Literary History: Yukio Mishima Remembered


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On this day in 1925, Kimitake Hiraoka (Yukio Mishima) was born. Considered to be one of the most influential Japanese writers of the twentieth century, he was nominated three times for the Pulitzer Prize for Literature.   Publishing across multiple genres and blending modern and traditional cultural arts, Mishima’s early work was known for its exploration of love and sexuality, and his later work known for its political commentary.

Some of his novels include Ai no kawaki (1950; Thirst for Love), Kinjiki (1954; Forbidden Colors), and Shiosai (1954; The Sound of Waves), Kinkaku-ji (1956; The Temple of the Golden Pavilion), Utage no ato (1960; After the Banquet), Hōjō no umi (1965–70; The Sea of Fertility, a four-volume epic), and his plays, written in the form of the Japanese Nō dramas, include Sado kōshaku fujin (1965; Madame de Sade) and Kindai nōgaku shu (1956; Five Modern Nōh Plays). He also wrote short stories and poetry.

His impressive lifetime of literary achievement was overshadowed by his tragic death in 1970 when he and four others attempted a coup d’état in Japan meant to restore power to the emporer. After being jeered by soldiers, Mishima committed seppuku (ritual suicide by disembowelment).  “Perfect purity is possible if you turn your life into a line of poetry written with a splash of blood.” ― Yukio Mishima, Runaway Horses 

Much of the world was shocked by the event and lamented the death of such a gifted writer.

-Caroline (Carrie) Fitzpatrick, Ph.D.

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