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mardi, 01 décembre 2020

Sun & Steel: The Tatenokai Phenomenon in Brief  

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Sun & Steel:

The Tatenokai Phenomenon in Brief

In post-1945 Japan — as in most of the states that lost in World War II — American occupation brought about radical political and social changes. In the 1946 to 1948 Tokyo trial (similar to Nuremberg), several leaders of the war cabinet were sentenced to death or long prison terms. It was also stipulated in the constitution that Japan cannot have its own armed forces, only Jieitai (Japan Self Defense Forces), a small number of volunteers for self-defense purposes.

Although Japan remained a monarchy, General Douglas MacArthur, commander of the occupying forces, forced Emperor Hirohito to sign the Ningen sengen (Humanity Declaration) and Western-style democratic parties appeared on the political palette. As a result of the peace dictatorship imposed on the Japanese Empire, the samurai spirituality, militarism, loyalty, and self-sacrifice that manifested themselves as a defense of the traditional order and a fight against materialism — the yamato-damashii (Japanese spirit) that is most appropriate to their collective consciousness — was severely repressed in Japanese society.

Lightning in summer and frost in winter.
The foot of Mount Fuji,
Is where the youth stand!
Our weapon is the soul of Yamato,
The sharp blade that we wield,
Reflect the color of the sky on a sunny day!
So move forward with courage. . .
Shield Society! [1] [2]

After post-war consolidation, the island nation experienced an economic explosion thanks to its well-organized elite education, investment in technology and innovation, and above all, the excellent work ethic of the Japanese people.

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This economic prosperity was followed by increasing social welfare, of course. The consequences are well-known to Right-wingers but are worth repeating nonetheless. In modern welfare societies, the individual is much more vulnerable to leveling, emptiness, and rootlessness. While not to the same extent and depth as in the Western world, this trend has also prevailed in Japan since the second half of the 1950s. [2] [3] Amidst the mass of people flowing from the countryside into megapolises with rapidly growing populations, the individual soon lost his attachment to the traditional value system. In this rather chaotic spiritual vacuum, an alienated person could easily be steered in the wrong direction in the absence of firm spiritual orientations, especially as an inexperienced youth. This has been the case with most of the student movements in the 1960s under strong far-Left influence.

Recognizing this danger, Yukio Mishima, one of the most famous writers and artists of modern Japan, decided to take action.

Yukio Mishima was born in Tokyo in 1925 as Kimitake Hiraoka. Several samurais can be found among his ancestors. His genius for writing was already apparent in high school, and his first longer work was published in 1941. Shortly after that, he took the pseudonym Yukio Mishima. He completed his university studies after the Second World War and devoted himself exclusively to writing from 1948 onwards. He was a prolific artist with more than one hundred publications, including novels, dramas, essays, and short stories. He also performed in and directed plays and films and was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature a total of four times.

Amid the turbulent social conditions of the 1960s, his interest turned to traditional Japanese spirituality and respect for the emperor. The 1960 assassination of Inejiro Asanuma, leader of the Social Democratic Party of Japan, greatly influenced his turn to the Right. Just seventeen years old, Asanuma’s assassin Otoya Yamaguchi justified his action by defending the concept of the empire before committing suicide in prison.

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Mishima’s orientation was also reflected in his literary work. He has become very popular — and divisive at the same time — in Right-wing circles for works titled Patriotism (1966; published by the name of Sepukku in the Transylvanian Utunk magazine; also made into a film starring Mishima), Runaway Horses (1967-68), or The Voices of the Heroic Dead (1966). In his later work, he also sharply criticized the Emperor himself for announcing the Ningen sengen. My Friend Hitler (1968) — written for the stage — In Defense of the Culture (1969), and the Revolutionary Philosophy (1970) are considered his provocative and militant spirited works.

In the fall of 1968, he formed a private army for spiritual purposes: the Tatenokai (Shield Society) of 80 people, the aim of which is summarized in three principles:

  1. Communism is incompatible with Japanese traditions, culture, and history, and is against the imperial order.
  2. The emperor is the only symbol of our historical and cultural community and racial self-consciousness.
  3. The use of force is justified in light of the threat posed by communism. [2] [6]

Of course, Tatenokai’s numbers make it a symbolic army. But it is also in this that its strength and significance can be found, as Yukio Mishima was a master of symbolic politicization: he gathered the bravest and noblest youths of modern Japan into his elite guard, which showed a new quality in the face of ever-increasing deviation and decline. Tatenokai’s membership consisted mainly of young university students. They wore a brown-yellow uniform, and Mishima succeeded in getting Jieitai to provide military training to the members. Mishima often used the English name of the organization, Shield Society, and its abbreviation, SS, provocatively referring to the elite organization of National Socialist Germany, the Schutzstaffel.

