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Yukio Mishima: Japanese Literature’s Samurai Kurt Cobain (NSFW)
06.23.2013
12:26 pm

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Yukio Mishima
Yukio Mishima: Japanese Literature’s Samurai Kurt Cobain (NSFW)


  
In his memoir Confessions of a Mask (certainly the only book I’ve ever read describable as “Proust meets Jeffrey Dahmer”), the great Japanese writer and all-round rum fucker Yukio Mishima is kind enough to share the precise circumstances of his first orgasm…

It arrived, or better yet arose, when he saw, browsing a volume of art reproductions in his father’s study, Reni’s “St Sebastian,” undoubtedly one of the more louche and insouciant evocations of Christian martyrdom (paid conspicuous tribute to in the above image), and enough to give Mishima his full sexual awakening, concurrently instigating a full-blown sexual and aesthetic obsession with death and sadomasochism that would ineluctably lead, decades later, to Mishima’s own Sepukku (ritual suicide by disemboweling; better known in the west as Harakiri) in 1970, following a failed attempt to lead a military uprising.

Considering his lifelong and highly eroticized preoccupation, it’s easy to imagine that this attempted coup d’état was only really ever meant to provide a pretext for the suicide itself. It was probably one of the strangest occurrences in literary history. Along with four members of the Tatenokai, a Japanese private militia, Mishima (a man, incidentally, who revered writers like Baudelaire, Dostoevsky, Proust…) unveiled a banner and manifesto at Ichigaya Camp, the Tokyo headquarters of the Eastern Command of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, but his speech was met with mocking laughter by the soldiers. This rejection, though, allowed the comrades to get down to the good bit: disemboweling themselves and decapitating one another. Mishima had been planning this meticulously for a year, but had clearly been fantasizing about it for a lifetime—shades here of Kurt Cobain, whose childhood diaries announce an intention to become the world’s biggest rock star and then take his own life.

Still, though, Sepukku. I can barely read the Wikipedia page without falling out my chair. (Hey, my cat just obligingly caught a mouse he’s been after for about a year and a half, ripped it in two, and left mouse intestine strung across the kitchen linoleum. Cheers, Kit Bear!) I was certainly unable to remain in my chair for the half-hour duration of the following 1966 film, Mishima’s only one, Yûkoku (“Patriotism”) or The Rite of Love and Death, directed by and staring Mishima himself, and based on the almost unreadable short story of the same name. It is essentially an elaborate and idealized rehearsal for the way he would later meet his own death. I watched it on my tip-toes, with regular yelps and howls.

Although the short film was normally screened with the accompaniment of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, the following version—the only one with the film’s proper 3:4 aspect ratio and English titles on YouTube—was scored by musician Aaron Embry. It’s strong stuff, and also—like the rest of Mishima’s writing and life—utterly mesmerizing. (If you are new to Mishima, maybe skip down first to watch the engrossing English interview with him below.)
 

 

Posted by Thomas McGrath
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