Saturday 4 April 2020

Book Review: Confessions of a Mask by Mishima Yukio (Modern Classics)

Title: Confessions of a Mask
Author: Mishima Yukio
Publisher: Penguin Classics

Publication Date: 2017 (1949)
Modern Classics
Bought Copy


A Japanese teenager is overcome with longing for his male classmate. He imagines his body punctured with arrows, like the body of St Sebastian in the painting that obsesses him. Over and over again, each night in his private fantasies, the objects of his lust are tortured, killed and maimed. But, in the rigid world of imperial wartime Japan there is no place for such transgressive desires. He must wear a false mask and hide his true nature, whatever the cost.

Confessions of a Mask is a fascinating, psychological, modernist study of a boy/teen trying to come to terms with his homosexuality and the fact he must hide his desires in order to conform to society's expectations. I do think the blurb is a little misleading. While the narrator does indulge in some sadomasochist fantasies it is nowhere near as gruesome as the blurb suggests and is not the principal focus of the work, so potential readers should not be put off by that. Recommended for readers who enjoy heavily introspective works of twentieth century fiction and those exploring older titles with LGBT themes and characters. This is not a happy book, but it is a thoughtful one and a beautifully rendered character study.

I only discovered Mishima a few months ago and this is now the third book of his I've read (I'm currently reading a fourth). He has absolutely become one of my favourite writers. I love his prose style and the deep themes he explores in his works.

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