo tocante al espíritu de mi adoración, jamás imaginé que fuese algo que exigiera respuesta.”

P.S. Ahora recuerdo que a principios de año leí una novela cuya idea principal es muy parecida a esta pero que a mi parecer se me hace mucho mejor lograda, y me estoy refiriendo a Alexis o el tratado del inútil combate (1929) de Marguerite Yourcenar. Lo dejo como recomendación por si sirve el dato.
Profile Image for Nicole~.
198 reviews244 followers
November 1, 2014

Confessions of a Mask (1949) rocketed Yukio Mishima to the literary prominence he so desperately sought as a struggling modern writer. The novel explores the obsessions of a young man suffering inwardly with erotic fantasies of men, beauty and violence. He strains to conform to a heterosexual life while secretly idolizing depictions of St. Sebastian, martyred, with his hands bound and his naked torso pierced by arrows, or becoming aroused by the sight of the muscular nightsoil man walking through the neighborhood. Confusion of his sexuality takes shape at a very early age when he falls in love for the first time with Omi, a schoolmate.

There were, however, numberless impressions that I got from Omi, of infinite variety, all filled with delicate nuances. In a phrase, what I did derive from him was a precise definition of the perfection of life and manhood... Because of him I cannot love an intellectual person. Because of him I am not attracted to a person who wears glasses. Because of him I began to love strength, an impression of overflowing blood, ignorance, rough gestures, careless speech, and the savage melancholy inherent in the flesh, not tainted in anyway with intellect.(64)

The protagonist's psychological examination of his thoughts and feelings is logically sound and vividly clear; he possesses an unfaltering understanding of himself. He is able to pinpoint details, causes, subconscious symbols with the accuracy of a professional psycho-analyst.

Actually, the thought that I might reach the height of an adult filled me with a foreboding of some fearful danger. On the one hand, my indefinable feeling of unrest increased my capacity for dreams divorced from all reality and, on the other, drove me toward the "bad habit" that caused me to take refuge in those dreams. The restlessness was my excuse.. It was undoubtedly the sight of the hair under Omi's arms that day which made the armpit a fetish for me.(82-83)

Confessions of a Mask is widely considered as an autobiographically inspired novel. If the sadomasochistic fantasies are truly Mishima's admission of his own feelings, he is even more strongly connected with his protagonist by the latter's unyielding struggle to prove himself as special, destined for martyrdom like St.Sebastian - a fate proud, tragic, transcendent.

Mishima's confessional pose in the guise of the protagonist is dramatic, theatrical, even feels 'staged:' as an 'I' narrator agonizing over his perceived 'abnormality,' he is neither apologetic nor interested in suppressing his homosexual desires. By composing his supposed confessions, Mishima was completely the producer, playwright, director and actor of his own social 'norms', free to judge himself, and perform to the beat of his own damask drum.

The true essence of confession is its impossibility.

Mishima himself stated that his intent was to write "a perfect fictional work of confession." Certainly, the novel is dramatically written; a sense of Mishima teasing his reader's attention with a performance much like the masked Kabuki plays his grandmother introduced him to as a youngster, enabling him to exist, not only as a man in an easily alienating social sect, but as the brilliantly talented, ingeniously creative writer he knew he was.

William Shakespeare's words from 'As You Like It' came to mind that: All the world's a stage ; Mishima's own words sum up my perception of him that: life is after all a masked play.
Profile Image for Deniz Balcı.
Author 2 books580 followers
October 25, 2017
Mishima'yı anlayabilmek için ne yazdıysa hepsini okumak gerekiyor bana göre. Zira koskocaman bir resmin ufak parçaları olarak görüyorum ben eserlerini. 'Bir Maskenin İtirafları'nı da o resmin merkezinde konumlanan, sonrasında yazdığı her şeye 'ondan' bir bakış atılmasına imkan sağlayan özel bir anlatı olarak kabul ediyorum. Bu yüzden üçüncü kez okudum. Mishima okuması yapacaksanız, sağlam bir zemin atmak için, bu kitabı ilk sıralara koymanızı tavsiye ederim.
İyi okumalar!