The SS is an imaginary army. We don’t know when our time will come. Maybe it will never arrive; or perhaps as early as tomorrow. In the meantime, the SS is calmly ready. We don’t organize street demonstrations, we don’t have posters, nor Molotov cocktails, nor lectures, nor stone-throwing. We will only be determined to act at the last minute, as we are the least armed but most spiritual army in the world.[3] [7]

It is definitely important to examine the Right-wing paramilitaries and organizations that emerged in the second half of the twentieth century. In post-World War II welfare democracies, the militarist spirit lost much of its former appeal. The weakened Right-wing forces in Atlantic and communist Europe were unable to gain ground, due in part to the control of the reigning power, the lack of charismatic leaders of adequate capacity, and of the indifference that characterizes atomized society.

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More serious autocratic initiatives tended to come from state authorities — that is, from above — mostly from the military, whose attempts had only a brief temporary success or were predestined to fail. Examples include the dictatorship of colonels in Greece, the Borghese coup in Italy, Antonio Tejero’s attempt in Spain, or — outside Europe — the majority of South American juntas. Civilian far-Right political movements (mainly in Italy and France) and cultural trends such as the skinhead movement often remained at the level where they started because of their low standards.

In the early 1990s, after the disintegration of the Eastern bloc, and in the second half of the first decade of the new millennium, the legal successors of several former organizations operating before and during World War II in Central-Eastern Europe reactivated themselves (for example, in Hungary, Romania, and Croatia) in order to cultivate the national traditions largely destroyed by the communist regimes and the multitude of socioeconomic problems associated with emerging liberal democracies. A lack of quality Right-wing and national elites, the almost-complete absence of appropriate intellectual orientations, and the work of agents and disruptors led to their decline.

What made Tatenokai different? It can be considered unique in terms of spirituality, purity, quality, and purpose among the post-War elite movements. Mishima thought of his private army:

I had a simple reason to create Tatenokai. Ruth Benedict once wrote a famous book called The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. These are the determinants of Japanese history: the chrysanthemum and the sword. After the war, the balance between the two was broken. Since 1945, the sword has not been dealt with. My dream is to restore that balance. To revive samurai traditions through my literary work and actions. That is why I asked Jieitai, so that my people could receive one month of training. [4] [8]

Mishima was also no stranger to open political confrontations. In 1969, he took part in a public and informal debate with the far-Left students of the University of Tokyo. Members of Japan’s existentialist generation in 1968, with their sympathy for communism, posed a serious threat to public life: they wanted to take their homeland out of the frying pan of capitalism and the US into the fire of communism and China. Mishima steered the debate on the subject of the emperor and the empire, pointing out the flaws of the ideology of his discussion partners. Mishima’s summary of the debate is striking: “Zengakuren students and I stand up for almost the same things. We have spread the same cards on the table, but I have the joker — the emperor.” [5] [9]

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From the late 1960s onwards, Mishima consciously prepared for death, which was increasingly evident in his work. His interest turned to ritual suicide — sepukku, abdominal incision — yamato-damashii, and the reactionary 1876 Shinpūren rebellion, as well as the 1936 Ni Ni-Roku incident. In 1970, he decided he would die after the completion of his last work, The Decay of the Angel, and would use Tatenokai for this.

He found the most suitable comrades for the task in four members: Morita Masakatsu, Hiroyasu “Furu” Koga, Masahiro Ogawa, and Masayoshi “Chibi” Koga. The time for action came on November 25, 1970, when Mishima and four of his companions captured the commander, General Kanetoshi Mashita, at Ichigaya military base in Tokyo. He handed over his demands to the superiors, and then gave a speech from the central balcony of the building to the garrison’s soldiers: Only the army represented traditional Japanese values and spirituality. Its members represented Japan’s honor, and the Emperor should be given his absolute power back. The response from the majority of the audience was confusion and rejection. Mishima went back to the commander’s office after delivering his speech. Saving his honor before the emperor and the Homeland, together with Morita, he committed sepukku. [6] [10]

