Patrick Caulfield, Lamp and Pines, 1975


Commentary on the book “The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima”, by Henry Scott Stokes

Interest in the work of Yukio Mishima (1925-1970), the pseudonym of Kimitake Hiraoka, is gaining more prominence every day, even more than fifty years after his death.

What I am commenting on here is an old and excellent book by the British journalist Henry Scott Stokes (1938-2022), correspondent for several English newspapers in Tokyo, originally published in 1974 and which served as subsidy for the film by Paul Schrader, Mishima: a life in four strokes (1985), produced by Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas.

Tokyo Military Headquarters, November 25, 1970, shortly after noon: Yokio Mishima, then the most famous contemporary Japanese writer, author of more than a hundred works (novels and plays), committed , along with her lover Morita, the seppuku, the ritual suicide of ancient samurai, known in the West as haraquiri. From that tragic outcome, Henry Scott Stokes researched for more than three years and elaborated seven versions of Mishima's biography.

Shortly after the writer's death, Henry Scott Stokes – who had become his friend since 1986 – reconstructed the meetings held between them, with the help of diaries and notes taken between 1988-1970. This material comprises the 30 pages of the “Prologue”, followed by the chapter “The Last Day”, in which an attempt is made to follow the last hours of Yokio Mishima's life. In the second chapter, “The Beginning of Life (1925-1939)”, Henry Scott Stokes focuses on examining the childhood, formal education and reading undertaken by the young Kimitake, the eldest son of an upper-middle-class family in Tokyo.

Chapter III, “The Creation of Yukio Mishima” (1940-1949)”, deals with the writer's training, explains the adoption of his pseudonym (1941), comments on the first works published in magazines, talks about the anguish experienced during the years of war and explores the young writer's connection with the movement entitled Nippon Roman-ha (The Japanese Romantics).

Generally speaking, the followers of this movement believed in the value of destruction and self-destruction. They valued the “purity of feelings” and demanded the “preservation of the homeland”, through the “purge of selfish partisan politicians and zaibatsus (entrepreneurs). They thought that self-destruction would precede reincarnation, mysteriously linked to the emperor's benevolence. They considered the Japanese race superior to all others.”

Mishima completed the course at Gakushuins (Colégio dos Nobres) in September 1944, winning a silver watch as a prize for graduating in the first place, offered by the emperor, having gone to receive it in the imperial palace. In October, he entered Tokyo Imperial University, but months later he was summoned to work at an aircraft factory. On the other hand, that same month he published The forest in full splendor, his first book.

Henry Scott Stokes writes the fourth chapter, “The Four Rivers (1950-1970), from the catalog of an exhibition dedicated to the life of Mishima (Tokyo, November 12 to 19, 1970), which divides his 45 years into four rivers : Literature, Theatre, Body and Action – all leading to the Sea of ​​Fertility, a literary tetralogy that occupied him for six years. Literary criticism is analyzed in three periods (1950-1954, 1955-1963 and 1964-1970), the rio Teatro is extremely enlightening in the sense of informing that Mishima wrote about 40 plays for theaters No (modern) and Kabuki and, in the river of action, one can locate the origin of a romantic idea that directly affects the eventual decision to commit suicide: “The notion that ultimate beauty consists in violent death, under the condition that it occurs in full youth” .

At the end of 1968, Mishima founded a kind of private militia, pondering that the war ended with the perfect balance between the chrysanthemum (the arts) and the saber (national defense), and from 1945 the saber was relegated to the forgetfulness. Thus, his ideal would be to restore balance, restore the samurai tradition through his literature and his attitudes. The militia, made up of young volunteers, would be a form of civil collaboration with the government, with the aim of defending the country: “My ideal consists of giving Japan a military service system identical to the Swiss”.

Henry Scott Stokes laments that posterity will remember Mishima as a fascist agitator, as the way he died and the imperialist literary work he bequeathed to us indicate his sympathies for the extreme right. “He resorted to violence in the emperor's name; he tried to lead the country down the path of militarism, demanding that the monarch return to occupy an honorable position and the Constitution be reformed to consolidate the role of the Armed Forces under the aegis of the emperor, as before the War ”.

However, Stokes himself adds that he would prefer to remember and admire him as a novelist, as he spent his entire life writing plays and novels (after his death, the complete works came out in 36 volumes), even being considered until the end of the 1960s. XNUMX as a writer with vaguely leftist sympathies, as he "never expressed reactionary views before the last five years of his life". And more: his fame as a fiction writer in the West was well quoted at that time and the already mentioned tetralogy was pointed out. The Sea of ​​Happiness (To spring snow, 1969; Wild horses, 1969; The Temple of Aurora, 1970 e The Fall of the Angel, 1970) as the best of a series of novels.

*Afranio Catani He is a retired professor at the Faculty of Education at USP and is currently a senior professor at the same institution. Professor at the Faculty of Education at UERJ, Duque de Caxias campus.

Originally posted on extinct Jornal da Tarde, on 28.



Henry Scott Stokes. The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima. Porto Alegre: L & PM, 1986, 312 pages.


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