Confessions of a Mask

by Yukio Mishima

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Critical Context

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Published when Mishima was twenty-four, Confessions of a Mask created a sensation and propelled its author to the forefront of the Japanese literary scene. The novel belongs to the widely practiced genre of the Japanese “I novel” (shi shosetsu), about whose authenticity, fictitiousness, and artistry there has been much debate in Japan. In this context, Mishima’s very title for his book suggests an ironic deconstruction of its genre. Confessions are candid; masks are not. How honest, then, can be the confessions of a mask (not of the man behind the mask)? Furthermore, Yukio Mishima is the author’s pseudonym, a name which masks the author. Yet Mishima’s unflinching use of unsavory and unflattering details in this work would seem to challenge other I novelists to greater heights of authenticity. In the wider context of world literature, parallels to Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis (1905) or Andre Gide’s L’Immoraliste (1902; The Immoralist, 1930) come to mind, but it must be said that Mishima’s novel suffers by comparison to Gide’s, which casts its net more inclusively over larger social and ethical issues.

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