If Haruki Murakami epitomizes modern Japanese literature, then the genre is too weird and eccentric for me. Dreamscape, wells, missing cats (and wives)… I feel so disjointed. So I have shifted my attention to Yukio Mishima, a Japanese author, poet, playwright, actor, and film director who was nominated three times for the Nobel Prize in Literature. But, his legendary death precedes his life. After a failed military rally Mishima committed ritualized suicide and cemented his position as staunchly conservative right-winger.
In 1955, Mishima (age 30) took up weight training and his workout regimen of three sessions per week was not disrupted for the final 15 years of his life. In his 1968 essay Sun and Steel, Mishima deplored the emphasis given by intellectuals to the mind over the body. Mishima later also became very skillful at kendo. Although it is known that he visited gay bars in Japan, Mishima’s sexual orientation annoyed his widow: she wanted that part of his life downplayed after his death. Forbidden Colours, which I’m reading at the moment, deals with this downplaying of homosexuality—except Mishima goes farther. An old novelist who has been scarred by three disastrous marriages finds his revenge machine a very handsome homosexual who will mete out punishment of the womankind. Mishima style is more embellished but not as disjointed as Murakami. He often weaves his philosophical view in his writing, the tucks and pleats of the prose. The story now really sneaks up on me as the protagonist carries on with both a wife and her husband. What is it about the Japanese that they are so obsessed with masochism? Misogyny is also a encroaching theme in this book. That it describes a marriage of a gay man to a young woman renders the novel somewhat autobiographical.