The emperor and modern Japan proved to be weak. Not Mishima, who consistently professed the institution of the empire, nor Tatenokai, who performed its task. Mishima was almost certain of the failure of his coup, yet he performed his last “stage” role with the genius of the artist and the dignity and honor of the samurai. This is well reflected in his statement to Jun Ishikawa shortly before his death:

“When I go out on stage, I expect the audience to sob. Instead, they burst out laughing.” [7] [11]

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Notes

This writing originally appeared in the monarchist anthology KIRÁLYSÁGBAN GONDOLKODUNK (WE THINK IN KINGDOM), edited by János Pánczél Hegedűs and Péter Uhel; Pro Regno Hungariæ Alapítvány, MMXVII.

See also VSZ’s “三島由紀夫 – Az utolsó szamuráj emlékezete [15]” in Stalker — Egy konzervatív forradalmár gondolatai, published November 25, 2010 (in Hungarian).

[1] [16] Excerpted from the Tatenokai march.

[2] [17] It is worth noting how Western tabloid media try to present the Japanese, their civilization, and their culture as superficially idiotic, narrowing them down for the laypeople to the annoying tourists, screaming and squeaking teen stars, microelectronics, snatched episodes of animated films, Godzilla, etc.

[3] [18] Henry Scott Stokes, Misima Jukió élete és halála (Budapest: Szenzár Kiadó, 2001), trans. Andrea Tóth, p. 217.

[4] [19] Stokes, 218-219.

[5] [20] Stokes, 251.

[6] [21] Stokes, 247.

[7] [22] A more detailed description of the Mishima coup is provided by Stokes (pp. 14-39) and Terebess [23] (in Hungarian).

[8] [24] Stokes, 318.

 

 

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[15] 三島由紀夫 – Az utolsó szamuráj emlékezete: http://v-stalker.blogspot.com/2010/11/az-utolso-szamuraj-emlekezete.html

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yukio mishima,japon,lettres,lettres japonaises,littérature,littérature japonaise

Video of the Day:
Poetry With a Splash of Blood

In the latest episode of Guide to Kulchur, Greg Johnson, Guillaume Durocher, and Ty E join Fróði Midjord to discuss the life and art of Yukio Mishima. On November 25th, 50 years ago, Mishima committed ritual suicide to inspire the Japanese to return to their aristocratic honor culture.

The episode is archived on BitChute (video) and Spreaker (audio only). Guide to Kulchur streams live on DLive every Tuesday at 2:00 PM Eastern Time / 20:00 CET.

Previous episodes of Guide to Kulchur are archived on BitChute.

samedi, 28 novembre 2020

Yukio Mishima et la crise de l'identité japonaise au sommet de la prospérité économique

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Yukio Mishima et la crise de l'identité japonaise au sommet de la prospérité économique

[Texte extrait du blog "Otakism", aujourd'hui disparu]

Ex: https://legio-victrix.blogspot.com

"Femmes : bulles de savon ; argent : bulles de savon ; succès : bulles de savon. La réflexion sur les bulles de savon est le monde dans lequel nous vivons".

Yukio Mishima (Pavillon d'or)

L'écrivain et dramaturge Yukio Mishima (Kimitake Hiraoka - 1925-1970) est certainement l'un des personnages japonais les plus emblématiques du XXe siècle pour avoir ouvert de façon excentrique les contradictions d'un pays millénaire qui avançait sur la voie du progrès sans même un regard sur le tachymètre.

Mishima, qui a reçu une éducation de samouraï, a vécu et est mort en tant que samouraï, étant entré, enfant, à l'école alors que le Japon militariste "entrait" en Chine. Sans l'attention de son père, qui voulait qu'il obtienne un diplôme d'ingénieur malgré son talent pour les arts, et en prenant soin d'une grand-mère malade et possessive, Kimitake s'est réfugié dans la littérature pour supporter l'oppression de la vie quotidienne, et c'est précisément pour cette raison qu'il a créé son nom de scène, dans l'intention de cacher ses activités à son père. Influencé par des œuvres telles que le Hagakure du XVIIe siècle ("le ventre de ma mère"), sa production a pris de l'importance immédiatement après la fin de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, où il décrit avec une grande diligence littéraire la situation politique et sociale du pays, occupé par les forces américaines.

