Confessions of a Mask


Yukio Mishima's Confessions of a Mask (仮面の告白, Kamen no Kokuhaku) was first published in 1949, following the 1948 release of his first novel, Thieves (盗賊, Tōzoku). Written while Mishima was in his 20s, it feels in many respects like a young man's autobiography. Kochan, the protagonist, examines his passions and violent fantasies as an introvert of weak constitution. His "mask" hides from society his true self as a homsexual and also serves to conceal himself from himself, a sort of defense or alter ego molded by his imagination to make him feel comfortable in his own skin. He takes this mask on his pursuit of a girl named Sonoko, and he falls in love with her, he believes. As the air raids on Tokyo grow fiercer, their tepid relationship somehow endures in spite of his inability to cast out his true desires.


The book meanders in a way you might expect from a young author's introspective first-person narrative. Mishima, a man of innumerable facets, shows yet another side here, which is honest and deeply personal. It's probably more worthwhile reading if you've read him before. Also, translator Meredith Weatherby's work is forceful and fluid, and a testament to the idea that translation is an artform in itself.