Profile Image for kaelan.
260 reviews305 followers
January 23, 2019
Yukio Mishima's Confessions of a Mask is of a particular species of literature, one that, despite encompassing such venerable works as Dostoyevsky's Notes From the Underground and André Breton's Nadja, is no longer in vogue. For the sake of a name, we might dub this species "the subjective novel," insofar as it tends to neglect the furtherance of story or plot in favour of charting out an intricate and scrupulously characterized first-person subjectivity. In the case of Confessions, the subjectivity we gain access to belongs to a unnamed Japanese youth, living in Tokyo during the former half of the 20th century. And the novel—crammed into a nutshell—chronicles his struggles in the domains of both love (he suffers from a tragic disjunction between his homosexual érōs and his heterosexual philía) and war (Mishima sets the novel against the horrific and oppressive backdrop of World War II).

If Confessions were written from a third-person objective vantage point, with no insight into its protagonist's thoughts and emotions, it would be far easier for me to produce a pithy synopsis. Yet such a text would also be extraordinarily and unbearably dull. This is because Confessions is a book in which nothing much happens, at least insofar as story is concerned. Take, for instance, one pivotal scene in which our nameless youth catches a glimpse of a classmate's armpit hair during gym class. Plot-wise, nothing more transpires: a quick glance, a tumble of black fur and that's it. Like Notes and Nadja, however, the "real action" occurs in the subjective reflection that follows. And indeed, we are soon treated to a lengthy exposition on the topics of desire, culture and identity.

All this might seem to suggest that Confessions is a fairly dry read, but that's only because I haven't yet had a chance duly praise Mishima's writing style. For if the book is one part philosophical reflection, it's also an equal part poetical expression. Of this, a good enough example as any may be found in the following passage, which I will be so bold as to quote in full, and which is as exquisite as any prose-poem I've ever read:
From the surface offing the waves began and came sliding in over the surface of the sea in the form of restless green swells. Groups of low rocks extended out into the sea, where their resistance to the waves sent splashes high into the air, like white hands begging for help. The rocks were dipping themselves in the sea's sensation of deep abundance and seemed to be dreaming of buoys broken loose from their moorings. But in a flash the swell had passed them by and come sliding toward the beach with unabated speed. As it drew near the beach something awakened and rose up within its green hood. The wave grew tall and, as far as the eye could reach, revealed the razor-keen blade of the sea's enormous ax, poised and ready to strike. Suddenly the dark-blue guillotine fell, sending up a white blood-splash. The body of the wave, seething and falling, pursued its severed head, and for a moment it reflected the pure blue of the sky, that same unearthly blue which is mirrored in the eyes of a person on the verge of death. ...

Such writing has a palpable hallucinatory and disorienting effect on the reader, which makes the journey into another's subjectivity as wild and perplexing as one might expect. Truly an impressive work of literature.
Profile Image for Théo d'Or .
329 reviews168 followers
August 9, 2021
I think the most important element in the shame- sexual identity equation, remains homoeroticism, aware and defined in its simplest form, as Mishima does here.
Refined, unusual, and provocative, Mishima's novel translates one of the possible uses of the mask - that of a strategy of asserting a lucid individual, obsessed with the ideal of beauty.
The novel presents, in fact, the path of a nihilist not born, but educated as such, whose nihilistic tendencies pushed him towards subjects such as death, darkness, carnal. I see the function of the Mishima's mask as doubly articulated, on an aesthetic level, looking for the dramatic effect, but also as a disguising tool of social shame.
" Where the mind sees only shame, the heart discovers the beautiful. Can Sodom represent Beauty ? "
Personally, I can't have an opinion here. In fact, shame, traditionally understood in the culture of samurai, is an interaction between the external and internal dimensions of the self.
Awareness of a choice, doubled by the confession of an internal tension, makes Mishima's novel a good opportunity to analyze the variety of identity psychology, and, why not, to a self - analysis .
Profile Image for Ana.
230 reviews82 followers
April 13, 2017

Yukio Mishima é um dos meus escritores preferidos e, com toda a certeza, uma das personagens mais operáticas (espalhafatosa, dirão alguns...) do universo literário. Mesmo aqueles que possam estar menos familiarizados com a sua obra serão conhecedores de diversos detalhes da sua vida e das circunstâncias associadas à sua morte.