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Toute son œuvre est imprégnée de paradoxes. La beauté et la mort, l'amour et le rejet, l'Orient et l'Occident en sont quelques exemples. Son thème central était la dichotomie entre les valeurs traditionnelles japonaises et la pauvreté spirituelle de la vie contemporaine, qui avait rendu le Japon moderne mais infertile. Homme hybride, il est l'exemple vivant du Japon de l'après-guerre qui, même lorsqu'il défend un retour aux valeurs traditionnelles, ne le fait pas sans l'influence occidentale omniprésente. Mishima parlait couramment l'anglais (comme instrument de sa tentative d'obtenir un prix Nobel), appréciait les penseurs occidentaux comme Oscar Wilde, et même son style littéraire était assaisonné de touches occidentales, le cas de La mer de la fertilité l’atteste, où de nombreux critiques voient l'influence notable des Grecs.

Enfant anémique, Mishima se sentait éternellement coupable face au médecin de l'armée qui le considérait comme inadapté au service, et qui a conduit Yukio à préparer une guerre qui n'est jamais venue, dans le rôle d'un samouraï légitime. En tant qu'écrivain, il a critiqué la nature sédentaire de ceux qui vivent de la pitié, arguant que les mots doivent susciter l'action. En tant que samouraï, il a perfectionné son corps (maître en kendô et karaté) et son esprit tout en luttant pour rassembler son peuple et l'inciter à se rebeller contre ce qui se faisait dans le Japon de son temps.

"Le Japon va disparaître, devenir inorganique, vide, de couleur neutre ;" Mishima

Comme le dit Jordi Mas, un chercheur sur l'Asie orientale, basé à Barcelone, il "craignait que le progrès économique se fasse au détriment de sa propre culture", alors que les Japonais, récemment humiliés par la guerre et la défaite, étaient soutenus par les Américains et ivres de travail et de bien-être matériel. Mishima revendique alors le droit du peuple japonais à jouir de la souveraineté et de la justice sociale, en préservant les traditions sans aliéner l'adaptation du pays à la technique industrielle.

La culture traditionnelle japonaise a été fortement réprimée par l'occupation américaine, qui y a déployé tous les moyens un moyen pour étouffer les valeurs nationalistes et militaro-expansionnistes du Japon, et pour faire place aux valeurs pacifistes, libérales et progressistes (et à l'American Way of Life, bien sûr). La censure américaine, émanant de la section de l'information et de l'éducation civiles (liée au commandement des forces alliées suprêmes du général McArthur), a supprimé les manifestations artistiques qui faisaient référence au passé féodal du Japon, comme le théâtre Kabuki, en plus de l'interdiction d'enseigner les arts martiaux japonais.

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Alors que beaucoup étaient trop occupés à regarder les films hollywoodiens et les dessins de Hanna Barbera, certains Japonais étaient particulièrement gênés par la présence américaine et sa censure. Entre les années 1950 et 1970, on a assisté à une croissance des manifestations culturelles qui se référaient au nationalisme d'antan. Pendant cette période, les drames de samouraïs produits par Toei sont devenus populaires. Parmi les exemples de production de l'époque, citons le livre Requiem pour le cuirassé Yamato de Mitsuru Yoshida et les films Les sept samouraïs d'Akira Kurosawa et Le plus long des jours de Kihachi Okamoto.

Non seulement les artistes et les intellectuels, mais le gouvernement japonais lui-même a fait de son mieux pour revitaliser la culture traditionnelle du pays, en revalorisant l'architecture traditionnels dans les travaux publics, en investissant dans la préservation des sites historiques, en remettant en lumière les théâtres No et Kabuki, ainsi que la culture des samouraïs, toujours présente dans les écoles et les universités japonaises. En 1966, il publie le Programme pour la formation de l'image désirable du Japon, où il établit les caractéristiques du "Japon idéal", fortement influencé par le Bushido, code de conduite des samouraïs ("chemin du guerrier"). Je citerai le contenu du programme lorsque je parlerai du système éducatif japonais.

Mishima, cependant, a été le mentor de la tentative la plus symbolique pour restaurer ce Japon qui n'existait plus. Le 25 novembre 1970, accompagnés de 4 membres du Tatenokai (milice d'étudiants patriotes étudiant les arts martiaux sous la tutelle de Mishima), tous vêtus des uniformes de l'armée impériale, ils ont capturé le commandant Masuda du quartier général des forces d'autodéfense de Tokyo (ils ont tué 8 soldats qui avaient résisté lors de leur irruption). Mishima prononça alors un discours patriotique devant environ deux mille soldats, les invitant à lutter contre la constitution japonaise, rédigée par les Américains, et en faveur de la restitution de la puissance impériale. Face à l'indifférence des militaires, Mishima a commis le Seppuku (suicide rituel des samouraïs) après avoir crié trois fois : "Vive l'Empereur !

