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Yukio Mishima

Mishima, Yukio (yōˈkēō mĭshˈēmä) [key], 1925–70, Japanese author, b. Tokyo. His original name was Kimitake Hiraoka and he was born into a samurai family. Mishima wrote novels, short stories, essays, and plays. He appeared on stage in some of his plays as well as directing and starring in films. During World War II he worked in an aircraft factory. Upon graduation (1947) from Tokyo Univ., he served a brief time in the finance ministry before devoting himself entirely to writing. Mishima and the youthful members of his Tatenokai [Shield Society] practiced physical fitness and the ancient arts of the samurai, e.g., karate and swordsmanship, attempting to return to the ideals of Japan under Imperial rule. His tetralogy The Sea of Fertility traces the fading of the old Japan in the first decade of the 20th cent. and continues through the aftermath of World War II. The individual novels of this group are: Spring Snow (tr. 1972), Runaway Horses (tr. 1973), The Temple of Dawn (tr. 1973), and The Decay of the Angel (tr. 1974). Other important novels include the semiautobiographical Confessions of a Mask (1949; tr. 1958); The Sound of Waves (1954; tr. 1956), a simple love story of a boy and girl in a Japanese fishing village; The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (1956; tr. 1963), a brilliant depiction of a psychopathic monk who destroys the temple he loves; After the Banquet (1960; tr. 1963), the story of a successful businesswoman who marries an aging politician and attempts to restore his former glory; and the allegorical tale The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea (1963; tr. 1965). All contain paradoxes: beauty equated with violence and death; the yearning for love and its rejection when offered; plus an exquisite attention to detail in the delineation of character. After an unsuccessful demonstration in which he harangued the Japanese self-defense forces for their lack of power under the Japanese constitution, Mishima committed ritual suicide ( seppuku ).

See biographies by J. Nathan (1974) and H. S. Stokes (1975).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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