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The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima
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Manufacturer: Cooper Square Press
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Binding: Paperback
Dewey Decimal Number: 895.635
EAN: 9780815410744
ISBN: 0815410743
Label: Cooper Square Press
Manufacturer: Cooper Square Press
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 352
Publication Date: 2000-10-25
Publisher: Cooper Square Press
Studio: Cooper Square Press

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Editorial Reviews:

This incisive biography begins with the spectacularly tragic last day of the militant Japanese novelist, perhaps best known for his monumental four-book masterpiece The Sea of Fertility.

Spotlight customer reviews:

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: Samurai Re-visited
Comment: "The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima" by Henry Stokes is to say the least, an impressive study in abnormal human psychology, literary genius, and tragic insanity. Yukio Mishima was obvioulsy a man of many facets, and one of great complexities. Mishima appears to have viewed himeslf as an "elected angel of the gods" to resurrect the greatness of Imperial Japan. Even more evident were his perverse ideals of self, and..."love."

The book explores Mishima's twisted views of beauty and anachronoistic minglings between fantasy and reality; but always...always hinged on the obsession of death as the ultimate "savior of youth."

Yet, no matter how askewed or, twisted Mishima's ideas of resurrecting Yamato Damashii (Japanese fighting spirit), he was without a doubt; Poet and... Samurai.

The author seems to rely almost totally upon Mishima's main literary work: "Confessions of a Mask" to develope his understanding and psychoanalysis of this very complex personality. Although, the author knew Mishima his contact with him was overall, limited compared to others in Mishima's life. None the less, Mr. Stokes is able to give the reader an educated opinion of this extraordinary man who ended his failed coup d' etat by the only way Imperial Japan would have allowed...Hara-Kiri.


The book is somewhat indepth and requires some patience and on-going concentration. It is a unique book about a unique subject, and a unique individual. Well worth the price!!

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: A Standard Biography
Comment: The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima is, simply put, a definitive biography. Henry Scott Stokes knew the author about as well as anyone could. He accompanied Mishima and the members of the Shield Society to cover exercises the military group (formed by Mishima) carried out at Mt. Fuji in 1969 and knew him from 1966 until his suicide by hara-kiri in November 1970. Mr. Stokes includes a lot of detail concerning this training exercise, during which he met Mishima's disciple Morita, who committed hara-kiri with him just over a year later.

Mr. Stokes, being a noted journalist, provides an excellent approach to Mishima's life. At the outset, the sensational death of the artist is related in detail. I liked this approach because Mishima's life and work has been overshadowed by his death, so taking us through the ordeal allows us to concentrate on his life and learn soothing about what made him seek the death he did.

Also valuable is Mr. Stokes' residence in Japan, which gives him invaluable knowledge on Japanese society, giving us a background for many of Mishima's attitudes. The major literary works are explained in excellent detail with what Mr. Stokes considers minor works (such as "The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea") being only briefly mentioned. This fits well with the aim of the book: to provide an in-depth look at the forces that influenced Mishima. The Sea of Fertility cycle receives a great deal of attention. The book also has a chapter that discusses Mishima's reputation since his death. In this section Mr. Stokes draws some interesting conclusions about the relationship between Mishima and Morita.

I have also read John Nathan's biography of Yukio Mishima, which presents an excellent portrait of the writer, particularly in describing his literary career. However, I find it is Mr. Stokes' book that provides a more in-depth portrait of Mishima. I would still recommend Mr. Nathan's book as a highly readable biography. Mr. Stokes' book is very well written with great attention to detail and should not be missed by anyone seriously interested in who Yukio Mishima was and what drove him.

There is a useful glossary and a chronology of Mishima's life, and is illustrated with photographs and drawings.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: A fine biography complementary to another
Comment: Henry Scott Stokes' THE LIFE AND DEATH OF YUKIO MISHIMA is one of the few biographies in English of the Japanese novelist, whose 1970 death by seppuku after a failed coup d'etat is just as much a part of his legacy as his works.

Scott Stokes understands how Mishima's death overshadows all else, and he begins the work with a very detailed description of Mishima's failed coup and suicide, before going back to his birth and beginning his life stories. His book is based on few interviews; Scott Stokes feels that everything is already out there in written form and can be compacted for English readers. The description of Mishima's unsuccessful coup, for example, is based on records of the trial of the survivors.