"La pureté parfaite est possible si vous transformez votre vie en un vers de poésie écrit avec un peu de sang ». Mishima

Sa mort est considérée comme la protestation ultime contre la décadence de la société japonaise. Il est nécessaire de le comprendre pour ne pas tomber dans l'erreur de l'accuser d'être un simple fanatique. Emilio, membre de la communauté de la littérature japonaise à Orkut, a bien résumé la situation : "Pour le lecteur sans méfiance, décontextualisé et globalisé, le patriotisme semble anachronique et pamphlétaire. Mais il est bon de rappeler que Mishima a vécu au Japon occupé militairement par les Américains". Yukio a eu la tête formée au plus fort du militarisme, il ne faut pas l'oublier.

Mishima a consacré sa vie à la mère patrie et à la nation. Il s'est battu contre la matérialisation de l'esprit d'un peuple qui a cessé d'être souverain. Il proteste "contre l'inopérationnalité, l'apathie de l'armée japonaise amorphe qui, on le sait, n'est rien d'autre qu'une police, plus destinée à réprimer le peuple, qu'une militia capable de sauvegarder la Nation.

Le discours de Mishima

L'acte radical de l'écrivain a suscité une étrange appréhension chez certains Japonais. Malgré la prise de conscience de l'extrémisme de l'acte de Mishima, ces Japonais se sont arrêtés pour réfléchir à leur destination en s'inquiétant de produire tant de richesses alors qu'ils se sentaient si vides et culturellement déconnectés des traditions du pays. Ils ont dès lors construit une vision d'eux-mêmes. La plupart des Japonais, au sommet de leur apologie de la consommation, n'ont vu dans l'acte qu'une excentricité de plus de Mishima et un très mauvais exemple. L'accueil en Occident, dépourvu d'idoles romantiques, a été beaucoup plus fort, découvrant la force de l'œuvre complète de Mishima avant le Japon lui-même, qui ne l'a reconnue correctement qu'après avoir revisité son héritage dans les années 80, en essayant de comprendre ce que les gaijins y voyaient d'important.

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"La mort est une sorte de châtiment éternel, infligé à la société occidentale matérialisée qui vit loin de la nature. Pour nous, ce n'est pas le cas, de manière absolue, puisque nous nous considérons comme faisant partie intégrante de la nature. C'est pourquoi la mort, aux yeux de mon peuple, est un prix, quelque chose comme la transformation, la liberté de la matière. Mourir, c'est partir, pas disparaître. Autrefois, le monde chrétien, je crois, avait la même philosophie ou une philosophie similaire. Et c'est à ce moment qu'elle a réussi à se consolider. Eh bien, nous voulons retrouver pleinement ce mode de vie et l'appliquer à une grande politique nationale et populaire. Le contraire reviendrait à accepter indéfiniment l'hibernation de l'âme japonaise". Yukio Mishima

"Écoutez toujours votre esprit. Il vaut mieux avoir tort que de suivre simplement le conventionnel. Si vous avez tort, cela n'a pas d'importance, vous avez appris quelque chose et vous deviendrez plus fort. Si vous avez raison, vous avez fait un pas de plus vers une vie plus élevée".  Extrait de Hagakure, l'œuvre qui a le plus influencé l'écriture de Mishima...

dimanche, 22 novembre 2020

Cinquantenaire d’une action sacrificielle

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Cinquantenaire d’une action sacrificielle

par Georges FELTIN-TRACOL

Ex: http://www.europemaxima.com

Il y a cinquante ans, le 25 novembre 1970, Hiraoka Kimitake se donnait la mort par seppuku dans le bureau du général commandant l’armée de l’Est en plein cœur de la capitale japonaise. Son kaishakunin (assistant), Masakatsu Morita, lui tranchait aussitôt la tête. Quelques minutes plus tard, le même Morita s’appliquait le suicide rituel. Ainsi suivait-il son maître, l’écrivain connu sous le pseudonyme de Yukio Mishima.

