I’ve heard of Yukio Mishima’s suicide by seppuku long before I’ve read this book and if I were to base it from that and what I’ve just read, I think that he is not a very happy man.
Confessions of a Mask is Mishima’s beautifully-written semi-autobiography about self-awareness and loneliness. It gives us an insight of Mishima’s youth — a homosexual confessing about his life — his fears, obsessions, and how it is to live wearing a mask while searching for answers why he is the way he is. He also mentions about how he fantasizes about the bodies of men (martyrs), warfare and death.
Mishima has a way with words. I enjoyed the playful descriptions he mentioned about his childhood and the pages where he first realized his sexuality and first love. I think this is why the first pages/chapters of the book made me quite interested in reading this, though it took me a while to finish.
Probably the most appalling confession for me in this book was the part where Kochan, our main character, mentioned about how Guido Reni’s painting of St. Sebastian’s martyrdom triggered his immense sexual feelings. This painting was something Mishima carried with him even as an adult as he posed as St. Sebastian in photographs, shot dead with arrows. (It didn’t quite surprise me to find out later that it was the same painting that caused him his first ejaculation.)
This is a good book as it did a great job depicting the story of an adolescent in Japanese society after realizing he is gay and therefore needs to wear a mask to hide his true self in a society that doesn’t understand the likes of him.
This is only my first Mishima read but I think he is an interesting man albeit not a happy one. I hope to read more of his books.
Rating : 4/5 stars
Quotable Quotes :
“There is no virtue in curiosity. In fact, it might be the most immoral desire a man can possess.”
“What I wanted was to die among strangers, untroubled, beneath a cloudless sky. And yet my desire differed from the sentiments of that ancient Greek who wanted to die under the brilliant sun. What I wanted was some natural, spontaneous suicide. I wanted a death like that of a fox, not yet well versed in cunning, that walks carelessly along a mountain path and is shot by a hunter because of its own stupidity…”
“But I had deliberately acquired the habit of closing my eyes even to such obvious assumptions, just as though I did not want to miss a single opportunity for tormenting myself. This is a trite device, often adopted by persons who, cut off from all other means of escape, retreat into the safe haven of regarding themselves as objects of tragedy.”
“True pain can only come gradually. It is exactly like tuberculosis in that the disease has already progressed to a critical stage before the patient becomes aware of its symptoms.”
“Life struck us as being a strangely volatile thing. It was exactly as though life were a salt lake from which most of the water had suddenly evaporated, leaving such a heavy concentration of salt that our bodies floated buoyantly upon its surface.”