Fifteen years after his death Mishima is everywhere. Penguin has just brought out Hagakure, Mishima's idiosyncratic interpretation of the 18th-century code of samurai ethics, and The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima by Henry Scott Stokes, and Secker and Warburg Mishima's tetralogy, The Sea of Fertility, in one attractive volume. At this year's Cannes Film Festival an American film, Mishima, by Paul Schrader caused considerable controversy; and in the spring I saw in Paris Jean-Louis Barrault's company performing Mishima's Modern Noh Plays, beautifully translated by Marguerite Yourcenar and directed with iconoclastic verve by Maurice Béjart. I could not be better pleased. What fun for Mishima, watching all this fuss from somewhere in his reincarnation. The last time I saw him, eight months before his death, he said: 'The Japanese will never forgive me; I embarrass them. The Westerners won't be able to understand me and as a consequence will make a fuss of me. What fun.' Then came that raucous, jarring belly laugh of his, which never failed to startle new acquaintances. It was the exaggerated samurai guffaw that Mishima - born a sickly, puny infant, spoilt and terrorised by his overpowering grandmother - had adopted as a symbol of virility and, as with every other camouflage, red-herring or artifice he chose in later life, had stuck to with superhuman discipline.
LRB 1 August 1985 | PDF Download