:: Article

On Yukio Mishima’s Star Being Made Available for The First Time in English

By Oscar Mardell.

Yukio Mishima, Star, translated by Sam Bett (New Directions, 2019)

Mishima, like Plath and Woolf,
Shelley and Hemingway,
de Nerval and Koestler and Mayakovsky,
is famous both for writing
and for dying:

for his rally against the sterility of the new,
for Confessions of a Mask and The Temple of Golden Steel,
and, of course, for The Sea of Fertility,
whose final instalment he had only just delivered;

for infiltrating a self-defence camp
not far from downtown Tokyo
with four of his private army
hopeful to restore the martial spirit;

for imploring a thousand servicemen
to overthrow the post-war constitution
which [still] forbids rearmament,
and, of course, for committing hara-kiri when they didn’t.

Or, strictly, for attempting hara-kiri:
the descending aorta
severed by the tantō,
the second failed in his duty,
and first and second had to be finished by a third.

Perhaps surprising, then,
is that Star
is about shooting a blockbuster:
not an Ozu or a Mizoguchi
but a cheap Yakuza flick.

Or perhaps not surprising,
when Mishima himself starred in Afraid to Die,
Yukoku, Black Lizard, and Hitokiri
and knew first-hand his subject,
the vapidity of fame.

Startling, either way,
is its lack of artifice:
few, simple words
yielding grace from pulp.

Narrative Western-style:
great pyramids of tedium
called Freytag’s, after some old German who figured
all stories were the same,
mausolea of sameness,
at whose pinnacles
the hero simply must have a change,
discover, ideally, she was actually his mum all along

Not so in Star,
whose pace is exponential
beginning with quiet humdrum,
breaking [perhaps he will kill himself] toward
rapidity [perhaps he will kill his girlfriend],
and ending when this hero,
very suddenly, kills no one,
returning to the same humdrum
full-circle, through the ensō.

Oscar Mardell

Oscar Mardell was born in London and raised in South Wales. He currently lives in an urban commune in Auckland, New Zealand where he brews beer and practices Aikido. He teaches in the English Department at St Mary’s College, and volunteers for English Language Partners NZ. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in War, Literature & the Arts, The Literary London Journal, and DIAGRAM.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, March 24th, 2019.