Tuesday 24 January 2023

Book Review: Death in Midsummer and Other Stories by Mishima Yukio (Modern Classics)

Title: Death in Midsummer and Other Stories
Author: Mishima Yukio
Publisher: New Directions
Publication Date: 2015 (1953)
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Genre: Modern Classic
Source: Xmas Gift

Recognized throughout the world for his brilliance as a novelist and playwright, Yukio Mishima is also noted as a master of the short story in his native Japan, where the form is practiced as a major art. Nine of his finest stories were selected by Mishima himself for translation in this book; they represent his extraordinary ability to depict, with deftness and penetration, a wide variety of human beings in moments of significance. Often his characters are sophisticated modern Japanese who turn out to be not so liberated from the past as they had thought.

In the title story, "Death in Midsummer," which is set at a beach resort, a triple tragedy becomes a cloud of doom that requires exorcising. In another, "Patriotism," a young army officer and his wife choose a way of vindicating their belief in ancient values that is as violent as it is traditional; it prefigured his own death by seppuku in November 1970. There is a story in which the sad truth of the relationship between a businessman and his former mistress is revealed through a suggestion of the unknown, and another in which a working-class couple, touching in their simple love for each other, pursue financial security by rather shocking means.

Also included is one of Mishima's "modern Nō plays," remarkable for the impact which its brevity and uncanny intensity achieve. The English versions have been done by four outstanding translators: Donald Keene, Ivan Morris, Geoffrey Sargent, and Edward Seidensticker.


Death in Midsummer and Other Stories was a varied collection of tales. Several I really liked, but others I found so-so. I personally prefer Mishima's longer-form works, but that's not to say there isn't something to take away from this anthology if you are already a fan of Mishima's writing and it might be a good place to start for those new to Mishima's works who are wary of leaping straight into a novel. Overall, this is a pleasing collection, especially since the stories are an eclectic mix of themes and styles. It gets 4 stars from me.

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