Confessions of a Mask is Yukio Mishima’s second novel which is thought to be heavily biographical and gained him recognition as brilliant young writer. The story centers on Kochan, a boy growing up in Imperial Japan during WWII. From a young age he realizes he is a homosexual yet forces himself to pass as a heterosexual in the Right-wing militaristic society. Kochan has a perverse fascination with death. From a young age he fantasizes about how he will die. As he becomes a young adult these fantasies take on a darkly erotic tone that interweaves death and sexuality. The struggle of fighting his true nature results in a deeply agitated state of mind which Mishima conveys masterfully. The majority of the story plays out in the backdrop of Japan’s final years before the atomic bombs lead to the unconditional surrender.
This is a heavily psychological book that is concerned with death, eroticism, polite society, emotional secretiveness, and inner conflict. The story is told as a thoroughly written confession in the form of a long letter. The strong emphasis on isolation and use of interior monologue reminded me of J.D Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. Mishima’s exploration of human sexuality and isolation is tuned at a fever pitch that many writers have never reached in their works. There are a few memorable statements about the absurdity of war, yet I would not say there is an anti-war theme. The anxiety of war is presented clearly in lives of all the characters involved.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in books that push the limits of literature and societal norms. This book is definitely not an easy going read. It is a disturbing novel that will agitate even seasoned readers. Mishima’s use of language is impressive. Each word is carefully selected to create a written style that is direct, profound, and confronts the reader unwaveringly. This is the fifth book I’ve read from Mishima and I have yet to read anything that hasn’t left a lasting imprint in my mind. I would go as far to say that a person could choose any of Mishima’s works, blind folded, with perfect confidence of selecting a literary treasure. I am planning on reviewing Mishima’s entire collection.