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Yukio Mishima (b. 1925) was a brilliant writer and intellectual whose relentless obsession with beauty, purity, and patriotism ended in his astonishing self-disembowelment and decapitation in downtown Tokyo in 1970. Nominated for the Nobel Prize, Mishima was the best-known novelist of his time (works like Confessions of a Mask and The Temple of the Golden Pavilion are stil Yukio Mishima (b. 1925) was a brilliant writer and intellectual whose relentless obsession with beauty, purity, and patriotism ended in his astonishing self-disembowelment and decapitation in downtown Tokyo in 1970. Nominated for the Nobel Prize, Mishima was the best-known novelist of his time (works like Confessions of a Mask and The Temple of the Golden Pavilion are still in print in English), and his legacy—his persona—is still honored and puzzled over. Who was Yukio Mishima really? This, the first full biography to appear in English in almost forty years, traces Mishima's trajectory from a sickly boy named Kimitake Hiraoka to a hard-bodied student of martial arts. In detail it examines his family life, the wartime years, and his emergence, then fame, as a writer and advocate for traditional values. Revealed here are all the personalities and conflicts and sometimes petty backbiting that shaped the culture of postwar literary Japan. Working entirely from primary sources and material unavailable to other biographers, author Naoki Inose and translator Hiroaki Sato together have produced a monumental work that covers much new ground in unprecedented depth. Using interviews, social and psychological analysis, and close reading of novels and essays, Persona removes the mask that Mishima so artfully created to disguise his true self. Naoki Inose, currently vice governor of Tokyo, has also written biographies of writers Kikuchi Kan and Osamu Dazai. New York–based Hiroaki Sato is an award-winning translator of classical and modern Japanese poetry, and also translated Mishima's novel Silk and Insight.


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Yukio Mishima (b. 1925) was a brilliant writer and intellectual whose relentless obsession with beauty, purity, and patriotism ended in his astonishing self-disembowelment and decapitation in downtown Tokyo in 1970. Nominated for the Nobel Prize, Mishima was the best-known novelist of his time (works like Confessions of a Mask and The Temple of the Golden Pavilion are stil Yukio Mishima (b. 1925) was a brilliant writer and intellectual whose relentless obsession with beauty, purity, and patriotism ended in his astonishing self-disembowelment and decapitation in downtown Tokyo in 1970. Nominated for the Nobel Prize, Mishima was the best-known novelist of his time (works like Confessions of a Mask and The Temple of the Golden Pavilion are still in print in English), and his legacy—his persona—is still honored and puzzled over. Who was Yukio Mishima really? This, the first full biography to appear in English in almost forty years, traces Mishima's trajectory from a sickly boy named Kimitake Hiraoka to a hard-bodied student of martial arts. In detail it examines his family life, the wartime years, and his emergence, then fame, as a writer and advocate for traditional values. Revealed here are all the personalities and conflicts and sometimes petty backbiting that shaped the culture of postwar literary Japan. Working entirely from primary sources and material unavailable to other biographers, author Naoki Inose and translator Hiroaki Sato together have produced a monumental work that covers much new ground in unprecedented depth. Using interviews, social and psychological analysis, and close reading of novels and essays, Persona removes the mask that Mishima so artfully created to disguise his true self. Naoki Inose, currently vice governor of Tokyo, has also written biographies of writers Kikuchi Kan and Osamu Dazai. New York–based Hiroaki Sato is an award-winning translator of classical and modern Japanese poetry, and also translated Mishima's novel Silk and Insight.

