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200 × 130 × 16 mm
256 pages
37 illustrations
01 Jul 2014
Critical Lives

Yukio Mishima Damien Flanagan

Yukio Mishima was the most internationally acclaimed Japanese author of the twentieth century: prodigiously talented, dazzlingly prolific and a prime candidate for the Nobel Prize. Yet in 1970 Mishima shocked the world with a bizarre attempt at a coup d’état, which ended in his suicide by ritual disembowelment.

In his radically new analysis of an extraordinary life, Damian Flanagan moves away from the stereotypical depiction of Mishima as a right-wing nationalist and aesthete and presents him as a man utterly obsessed with time – time-keeping devices and symbols – arguing that this compulsion was at the heart of the author’s literature and life.

This book untangles the frequent distortions in the writer’s memoirs, which have often been taken at face value, and traces the evolution of Mishima’s attempts to master and transform both his sexuality and artistic persona. Though often perceived as a solitary protest figure, this book shows how Mishima was very much in tune with post-war culture: taking up bodybuilding and becoming a model and actor in the 1950s; adopting the themes of contemporary political scandals in his work; courting English translators and even becoming influenced by the student protests and hippy subculture of the late 1960s. Yet while being in thrall to the modern world, the flip side of Mishima’s personality – his hidden neuroses and the traumas of his youth – continually pushed him towards a firm rejection of modern Japan and his explosive final act of self-annihilation.

‘Part of the originality of Damian Flanagans latest work rests in its approach to time, the author contending that a unique approach to the temporal was a key factor in Mishimas life and death . . . Flanagans stylishly written literary biography comes closer than most to understanding the enigma of Yukio Mishima.’ — Japan Times

‘an excellent introduction to Mishimas life and work . . . Flanagan provides deft plot summaries and sensitive readings of Mishima's fiction and deploys a wide array of Japanese sources currently unavailable in English, producing a rich portrait of this very strange and complicated man.’ — Gay and Lesbian Review

‘a fine introduction to the life and times of Yukio Mishima, the most internationally acclaimed Japanese author and playwright of the twentieth century . . . Flanagan is willing to tread where others have been more guarded and pulls few punches while analysing Mishimas character . . . a thoughtful and engaging re-evaluation. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Mishima, Japanese literature, modern history, psychology and queer studies.’ — Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies

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Damian Flanagan is an award-winning author and translator who has published a number of books on Japanese literature, including Natsume Soseki: Superstar of World Literature (2007). He has also written widely on Japanese politics, arts and society for publications including Newsweek and the Nihon Keizai Shinbun.

1. Japan in the Age of Mishima
2. Macrocosm and Microcosm
3. A Mask Facing Inwards
4. Sentenced to Live
5. Mishima a la Mode
6. Nihil
7. Seas of Controversy
8. The Faustian Pact
9. Battle against Time
10. Time and Mr Mishima
A Note on Japanese Names
Select Bibliography