“Confessions of a Mask,” a Semi-Autobiographical Account of Being Gay in Post-War Japan
Amidst the plethora of fictional yet semi-autobiographical novels out there, I have found few that actually warrant my full attention, more often than not because the life of the author wasn’t as interesting as initially thought. In the case of Yukio Mishima, the author of Confessions of a Mask, the situation is completely reversed. His real life was even more interesting to me than his fictional account of it.
But that doesn’t mean you should skip Confessions of a Mask, since it offers a unique view of what it means to be a gay man in Japan, as well as offering carefully written insight on the thoughts and machinations of Mishima throughout his youth. And while the life of Kochan, the book’s protagonist, dwells mostly in the regularities of isolation, sexual repression, and identity without many “wow” events in comparison to Mishima’s revolutionary life of film-directing, novel writing, body-building, modeling, and eventual demise by ritual suicide, the book is clearly tied to the author’s mentality, and thus, offers an unparalleled deconstruction of his personality.
Whether you decide to investigate Mishima’s life before reading the book or the opposite, I definitely recommend this specific novel of his purely for its auto-biographical nature. Through Kochan’s struggles during his childhood and young adulthood, along with his appreciation of masculinity in a world where it wasn’t the norm, you’ll learn about one of 20th century’s most controversial Japanese author.