Through A Glass Darkly…

The complicated life and work of Yukio Mishima has fallen under the spotlight once more. Mishima was born Kimitake Hiraoke in Japan in 1925. His alter ego was so much more than a mordant chronicler of twentieth century Japan. He was a true master of the dark arts within a literary sensibility.

His greatest influence came from the Decadent movement, Oscar Wilde in particular. He was fascinated by the amorality of Dorian Grey. Whereas Grey was an archetype, Mishima humanizes the most monstrous of characters. Mishima really gets under the skin of his characters. A less capable writer would represent villainy through cliché however he had a rare gift as he could empathise with the monster.

Mishima was a transgressive writer. In his work the world is just a façade, beneath this there is no beauty, no moral purpose and existence has little meaning besides being nasty, brutish and short. His characters are driven by lust and avarice and their souls are pitifully hollow.

There is a parallel which can be drawn between Mishimas fictional kingdom of monsters and the post Atom bomb fable of Godzilla. Within that tale the sea monster Godzilla emerges from deep beneath his lair to save the remaining humanity in his wake. Mishima`s characters redeem themselves in an unorthodox way. They are the mirror of a strict and militaristic society that has no room for feelings. This is where the reader arrives to invest hope and humanity into these nihilistic beings.

Mishima died in a ritual suicide in 1970. However now that we have access to his greatest works of fiction we can see how he wanted to transcend beyond the society and culture that he lived in. He is a literary legend who dared to delve into a world rarely traversed by other writers.

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