Né à Tokyo le 14 janvier 1925, le jeune Kimitake adopte ce nom de plume dès 1941. « Mishima (“ homme de l’île ”) est le nom d’une ville située entre le Fuji-yama et la mer, lieu où se réunissait le groupe “ Art et Culture ”, offrant une vue remarquable sur le sommet enneigé de la montagne, explique Bernard Mariller. Quant à Yukio, il est dérivé du mot “ neige ”, yuki, symbole de la pureté et de la romantique fragilité des choses et de la vie, mais choisi aussi en hommage à un ancien poète romantique, Ito Sachio, qui l’avait adopté comme dernière syllabe de son “ prénom ” (1). »

Plus grand écrivain japonais du XXe siècle et fin connaisseur du monde moderne surgi de la défaite de 1945, Yukio Mishima sait l’utiliser avec la ferme intention de retrouver l’esprit ancestral et martial des siens. À l’instar de Maurice Bardèche qui se tournait volontiers vers Sparte et les Sudistes, il souhaite que le Japon renoue avec sa réalité nationale bafouée par une pesante modernité occidentale.

Écrit en 1971 par Yves Bréhéret et Jean Mabire, l’ouvrage Les Samouraï (2) s’ouvre sur les ultimes instants de cette conjuration ratée et décrit avec plus ou moins d’exactitude le double seppuku. Quelques heures auparavant, Yukio Mishima achevait L’Ange en décomposition, le dernier volet de sa tétralogie La Mer de la fertilité. Cependant, plus que son œuvre littéraire, il souhaitait que la postérité retînt son « œuvre de chair », sa tentative de coup d’État au nom de la tradition nipponne.

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Avec l’aide des miliciens de son groupe paramilitaire patriotique, La Société du Bouclier (ou Tatenokai) – comprendre « agir en bouclier de l’Empereur » -, il se rend au quartier général de la Jieitai, les forces japonaises d’auto-défense, dans la caserne d’Ichigaya et prend en otage le chef de corps. Puis, pendant une dizaine de minutes, Yukio Mishima, revêtu de l’uniforme de son groupe rappelant la tenue des aspirants avant-guerre, harangue les élèves-officiers présents. Il exalte les vertus nationales, exige l’abrogation de l’article 9 de la Constitution de 1946 qui, au mépris de toute souveraineté, interdit au Japon de déclarer la guerre et en appelle à la mutinerie. Son intervention ne suscite que réprobations, mécontentements et injures…

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Comprenant qu’il avait perdu peut-être avant même de commencer ce coup d’éclat, Yukio Mishima se fit seppuku. Il en connaissait le rituel précis. Il l’avait déjà pratiqué face aux caméras dans l’interprétation d’un lieutenant de l’armée impériale pour l’adaptation cinématographique de son propre texte Yukoku (Patriotisme) paru en 1966. Bien sûr, la classe politique, les prescripteurs d’opinion publique et les autorités condamneraient son action. Qu’importe ! Par son sacrifice et celui de Masakatsu Morita, l’auteur de Confession d’un masque (1949) cherche à sortir ses compatriotes de leur torpeur. Par un ensemble de gestes, il les invite à redécouvrir un passé glorieux, à restaurer les principes nationaux, guerriers, paysans et esthétiques, à susciter un nouvel ordre politique, culturel et social propre au peuple japonais.

62795.jpgAssumant une « étiquette » de « réactionnaire », Yukio Mishima fonde en 1968 la Société du Bouclier. Dès février 1969, la nouvelle structure qui s’entraîne avec les unités militaires japonaises, dispose d’un « manifeste contre-révolutionnaire », le Hankakumei Sengen. Sa raison d’être ? Protéger l’Empereur (le tenno), le Japon et la culture d’un péril subversif communiste immédiat. Par-delà la disparition de l’article 9, il conteste le renoncement à l’été 1945 par le tenno lui-même de son caractère divin. Il critique la constitution libérale parlementaire d’émanation étatsunienne. Il n’accepte pas que la nation japonaise devienne un pays de second rang. Yukio Mishima s’inscrit ainsi dans des précédents héroïques comme le soulèvement de la Porte Sakurada en 1860 quand des samouraï scandalisés par les accords signés avec les « Barbares » étrangers éliminent un haut-dignitaire du gouvernement shogunal, la révolte de la Ligue du Vent Divin (Shimpûren) de 1876 ou, plus récemment, le putsch du 26 février 1936. Ce jour-là, la faction de la voie impériale (Kodoha), un courant politico-mystique au sein de l’armée impériale influencé par les écrits d’Ikki Kita (1883 – 1937), assassine les ministres des Finances et de la Justice ainsi que l’inspecteur général de l’Éducation militaire. Si la garnison de Tokyo et une partie de l’état-major se sentent proches des thèses développées par le Kodoha, la marine impériale, plus proche des rivaux de la Faction de contrôle (ou Toseiha), fait pression sur la rébellion. Les troupes loyalistes rétablissent finalement la légalité. Yukio Mishima tire de ces journées tragiques son récit Patriotisme.

