by Yukio Mishima
A Japanese teenager is overcome with longing for his male classmate. Each night he imagines his body punctured with arrows, like the body of St Sebastian in Guido Reni's painting; the objects of our hero's desire are tortured, killed and maimed, over and over again each night in his private fantasies. He must hide his lust from a homophobic and stiflingly conventional Japan. Self-loathing and desperate, he begins acting out a love affair with the sister of a school friend, while grappling with his hidden desires under the shadow of a Japan under threat from World War Two.
Confessions of a Mask tells the story of Kochan, an adolescent boy tormented by his burgeoning attraction to men: he wants to be “normal.” Kochan is meek-bodied, and unable to participate in the more athletic activities of his classmates. He begins to notice his growing attraction to some of the boys in his class, particularly the pubescent body of his friend Omi. To hide his homosexuality, he courts a woman, Sonoko, but this exacerbates his feelings for men. As news of the War reaches Tokyo, Kochan considers the fate of Japan and his place within its deeply rooted propriety.
Confessions of a Mask reflects Mishima’s own coming of age in post-war Japan. Its publication in English—praised by Gore Vidal, James Baldwin, and Christopher Isherwood— propelled the young Yukio Mishima to international fame.