30 review for Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima

  1. 4 out of 5

    David

    This is comprehensive (want to know which shows he caught whilst in New York?) and not totally enthralled with the fact that he's going to cut his stomach open at the end, which makes a nice change. Sato and Inose seemed happy to challenge some (self-)myths, and without gloating: "if his first visit to kabuki took place in October 1938, as it was supposed to, Natsuko managed to take him to kabuki only a couple of times before she died." At times like this it felt like the literary equivalent of do This is comprehensive (want to know which shows he caught whilst in New York?) and not totally enthralled with the fact that he's going to cut his stomach open at the end, which makes a nice change. Sato and Inose seemed happy to challenge some (self-)myths, and without gloating: "if his first visit to kabuki took place in October 1938, as it was supposed to, Natsuko managed to take him to kabuki only a couple of times before she died." At times like this it felt like the literary equivalent of doing that *bullshit* cough. Which is what Mishima needs, isn't it? "Hmm. I wonder if I have some homosexual elements in me," he's saying in an interview in 1970. It could have been a bit more gossipy and I still think we're hiding stuff from Yoko. Or she's hiding stuff from us. Niggles: - for £25, I would have expected a few photographs. And ones I haven't seen before. - Until he publishes new translations, I really feel that Sato must stick with what we have for titles and character's names. So the book is "Runaway Horses" and not "The Runaway Horse", and the character in "The Temple of Dawn" is Ying Chan, not Jin Jan. Etc. OK? Fun: "in the vanguard of the Occupation forces, he had famously amazed the gathered reporters with his first question, in Japanese, 'Is Uzaemon doing well?' Virtually no Japanese expected a US military officer to speak Japanese, let alone to be a fan of kabuki." Mishima really hated Osamu Dazai: "Mishima pointed to Dazai's insufficient knowledge of the speech and daily customs of aristocratic society when 'The Setting Sun' came out the next year." Interesting: "Oshima (Nagisa), it is said, had Mishima in mind as the model of Capt. Yonoi, the young, intense, homosexual, sword-brandishing commandant of the prison camp." I would add that the famous piece of music from "Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence" is called ... (drum roll) ... "Forbidden Colours": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kf0HYe... Funny: "The first production of 'A Wonder Tale: The Moonbow': 'was curiously amateur. It had lots of technical hitches; heavy objects crashed to the earth backstage; cast not knowing where to stand.' Morita on Mishima #1: "Mishima-sensei expressed admiration for my fighting spirit when he saw that my left leg had been broken, the day I arrived, late. Besides, we are both close-cropped and we at once liked each other (am I overstating?)" Morita on Mishima #2: "If Mishima doesn't do anything at this late date, I'll kill him."

  2. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    An expansive biography of Mishima, the first to appear in nearly forty years, Persona starts by exploring Mishima's ancestry both on his father and mother's sides, as well as telling Mishima's life the book goes into detail of illustrating historic and sociological changes within Japan during his life, which would influence his works and the formation of his thinking. Where as the authors of the previous biographies of Mishima can relate their personal relationships with Mishima Persona is afford An expansive biography of Mishima, the first to appear in nearly forty years, Persona starts by exploring Mishima's ancestry both on his father and mother's sides, as well as telling Mishima's life the book goes into detail of illustrating historic and sociological changes within Japan during his life, which would influence his works and the formation of his thinking. Where as the authors of the previous biographies of Mishima can relate their personal relationships with Mishima Persona is afforded with more of a detached view which offers the opportunity for some fresh perspectives. There is a larger emphasis on Mishima the playwright, the times he spent in New York are looked at in much detail, also his trips into Europe. The book offers a large and wide scope of cultural references giving a broad contextualization of his times and the literature of his period, his relationship with other writers, Kawabata, Hayashi Fusao and his infamous meeting with Dazai are recounted, and also there's a brief chapter on Mishima's essay on manga, among his favourite artists; Suiho Tagawa and Hiroshi Hirata, (Satsuma Gishiden). Persona presents us with the details and events of his life that we are familiar with and also supplies many details not given in the previous biographies, his sheer prolificness as a writer is fully illustrated, as well as exploring the writing of his novels and short stories, Persona provides a glimpse into his journalism, as well as to the degrees to which he researched his novels. A biography that will continue to fascinate after many re-readings.

  3. 4 out of 5

    George K. Ilsley

    Took me approximately forever, but finally made it through this. At times, this was a little too comprehensive. Some of the post-war history and the details of kabuki politics I could have done without, but perhaps other readers would be fascinated. One thing I did learn was how much Mishima was doing other than writing the books we in the west know about: writing letters, forwards, plays, commercial novels etc. And participating in the endless "taidan"— whatever the hell they were. And that brin Took me approximately forever, but finally made it through this. At times, this was a little too comprehensive. Some of the post-war history and the details of kabuki politics I could have done without, but perhaps other readers would be fascinated. One thing I did learn was how much Mishima was doing other than writing the books we in the west know about: writing letters, forwards, plays, commercial novels etc. And participating in the endless "taidan"— whatever the hell they were. And that brings us to the impenetrable aspects of this biography. It was not translated but was written in a form of english that is perhaps more familiar to a japanese language speaker. Some sentences were awkward, other made so sense whatsoever. At times I appreciated the glimpse into the japanese mind (as formed by language) and other times I wanted some simple clarity. Also lots of mistakes and wrong word choices. An airplane pilot is described as "steering" the plane (pilots do a bit more than that). During the final incident, the officer who is tied up watches as the events "enfolded". However, this is a massive effort. So lots of stars for that.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Dio

    Finally finished reading this fantastic biography of my favorite writer : Yukio Mishima. It would be complicated to do a more complete biography.

