Death in Midsummer

Death in Midsummer and Other Stories
Yukio Mishima

Nine stories of various lengths are collected here, plus Dojoji, one of Mishima’s modern Noh plays. The stories that stood out to me are:

  • The Priest of Shiga Temple and His Love
    Heian period. And old, saintly priest catches a glimpse of the Great Imperial Concubine of Kyogoku. He immediately becomes infatuated with her and experiences once again feelings he had long thought conquered. He believes that all he needs to cure himself is a single meeting with her…
  • Onnagata
    We delve behind the kabuki stage and see the actor Mangiku through the eyes of his assistant Masuyama. Mangiku is an onnagata who specializes in female roles, and like many a drag queen, he is more attractive than a women. But what does Masuyama see in Mangiku?
  • Patriotism
    Just after the February 26th Incident, a young lieutenant of the Imperial troops is shocked to find that his closes colleagues are implicated in the mutiny. Worried that they might meet on opposite sides on the battlefield, he prepares for his ritual suicide – and his wife of six months with him.

Yukio Mishima is a fantastic writer, and even in translation, he creates images in the reader’s mind that put him directly next to the protagonist of the story. “Next to” is important here, because I feel that Mishima stays on the outside of his characters, a mere observer who doesn’t get emotionally invested. Whether this is by conscious choice or due to his own character, I do not know, it’s definitely not because of a lack of talent.

While Mishima is unequivocally lauded as exceptional author, as a person, he is more controversial, at least in Japan. The story “Patriotism” can be seen as a foreshadowing of Mishima’s own death: The staunch nationalist committed ritual suicide in 1975 after a failed attempt at a coup d’etat.

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