Confissões de uma Máscara , originalmente publicado em 1949 quando Mishima tinha apenas 25 anos, foi o primeiro romance de sucesso deste autor. Não tendo sido, na altura, assumido como autobiográfico, é hoje óbvio que Kochan (o protagonista e narrador destas "Confissões") é o nome da "máscara" que Mishima usou para trazer a público esta auto-análise de um período da sua vida que inclui a infância, a adolescência e uma parte da juventude.

Esta poderá não ser uma das obras maiores do autor, mas o seu impacto é indiscutível. É um relato de uma honestidade comovente e devastadora, pela forma como deixa desprender as "máscaras", assumindo, expondo e dissecando todas as dúvidas e hipocrisias. É também relevante como contributo para a melhor compreensão da restante obra do autor e do próprio Mishima enquanto escritor, artista, pessoa e personagem de um palco do teatro que é a vida.

Trata-se de uma obra profundamente introspectiva, cuja leitura requer bastante envolvimento. Não obstante a juventude do autor, a escrita já é magnífica utilizando uma linguagem de enorme beleza para descrever tanto o belo como o horrível, a reflexão profunda ou a constatação banal, o muito significante ou o mero detalhe.

O enredo praticamente não existe e a obra centra-se num universo de pensamentos, sentimentos e conflitos internos do jovem Kochan que, desde a infância, sente uma obsessão quase mórbida pelo martírio e pela morte, vivendo um isolamento resultante da sua desadequação ao mundo exterior. Desde tenra idade que Kochan sente uma espécie de "luxúria do sangue" e uma atracção pelos aspectos físicos da masculinidade. As dúvidas quanto à natureza da sua sexualidade vão-se adensando, à medida que atesta o fascínio que sobre ele exercem os corpos nus de homens jovens e belos. Na adolescência é despertado para a actividade sexual por uma pintura de Guido Reni que retrata o martírio de São Sebastião, amarrado a uma árvore, seminu e trespassado por flechas. A partir daí começa a satisfazer-se sexualmente através daquilo que que ele chama a prática dos “maus-hábitos” que o acompanhariam pela sua juventude. (Hoje é possível alcançar a dimensão do significado dessa imagem para Mishima pelas fotografias de si próprio em pose que reproduz a da pintura original).

Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian (por Guido Reni)

Yukio Mishima (Foto: Eikoh Hosoe)

No entanto se, por um lado, apenas figuras masculinas (sobretudo quando associadas a contextos que envolvem martírio, ferimentos, sangue) são capazes de estimular o seu desejo sexual, já a sua realização e felicidade espirituais só parecem ser possíveis por via de uma ligação com o feminino: amar e ser amado por uma mulher. Mas esse é um amor que é e será sempre platónico, isento de qualquer desejo sexual e, como tal, inviável. Esta é uma dicotomia aparentemente intransponível, que o autor define como “a luta entre o corpo e a alma”, e que se perspectiva como um dos grandes conflitos internos que virão a atormentar a existência de Kochan / Mishima :
“Nesse momento, algo dentro de mim se dividiu em dois com uma violência brutal. Como se um relâmpago tivesse rasgado uma árvore viva. Ouvia o edifício que construíra pedra por pedra ruir fragorosamente. Parecia-me estar a assistir ao instante em que a minha existência se transformava num pavoroso não-ser.”

Profile Image for Ana.
103 reviews19 followers
October 27, 2022
“Most writers are perfectly normal in the head and just carry on like wild men. I behave normally but I’m sick inside”.

Confessions of a Mask is Yukio Mishima’s first novel. It is confessional, realistic, enigmatic, transgressive, and erotic. The novel’s skeleton is autobiographical, but its flesh is made of kink, fetish, identity and the internal struggle of a man who came to realize that his desires had no place, well, anywhere except in his imagination. His kinks were incompatible with the rigid imperial wartime Japan of the 1940s.

Imagine young Kochan. He was fascinated with soldiers, uniforms, aesthetic paintings of young Christian male martyrs, and athletic-but unintelligent-young men. His fetishes were extreme. In his fantasies he tortured, maimed and killed men. He wrote prose poems about the beauty of men who were destined for death. He delighted in imagining situations in which he was also dying in battle or being murdered dramatically. His heart’s leanings were toward death, night and blood. And yet, he had an unusually strong fear of death. He glittered “with debauched loneliness” but also felt a compulsion to conform. He put on a mask, and the mask protected and tortured him.