  5. 4 out of 5

    David DeBacco

    This is a HUGE read and covers every facet of Yukio Mishima's life. I've not read his entire body of works, but enough to say I'm well versed in his writing - But this book presents everything you will ever need to know about the life and times of Mishima. I feel like I just completed a college class on this author. This is a HUGE read and covers every facet of Yukio Mishima's life. I've not read his entire body of works, but enough to say I'm well versed in his writing - But this book presents everything you will ever need to know about the life and times of Mishima. I feel like I just completed a college class on this author.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Graham Wilhauk

    This was a decent biography, but it should have been amazing. Yukio Mishima is one of the most interesting figures in literature, in my honest opinion, and this biography both didn't give enough on one of the halves of him and gave PLENTY of information on the other half of him. The half it did well with was Mishima as an artist and a writer. If this biography promised only the life of Mishima AS A WRITER, than this may be the best biography I have ever read. It goes into detail about his career This was a decent biography, but it should have been amazing. Yukio Mishima is one of the most interesting figures in literature, in my honest opinion, and this biography both didn't give enough on one of the halves of him and gave PLENTY of information on the other half of him. The half it did well with was Mishima as an artist and a writer. If this biography promised only the life of Mishima AS A WRITER, than this may be the best biography I have ever read. It goes into detail about his career and his thought process about how his novels were received. I personally loved that part of the book. However, this book failed to do the MAIN thing I was looking for it to do. Showcase the political side of him. This novel went into the BARE BASICS about the political side of Mishima. It went in depth with it when it correlates with his work, mainly with his story "Patriotism," and his death. However, it BARELY scrapped the surface with his political views, way of thinking, morals, opinions, and extremist actions. That was what I was looking for in this biography and I just got stuff I already knew. I wanted to KNOW Mishima as a man after reading this and I am coming out of this book only knowing him as a writer and not a strong political mind. I am a little bit mad that this book didn't deliver what I wanted, but I am more disappointed more than anything. In short, "Persona" is far from a great biography. It has great aspects to it. It explains his death in GRIM yet brilliant detail and I got to know more about his career. However, I still feel like a stranger to Mishima the MAN even after reading 750 pages about him. So, I didn't love this. If you are a HARDCORE fan of Mishima and want to know more about his work, than I would recommend this. Everyone else, it isn't worth it. I am giving this one a 3 out of 5 stars.

  7. 5 out of 5

    M.R. Dowsing

    This mammoth biography is well-written, insightful and seems to be mostly very well-researched - I say mostly, because I noticed a couple of glaring errors. Namely, the book states that Mishima appeared in a film entitled 'Kill!', directed by Hideo Gosha. The film was actually entitled 'Hitokiri' and was also known as 'Tenchu!', while 'Kill!' is a completely different film directed by Kihachi Okamoto and without Mishima. It is also stated that it was Gosha's first film, whereas it was in fact hi This mammoth biography is well-written, insightful and seems to be mostly very well-researched - I say mostly, because I noticed a couple of glaring errors. Namely, the book states that Mishima appeared in a film entitled 'Kill!', directed by Hideo Gosha. The film was actually entitled 'Hitokiri' and was also known as 'Tenchu!', while 'Kill!' is a completely different film directed by Kihachi Okamoto and without Mishima. It is also stated that it was Gosha's first film, whereas it was in fact his eighth. The book is very long and you get the impression that the authors have included all of their research. I understand the temptation to do this as I have written a biography myself and, in retrospect, I think I was also guilty of including too much research, although hopefully not to this extent. Despite these caveats, most of the content is interesting, and I would say 'Persona' is essential reading for anyone with a deep interest in Mishima or Japan. On the other hand, those with a more casual interest in the author may prefer to read either the John Nathan biography or the Henry Scott-Stokes one.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Locky

    Mishima is one of my favourite writers, so when I saw that there was a long biography about him published (or republished) fairly recently, I had to read it. 'Persona' is an extensive - and I mean extensive - look into the entirety of Mishima's life from beginning to end. It also details the historical and sociopolitical aspects of Japan during Mishima's time. I feel it gives a fair look into what Mishima was about. He was a mighty complex character, but I couldn't recommend this book in good fait Mishima is one of my favourite writers, so when I saw that there was a long biography about him published (or republished) fairly recently, I had to read it. 'Persona' is an extensive - and I mean extensive - look into the entirety of Mishima's life from beginning to end. It also details the historical and sociopolitical aspects of Japan during Mishima's time. I feel it gives a fair look into what Mishima was about. He was a mighty complex character, but I couldn't recommend this book in good faith to anyone but the most dedicated fans of Mishima. There's simply too much unnecessary information. The book seems like it's 40% about Mishima himself, and 60% about the lives and times of people who had been in contact with him. I don't need the entire publishing history of a magazine that he once read, or who produced and acted in the various plays he saw in NYC. If you want to understand Mishima, read his works instead, particularly Sun and Steel, Confessions of a Mask and his Sea of Fertility Tetralogy.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Robert Patterson