Scott Stokes knew Mishima himself in the late 1960's, and was a keen observer of his political activity. He was even the only journalist to view training exercises of Mishima's private army. Because of this first-hand perspective, the latter portion of Mishima's life is told in great detail. Much less, satisfying, however, is his coverage of Mishima's earlier years, in which a large amount of detail is "reconstructed" from Mishima's semi-autobiographical work CONFESSIONS OF A MASK, a dubious approach. For a better view of Mishima's life prior to 1964, I'd recommend John Nathan's MISHIMA: A BIOGRAPHY, written by one of his translators who knew him early on, and to which Mishima's family contributed through personal interviews.

There is a wealth of information about Mishima's books, especially about his masterpiece "The Sea of Fertility" for which detailed summaries are given. I found this had a downside in that it spoiled the surprise ending of THE DECAY OF THE ANGEL for me, and I'd recommend reading that entire cycle, as well as other works which interest you, before coming to this biography.

While Scott Stokes autobiography has not been changed since the first edition in 1974, he has contributed an epilogue to the new Cooper Square Press edition which I feel is actually the strongest part of the book. Certainly necessary reading for Mishima fans. It shows how the perspective on Mishima's work has changed in the last quarter-century, and how many still consider him a fine writer, but fewer and fewer would actually consider him a genius. He also explains how the Japanese now perceive him, complaining that it is sad that Japan's post-literary culture of movies and manga has resulted in Mishima and his mentor Kawabata being nearly forgotten.

A curious matter about the life and death of Yukio Mishima is that the more one learns, the more questions one has. And nothing entirely suffices to explain the way he chose to end his life. Still, Scott Stokes does give some helpful clues. I'd recommend THE LIFE AND DEATH OF YUKIO MISHIMA to fans of the writer's work, as well as those who just marvel at the novelist's bizarre death. Pick up Nathan's biography at the same time, though.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: A Westerner's understanding of Japanese militance
Comment: I was a boy when the report came through on NBC Nightly News that Yukio Mishima had committed sepukku after a failed attempt to take control of Japan. They briefly described the mode of death, & how his second-in-command had also died.

This event was far outside the understanding of anyone in rural Minnesota, so my questions hung in the air. The best I could do was a short report & some big photos in LIFE. I found that Mishima had been considered a young literary lion, bringing Japan to a fascinating new fiction that impossibly synthesised classical writing with modern style.

The whole thing didn't make sense. It was like hearing that Jack Kerouac had also been a Brown Shirt -- nobody could reconcile for me Mishima the uniformed revolutionary with Mishima the sensitive author.

This book has helped bring me to a new conclusion: reconciliation is impossible. The author was a friend of Mishima, & possibly the only Westerner allowed into the funeral; he goes into great depth as only a friend (though somewhat baffled himself) could to show the paradoxes embodied, sometimes quite intentionally, within Mishima.

I appreciate that the story has been brought full circle, at least for me.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: Pretty good, I'd say.
Comment: The major point of discussion for reviewers of this book and of John Nathan's biography of Mishima seems to be "Which one is better?" Personally, I'd say neither. For those who were somewhat dissatisfied with the way Nathan glossed over certain things (like, oh, The Sea of Fertility), Scott-Stokes' book has a greater volume of information and a more consistent analysis of Mishima's literature. For instance, I don't recall Nathan having even mentioned Ba-ra-kei (which I intend to procure sometime in the future, now that I know of its existence) in passing; Scott-Stokes, on the other hand, includes it in the appropriate section of Mishima's life (there are four: Literature, Drama, Body and Action). Scott-Stokes also has the better analysis of Mishima's plays, with more quotes and a lengthier discussion.

However, as a whole I think I liked Nathan's work more. I really did not get why Scott-Stokes included the "dramatization" of the Mishima Incident (as the first scene, no less); it's bewilderingly out of place, though I admit that it does provide a good hook to lead into the rest of the book with. But that's emblematic of a larger problem; Scott-Stokes gives himself much greater license than Nathan did to theorize about Mishima's motivations and inner thoughts, and like all canonical examples of dubious reportage, his theories cite anonymous sources. Nor did I particularly appreciate his cavalier dismissal of a rather large part of Mishima's literature as subpar - in fact, unlike Nathan, he really doesn't even come across as an avid reader of Mishima, which would be fine if not for the fact that he decided to be the man's biographer.

If you're interested in Mishima, you're inevitably going to read this, but I recommend reading Nathan's biography first. This will arm you with a good bit of knowledge in advance, and will help you navigate through Scott-Stokes' "original" structure (his book starts with the last day of Mishima's life, then covers his childhood and then branches out into four directions). Scott-Stokes' book, then, will serve as a complement, filling in certain gaps.

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