The mask was his public identity, always at odds with his private self. He played a part, without ever once revealing himself. Yet, he could not fully engage in anything. Without his natural and spontaneous sadistic desires, his pain grew into detachment. His numbness resembled fierce pain. He tells us: “I felt my entire body becoming paralysed with such a pain, a pain that was intense, but still could not be felt at all.” He was waiting for something to do him the favour of killing him, which was the same as if he was waiting for something to do him the favour of keeping him alive. The masked voice of his pain told him “you’re not human. You’re a being who is incapable of social intercourse. You’re nothing but a creature, non-human and somehow strangely pathetic.” He could only be comforted by visions reeking with blood. Brutal images were his most intimate friends, and he surrendered himself to them, but always reluctantly and with shame.

This novel is dark and disturbing, but also a work of beauty.
Profile Image for Meike.
1,519 reviews2,470 followers
April 16, 2020
New German edition available: Bekenntnisse einer Maske
The ultimate roman à clef to Mishima’s work: Set in Japan during and shortly after WWII, the novel depicts a young man trying to come to terms with his homosexuality. Forced to suppress his feelings, he struggles with the loss of his authentic self: "(...) I was beginning to understand vaguely the mechanism of the fact that what people regarded as a pose on my part was actually an expression of my need to assert my true nature, and that it was precisely what people regarded as my true self which was a masquerade."

A lot of the text is autobiographical, from the protagonist’s isolated childhood to him studying law and working for the government. The book is also very insightful when it comes to explaining how Mishima became so fascinated with martyrdom and blood, and it is full of details that become meaningful when seen in the light of later events. For instance, Kochan, the protagonist, and his first love Omi both wear white gloves with three lines of ornamental stitches in a key scene in which they playfully fight (on a swinging log - go figure), and Mishima describes these gloves in great detail. 21 years after “Confessions of a Mask” was first published, Mishima made his last public speech and, only minutes later, committed suicide, while wearing the exact same kind of gloves…

There has been a lot of speculation regarding the character of Sonoko, the woman Kochan almost gets engaged to (the real Mishima almost got engaged to Michiko Shoda, better known today as the Japanese Empress Michiko, but that was after "Confessions of a Mask" was published). Aiming to overcome his sexual orientation, Kochan tries to build a romantic relationship with Sonoko, but instead of a feeling of "normalcy" he desperately tries to achieve, he only experiences self-alienation: “(…) this lukewarm man that Sonoko was now seeing, this thing that appeared to be my character, aroused my disgust, made my entire existence seem worthless, and tore my self-confidence into shreds. (…) There was no doubt that she was truly in love. I felt jealous. Mine was the unbearable jealousy a cultured pearl must feel toward a genuine one.”

The whole book is illustrating Kochan's inner fight against, well, basically himself. Mishima's language turns the protagonist's sadness and desperation into a work of artistic beauty, and while we will never know how much of the novel is really autobiographical, this ability to fight his demons with language seems to be at the heart of Mishima's work as writer.
Profile Image for Iris ☾ (dreamer.reads).
444 reviews892 followers
January 31, 2022
Yukio Mishima, considerado uno de los mejores escritores japoneses del siglo XX, publicó en 1949 “Confesiones de una máscara”, cuando apenas tenía 24 años. Fue este su primer éxito literario que lo convirtió en una celebridad y que contiene muchos elementos autobiográficos. Tras leer “El marino que perdió la gracia del mar” y quedar totalmente embelesada y fascinada por el estilo del autor, debía continuar su obra, se me presentó esta novela y ya tengo claro que este será uno de esos autores de los que quiero leer todo lo que caiga en mis manos.

En esta historia, narrada en primera persona por Koo-chan, un niño débil y enfermizo, criado y sobre protegido por su abuela, veremos crecer y madurar a un niño que se siente distinto y fuera de lugar. Desde su tierna infancia lucha por encajar con los estándares sociales y frágil a las convenciones, desarrollará un escudo durante su madurez. Este poco a poco irá descubriendo su verdadera orientación sexual, sobre todo cuando llega a la adolescencia, pero este, siendo esclavo de lo convencional no puede aceptar, ni asumir ante los demás quién es realmente. Esto lo conducirá a comenzar una relación con Sonoko, la hermana de un amigo, intentando convencerse de que está enamorado de ella.