    An important new biography on Mishima.¥ Some quick notes on this encyclopedic tomb: - The first biography on Mishima in 40 years. - Incredible sourcing , working of primary documents, interviews, sourcese tc. Almost impossibly well documented covering everything from 1960s Japanese politics, Kabuki theater, gay culture in Japan, classical Indian mysticism, The Yakuza, etc all with reference to Mishima. Probably one of the last centuries most complex figures. The range of his influences and knowledg An important new biography on Mishima.¥ Some quick notes on this encyclopedic tomb: - The first biography on Mishima in 40 years. - Incredible sourcing , working of primary documents, interviews, sourcese tc. Almost impossibly well documented covering everything from 1960s Japanese politics, Kabuki theater, gay culture in Japan, classical Indian mysticism, The Yakuza, etc all with reference to Mishima. Probably one of the last centuries most complex figures. The range of his influences and knowledge is absolutely mesmerizing. Thorough to say the least. - Written by Naoki Inose former Vice Governor of Tokyo - important alone to understand Japan's conservative politics and sources. I wish unlike other biographies there was more reasoning on why Inose was writing this book. There is no personal voice in this biography. Ultimately it will serve as a basis for essays, new thoughts on this complex universal character.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Franger_L

    It took me a millennium to finish this book. Vast details, great understanding and empathy on Mishima make this book a perfect biography. It is such a pity that Sato has not written too much on Modern Noh Plays and Spring Snow. However, he did inspire me a lot on Mishima's view towards Nihilisim and Totalitarianism. It's so good to come back to Goodreads, I've been desperately eager to read comments on Goodreads since China blocked the website. It took me a millennium to finish this book. Vast details, great understanding and empathy on Mishima make this book a perfect biography. It is such a pity that Sato has not written too much on Modern Noh Plays and Spring Snow. However, he did inspire me a lot on Mishima's view towards Nihilisim and Totalitarianism. It's so good to come back to Goodreads, I've been desperately eager to read comments on Goodreads since China blocked the website.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Laurel

    One of the most challenging yet rewarding non-fiction books I've ever read. Incredibly comprehensive, both with regards Mishima's own life and the political and cultural worlds around him. Persona is respectful, yet challenges those myths which both sprang up around Mishima and were carefully cultivated by him. One of the most challenging yet rewarding non-fiction books I've ever read. Incredibly comprehensive, both with regards Mishima's own life and the political and cultural worlds around him. Persona is respectful, yet challenges those myths which both sprang up around Mishima and were carefully cultivated by him.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Louis

    At first glance this is a refreshingly chronological biography, but this is not entirely true. While other biographies, written by non-Japanese biographers, open with death and pull back to view the life leading up to it, Inose and Sato open with what Mishima could have become, and go back to investigate why he didn't. A brick I had to rush through at the end (it's an interloan and it's due back tomorrow), exceptionally detailed but still won't justify why no one else has bothered to translate K At first glance this is a refreshingly chronological biography, but this is not entirely true. While other biographies, written by non-Japanese biographers, open with death and pull back to view the life leading up to it, Inose and Sato open with what Mishima could have become, and go back to investigate why he didn't. A brick I had to rush through at the end (it's an interloan and it's due back tomorrow), exceptionally detailed but still won't justify why no one else has bothered to translate Kyoko's House.

  13. 5 out of 5

    John

    The definitive biography of Mishima in English, by an author who actually knew him, correcting some of the myths about the Japanese author's life and death, and revealing plenty of new information. Highly recommended. The definitive biography of Mishima in English, by an author who actually knew him, correcting some of the myths about the Japanese author's life and death, and revealing plenty of new information. Highly recommended.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Yukio Mishima (b. 1925) was a brilliant writer and intellectual whose relentless obsession with beauty, purity, and patriotism ended in his astonishing self-disembowelment and decapitation in downtown

  15. 5 out of 5

    Will E

    Great biography, check out my review at Three Percent: http://www.rochester.edu/College/tran... Great biography, check out my review at Three Percent: http://www.rochester.edu/College/tran...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Elsa

    Had to call it a day on this 1000 page doorstopper. While Mishima fascinates me, this was just too much exhaustive detail. Maybe try again after I retire.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    I skimmed a large portion of this book, because I've renewed it 9 times from the library and it needs to go back. Translation a little stilted at times, but genuinely fascinating. I skimmed a large portion of this book, because I've renewed it 9 times from the library and it needs to go back. Translation a little stilted at times, but genuinely fascinating.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Solly

  19. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Fried

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  21. 5 out of 5

    Carlos Irizarry

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tegan

  23. 4 out of 5

    Anna

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jill

  25. 5 out of 5

    Marek_soszynski

  26. 4 out of 5

    Akhila Singha

  27. 5 out of 5

    Thaina

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alexander

  29. 5 out of 5

    Anders Christensson

  30. 5 out of 5

    Juampi

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