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Yukio Mishima

The most internationally acclaimed Japanese author of the twentieth century, Yukio Mishima (1925–70) was a prime candidate for the Nobel Prize. But the prolific author shocked the world in 1970 when he attempted a coup d’état that ended in his suicide by ritual disembowelment. In this radically new analysis of Mishima’s extraordinary life, Damian Flanagan deviates from the stereotypical depiction of a right-wing nationalist and aesthete, presenting the author instead as a man in thrall to the modern world while also plagued by hidden neuroses and childhood trauma that pushed him toward his explosive final act.
Flanagan argues that Mishima was a man obsessed with the concepts of time and “emperor,” and reveals how these were at the heart of his literature and life. Untangling the distortions in the writer’s memoirs, Flanagan traces the evolution of Mishima’s attempts to master and transform his sexuality and artistic persona. While often perceived as a solitary protest figure, Mishima, Flanagan shows, was very much in tune with postwar culture—he took up bodybuilding and became a model and actor in the 1950s, adopted the themes of contemporary political scandals in his work, courted English translators, and became influenced by the student protests and hippie subculture of the late 1960s. A groundbreaking reevaluation of the author, this succinct biography paints a revealing portrait of Mishima’s life and work.

256 pages | 5 x 7 7/8 | © 2014

Critical Lives

Biography and Letters

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“Part of the originality of Flanagan’s latest work rests in its approach to time, the author contending that a unique approach to the temporal was a key factor in Mishima’s life and death. . . . Flanagan’s stylishly written literary biography comes closer than most to understanding the enigma of Yukio Mishima.” 

Japan Times

“An excellent introduction to Mishima’s 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 Mishima’s 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

“For the Japanese, Mishima and his beliefs were  ‘grotesque anachronism.’ . . . This biography demonstrates, however, that aspects of Mishima’s life deserve celebration: his command of the language, his development of a Japanese drama, short story, and the confessional genre, . . . and his dovtion to and attempt to capture beauty—both in person and in writing.”

Times Literary Supplement

Table of Contents

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


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