Esta es una obra que trata el autodescubrimiento de la sexualidad, que desarrolla una crisis de identidad de un alma atormentada y aislada de la sociedad. Esa que se oculta bajo falsas apariencias y se cubre con una máscara por inseguridad, intentando enterrar un fetichismo sin límites y que acarrea con unos terribles consecuencias, no solo para si mismo, sino también en los demás. Pero sobre todo trata la represión, la culpabilidad y todos los sentimientos negativos que atacan la mente del ser humano.

El estilo narrativo de Mishima es muy difícil de describir, incluso de asimilar, denota una fuerte valentía, pasa de una delicadeza encantadora y absoluta, a un conjunto de hechos o fantasías sádicas, brutales y bizarras plagadas de violencia. Una narración que no deja tregua, que no permite desconectar y que ofrece al lector una experiencia emocionante a la par que desconcertante. Un artista de la escritura, un genio difícilmente entendible pero que a mí me ha dejado encandilada una vez más. Leerlo supone un viaje psicológico, impecablemente desarrollado y puramente excitante.

En definitiva, estamos ante una obra maestra, un relato introspectivo, desgarrador, profundo, donde encontraremos sentimientos contradictorios y confusión. Donde se habla sin tapujos de la homosexualidad, de la violencia en las fantasías sexuales y se evoca de manera mágica la muerte y las obras de arte. Incluso tenemos momentos maravillosos en los que Mishima nos hace partícipes de las emociones y miedos de los japoneses durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Una novela ineludible, áspera y bella de uno de los mayores genios de la literatura japonesa.
Profile Image for Pedro Pacifico Book.ster.
296 reviews3,656 followers
April 12, 2022
Escrito na década de 40, Confissões de uma máscara é um clássico da literatura japonesa e uma narrativa marcada por conflitos. Há conflitos externos, tendo em vista que a narrativa se passa em parte no Japão durante o período entreguerras e a 2ª Guerra Mundial. No entanto, o livro é marcado, sobretudo, pelos conflitos internos do protagonista, já que o leitor vai acompanhar as angústias e a dificuldade de aceitação de um jovem com sua orientação sexual.

Senti como se estivesse lendo um romance de formação. Já na escola, o protagonista percebe e passa a sofrer por não se sentir atraído pelas garotas. Apesar de não ter maturidade para se entender como um homem gay, o personagem narrador compartilha com o leitor as suas próprias dúvidas. Confessa os “pecados” do que sente. E é nesse processo de construção da própria identidade que o protagonista começa a construir uma máscara, por trás da qual se esconde. Uma máscara que mostra para o mundo externo o que a sociedade quer ver!

É uma escrita bem introspectiva, mas para mim fluiu muito bem. Por ter vivido uma infância e juventude por trás de máscaras, me identifiquei com o personagem em diversas passagens. Muitas mesmo! Mas acredito que o livro também seja muito interessante para quem não se identifique diretamente com os conflitos do narrador, pois conseguirá compreender a dificuldade que é lutar contra a própria orientação sexual.

Importante lembrar que o livro foi escrito na década de 40, quando o tema da homossexualidade ainda era tratado de forma muito diferente. Por isso, não espere discussões tão explícitas e atuais sobre o tema! Por outro lado, o texto estava muito a frente do seu tempo e, com certeza, repercutiu na sociedade.

Além disso, escrito enquanto o autor tinha apenas 22 anos, o livro apresenta um aspecto fortemente autobiográfico. Mishima foi uma figura adepta às tradições milenares da cultura japonesa e sua morte está cercada de muita polêmica. Antes de completar 50 anos, o escritor cometeu o suicídio da mesma forma que os samurais faziam: usou uma espada contra o próprio ventre.

