Acts of Worship (Magill's Literary Annual 1990)
Twenty years after his death, Yukio Mishima is probably still best known to the American public as the ultranationalist writer who, with much publicity, committed ritual suicide with another member of his right-wing paramilitary group, the Shield Society, in 1970. Although he is the author of numerous novels, plays, and short stories, his most widely read work of fiction is the short story “Patriotism,” which describes in excruciatingly graphic detail the ritual disembowelment of a Japanese military officer and the suicide of his young wife. The story is even more famous for the fact that Mishima made a film of it in which he played the role of the suicidal lieutenant.
In addition to being a filmmaker, a writer, and the organizer of a right-wing organization, Mishima was a student of the Japanese art of fencing known as kendo and a devotee of bodybuilding; in general, he fancied himself a living embodiment of the Japanese warrior code of the samurai. His fiction is often characterized by a mix of eroticism and violence and a male-dominated code of stoicism and pride for which the most obvious Western parallels are the masculine eroticism of D. H. Lawrence’s work and the tightlipped male bravery in that of Ernest Hemingway.
It is within this context of self-conscious posturing that the seven previously untranslated stories in Acts of Worship: Seven Stories can best be understood and justified, for the common denominator of most...
(The entire section is 1938 words.)
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