Intervient dans sa vue du monde politique « un nationalisme populaire dont les idées-force sont : le refus de l’étiquette occidentale dans les rituels d’État japonais; la défense de l’essence nationale (kokusui); la remise en cause de l’idée occidentale du progrès unilinéaire; la nation est la médiation incontournable des contributions de l’individu à l’humanité (3) ». Dans « La lutte du Japon contre les impérialismes occidentaux », Robert Steuckers prévient que « le mode religieux du Japonais est le syncrétisme (4) », soit un recours fréquent au « tiers inclus » non-aristotélicien. Il rappelle en outre que « le Japonais ne se perçoit pas comme un individu isolé mais comme une personne en relation avec autrui, avec ses ancêtres décédés et ses descendants à venir (5) ». Il mentionne par ailleurs sur un fait méconnu, voire moqué, en Occident. « Pour le Japonais, la Nature est toute compénétrée d’esprits, sa conception est animiste à l’extrême, au point que les poissonniers, par exemple, érigent des stèles en l’honneur des poissons dont ils font commerce, afin de tranquilliser leur esprit errant. Les poissonniers japonais viennent régulièrement apporter des offrandes au pied de ces stèles érigées en l’honneur des poissons morts pour la consommation. À l’extrême, on a vu des Japonais ériger des stèles pour les lunettes qu’ils avaient cassées et dont ils avaient eu un bon usage. Ces Japonais apportent des offrandes en souvenir des bons services que leur avaient procurés leurs lunettes (6). » Yukio Mishima se rattache aussi à « la vision sociale de Shibuwasa Eiichi (1841 – 1931) : subordonner le profit à la grandeur nationale; subordonner la compétition à l’harmonie; subordonner l’esprit marchand à l’idéalisme du samouraï. Ce qui implique des rapports non froidement contractuels et des relations de type familial dans l’entreprise (7) ».

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Sa disparition fut-elle vaine ? Son décès volontaire correspond au début d’une décennie d’indéniables succès économiques, techniques et bientôt culturels à travers manga, séries télé pour adolescents et dessins animés dans le monde occidental. Dénigré et incompris sur le moment, le geste sacrificiel de Yukio Mishima a néanmoins frappé les esprits et infuse depuis cinq décennies si bien qu’il remue toujours les consciences les plus vives. Le 15 mai 1971, les États-Unis restituent au Japon l’île d’Okinawa et retirent leurs armes nucléaires. En revanche, leurs bases militaires continuent à défigurer les lieux. À partir de 1975, au grand dam de la Chine, de Taïwan et de la Corée du Sud, différents Premiers ministres du Japon se rendent à titre officiel au sanctuaire shinto Yasukuni où sont sanctifiées les âmes de tous les soldats de l’Empire du Soleil levant tombés pour le tenno.

« Par cet acte radical, Mishima revendiquait, une ultime fois, le droit sacré, car signé par son sang, à la résistance à l’acculturation, à la révolte envers une clique politicienne corrompue et vendue, ayant renié l’héritage de ses pères, à la contestation du “ tout économique ” et à la protestation contre la perte de l’âme collective, destin des sociétés modernes, conclut Bernard Mariller. Mais, par sa portée générale, au-delà du temps et de l’espace, le message de cet “ homme au milieu des ruines ” que fut Mishima cessait d’être étroitement japonais, pour atteindre l’universel, s’adressant à tous les peuples, cultures et races menacés par les mêmes dangers. Mishima devenait un “ éveilleur et un réenchanteur de peuples ”, l’un de ces personnages qui ne laissent jamais les peuples au repos – celui du cimetière -, leur rappelant sans cesse, pour être en accord avec leur génie, ce qu’ils furent et ce qu’ils doivent devenir. Retenons la leçon. Dans nos héritages européens se dissimulent les germes féconds de notre devenir, tant il est vrai que le passé est l’avenir du futur (8) ».