Nota: 9/10

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Profile Image for Patrick Doyle.
Author 6 books95 followers
September 28, 2022
Now that I've taken a temporary break from writing I've gone back to the books that marked me most when I first began reading adult books as a boy. Mishima went deep. I approached Confessions of a Mask as I did any other book, with no knowledge of the story or the man. The intimacy shook me. I felt like a voyeur. Never had I read such personal thoughts. And the bitch of the thing is that I was feeling those very same thoughts, not so well-expressed, of course. I couldn't explain my feelings even to myself. But there they were, written by a man so much unlike me in so many ways. Later when I read about his life I was shaken once again because regardless of the political beliefs he'd developed as an adult I always felt his final decision had been made very early on. As a writer of yearning, he is unparalleled. Yearning implies unfulfillment and the more I read his books the more I understood.
Profile Image for Introverticheart.
208 reviews187 followers
January 13, 2020
Nieczęsto czytam dzieła japońskich pisarzy, jednak Wyznanie czyta się jednym tchem. Jest to doskonale skonstruowana, chłodna autoanaliza życia autora. Jednocześnie książka pozwoliła autorowi uporać się że swoimi traumami, a co ważniejsze, zaakceptować swoją odmienność.
Jeden fragment szczególnie utknął mi w pamięci: "żyjemy w czasach, kiedy rozstać się, jest czymś normalnym, a spotkać się graniczy wręcz z cudem".
Trudno o bardziej prawdziwe i brutalne słowa, opisujące ludzi.
Profile Image for Larnacouer  de SH.
711 reviews157 followers
June 20, 2022
Burası susacağımız yer.

Çünkü hakkında ne desek az ya da çok.
Belki haksızlık.

Bilmiyorum, bir kaç duygunun karmaşası işte.
Söyleyecek yüzlerce sözün olduğu yerde insanı suskunluğa iten kitaplardan.

Klasik, Mişima.
Profile Image for Ricky Schneider.
217 reviews33 followers
January 11, 2022
I think I just found a new favorite author! I'm obsessed! I've been on a roll lately, discovering five-star read after five-star read. With this classic novel translated from Japanese I got the bonus of being introduced to one of the most fascinating and enigmatic artists to ever live: Yukio Mishima. That's not just hyperbole. I enjoyed researching the author on YouTube just as much as I loved every gorgeous page of his writing. What a singular and impressive human being. I'm ashamed and honestly a bit disturbed that I'd never heard of this man who I now consider to be one of my favorite and most intriguing literary figures. Confessions of a Mask was the short novel that would propel Mishima to international fame. It's amazing to me that it was published in Japanese in 1949 (when the author was in his early twenties) and in English in 1958 because it contains such a controversial semi-autobiographical confession that was unspeakable at the time; that the main character is secretly a homosexual man. In the days surrounding the second World War, our protagonist Kochan struggles to accept his own identity and attempts desperately to hide his feelings behind a masculine, hetero mask. We follow his life-long journey from his childhood as a conflicted and confused little boy. From boyish crushes to very adult confrontations with his sexuality, Kochan explores and explains his identity crisis with unfiltered honesty and intensely intimate thoughts of complex inner conflict. The main relationship here is not a traditional romance but an ill-fated and heartbreaking last attempt at conforming to societal pressures with a beautiful young girl named Sonoko. It's an all-too-common right of passage that exemplifies the queer struggle to be accepted by the world, their families and even themselves. I'm thrilled that I related so much to these words written over half a century ago in another language and halfway around the world. Mishima is insightful, funny and frightening in his poetic prose and his raw, brutally honest confessions. His novel is surprisingly accessible, fresh, and profound. His use of close first-person narration is one of the best I've ever read and should be studied by all aspiring writers. There were acute observations and fascinating themes at play throughout this novel that I found absorbing, insightful and powerful. I will be reading everything I can get my hands on by this artist, model, actor, director, political activist, and all-around genius. He was a prodigy from his youth and remains a Japanese literary icon and many of his artistic gifts and fascinating idiosyncrasies are on full display in this stunning short novel. He was a man plagued by many contradictions and challenging obsessions but he was intensely open and honest with the world about them and I'm immensely grateful for the candor in his gorgeous words. What a gift this was to the world and to me. His entire life was his Art and whether you like it or not, it was bold and brave of him to expose himself so fully so that, in his confessions, we might understand ourselves and each other more.
Profile Image for Cardenio.
166 reviews128 followers
February 2, 2018
No había podido terminar esta novela la primera vez que la leí, pero ahora, en una especie de re-lectura, me atreví a circundar nuevamente en esos espacios de infancia, adolescencia e incipiente adultez que relata Koo-Chan, el narrador-protagonista de Confesiones de una máscara, como en una especie de evocación de su pasado.

Esta evocación se torna interesante principalmente porque no se trata de recordar con nostalgia lo vivido, sino de auto-leerse para entender el presente. Es un recuerdo tormentoso en que observamos atentamente cómo un hombre experimenta el desajuste durante toda su vida, sin comprender por qué es tan distinto al resto. Se vive en carne propia la disidencia, la extranjería del cuerpo y el complejo entendimiento sobre la sexualidad. Es un enfrentarse a la cultura, que termina convirtiéndose en un espacio inhabitable.

El protagonista de la historia relata cómo, desde que era pequeño, se siente distinto a los demás jóvenes de su edad. Distinto por la atracción de este hacia su mismo sexo o por la convalecencia de su estado físico. Koo-Chan es un niño enclenque que no logra sentirse parte de una cultura que impone ciertas conductas. Y por tal razón, se autoexilia en sí mismo, porque su identidad es una subjetividad aún no trazada en el conocimiento compartido del Japón del siglo XX.

Al menos, para mí, los personajes de Omi y Sonoko son los más fieles representantes de la tradición y la moral. En Omi se vierte esa masculinidad prototípica que obsesiona y enamora al narrador, de igual manera que en Sonoko se deposita la virtud femenina, lo cual queda claro al momento en que esta insinúa que quiere casarse. La virilidad y la comunión matrimonial son los cuchillos afilados de una cultura que pesa sobre los hombros de Koo-Chan.

Algo aparte que me gustó de esta novela fue el erotismo que impregnan algunas escenas. Mishima gusta, y mucho, y sabía cómo crear esas atmósferas de contención entre lo espiritual y lo carnal. Sabe que queremos más de lo segundo, pero nos contiene hasta la última página.
Profile Image for Sidharth Vardhan.
Author 23 books687 followers
December 22, 2017
Mishima's attempt at portrayal of homosexuality gives only mix tesults. The generalisations made about himsexuals makes one want to throw the book. If you can ignore those couple of sentences though, it is an intresting portrayal of psychology of a a homosexual person living in a society where homosexuals are not supposed to exist. Intresting because I don't always find the author agreeable.

The segregation of sexes that is made in schools and colleges and jails is probably made with aim of keeping people from having sex - but aren't they presuming that all children are hetrosexuals ? Our narrator studies in one such boys' school. His constant efforts at denials and pretending to be a straight person is one of the two themes of novel.

The other theme is that of war. In a way, our 'mask' is a war child. Born and raised amid wars, taught in millitary schools. And thus has an obsession with death. An obsession perhaps common to his generation in Japan. That was raised to be soldiers - including the famous suicide bombers.

It not so much shocking then that he should find a sexual satisfaction in sadism and death.
Profile Image for Hazal Çamur.
172 reviews202 followers
January 27, 2020
Yazarla ilk kez 2019’da Denizi Yitiren Denizci ile tanışmıştım. Rahatsız edici bir güzelliği vardı. Japonlar’ın animelerinde rastladığım hem insanı irkilten hem de gözünüzü ayıramama durumuna sahipti. Bir Maskenin İtirafları ise bu bakımdan Denizi Yitiren Denizci’yi geçiyor.

Bir büyüme hikayesini okuyoruz. Bir yandan kendi eşcinsel kimliğini keşfeden ve (henüz) onu nasıl yorumlayacağını bilemeyen bir çocuk büyüyor, diğer yanda aşk ve cinsellik her defasında ölümle yüceltiliyor.

Başkarakter bu cinsel kimlik arayışında öyle hayaller kuruyor ki Mindhunter ekibine konu olacak az sonra dedirtti bana. Neyse ki bu hayaller uygulamaya geçmiyor.

Kitabı okuyacaklara burada durup bir tavsiyede bulunmak isterim: yazarın nasıl öldüğünü etraflıca okuyun derim. Çünkü yazarın hayatını okuyunca benim 2 kitabında da karşılaştığım ve söylenene göre diğer kitaplarında da belli bir yer tutan ölümün her çeşidi ve ona yapılan güzelleme başka bir anlam kazanıyor.

Özellikle başkarakter üzerine derin düşüncelere sürükleyen, ölümün kıyısında bir büyüme hikayesi.
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