Lors de son XIIIe colloque national, le 10 décembre 1979 au Palais des Congrès à Paris, intitulé « Le GRECE prend la relève », la « Nouvelle Droite » honora avec raison la mémoire de quatre figures exemplaires (Julius Evola, Arnold Gehlen, Henry de Montherlant et Yukio Mishima) en plaçant leur portrait respectif bien en évidence sur la tribune des intervenants (9). La dissidence métapolitique comprenait tout l’impact historique du dernier héraut de l’unité du Chrysanthème et du Sabre. Cinquante ans après sa sortie sacrificielle, souvenons-nous de Yukio Mishima, incarnation de hauteur, de tenue et de verticalité, exemple de fidélité aux aïeux samouraï et paysans et grande volonté entièrement dévouée à la vocation kathékonique du Yamato.

Georges Feltin-Tracol

Notes

1 : Bernard Mariller, Mishima, Pardès, coll. « Qui suis-je ? », 2006, p. 21.

2 : Yves Bréhéret et Jean Mabire, Les Samouraï, Balland, 1971. Le volume existe aussi en Presses Pocket, 1987.

3 : Robert Steuckers, Europa, tome III, L’Europe, un balcon sur le monde, Éditions Bios, 2017, p. 269.

4 : Idem, p. 259.

5 : Id.

6 : Id.

7 : Id., p. 269.

8 : Bernard Mariller, op. cit., p. 94.

9 : cf. le compte-rendu dans Éléments, n° 28 – 29, mars 1979.

起て!紅の若き獅子たち (Get Up! Young Crimson Lions)

Anthem of the Tatenokai

 
The Shield Society (楯 の 会 or "Tatenokai" in Romanji) was a Japanese nationalist paramilitary organization led by the celebrated writer Yukio Mishima, who sought to protect traditional Japanese values, restore the samurai tradition, and defend the figure of the Emperor (The latter being considered by him as the greatest symbol of identity of his people). Founded on October 5, 1968, the Mishima organization was characterized by promoting physical health and martial arts, being made up of a hundred young volunteers willing to serve as a human "shield" in defense of the Emperor. Aiming to combat the damage liberalism and consumerism were causing to Japanese society, Mishima attempted to rally his people and, on 1970, he and several members of the Tatenokai briefly seized control of the headquarters of the Self-Defense Force and attempted to carry out a coup d'etat to restore Japanese Imperial rule. After the plan failed, Mishima and Masakatsu Morita, chief leader of the Tatenokai student division, committed suicide. "We have seen Japan get drunk with prosperity and fall into a spiritual void... We have had to contemplate the Japanese desecrating their history and traditions... The real Japan is the true spirit of the samurai... When you (soldiers) wake up, Japan will wake up with you... After meditating calmly over four years, I have decided to sacrifice myself for the ancient and beautiful traditions of Japan, which disappear quickly, day by day... The army has always treated Tatenokai well, why do we bite the hand that has been extended to us? Precisely because we revere it... Let's save Japan, the Japan we love" (Yukio Mishima's final speech on the balcony of the Ichigaya Barracks in Tokyo, November 25 , 1970).
 
 

vendredi, 31 janvier 2020

In Defense of Mishima

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In Defense of Mishima

I have read Andrew Joyce’s article “Against Mishima [2]” at The Occidental Observer with great interest and mixed feelings. I admire Dr. Joyce’s writings on the Jewish question, but to be candid, his critique of Mishima is on the whole tendentious and shallow. It is also overly emphatic on some topics while neglecting or downplaying other equally, if not more, important ones.

Dr. Joyce seems fixated on Mishima’s sexuality, which Joyce attributes to his unhealthy family environment and peculiar upbringing. Mishima’s sexuality is understandably regarded as unsavory by most traditional-minded people. But Dr. Joyce had gone a bit too far with his meticulous attention to this particular issue. Furthermore, I’m afraid that many of his claims about Mishima’s private life are based on taking his novel Confessions of a Mask as a straightforward autobiography, which is not supported by Mishima scholarship.

Mishima is certainly not a paragon of traditional sexual morality. That said, is he still worthy of the respect he receives from white nationalists? I believe the answer is yes, if we focus on the uplifting aspects of his life and work, including many of his writings and speeches that were given short shrift in Dr. Joyce’s article and perhaps are also generally less known to people who do not read Japanese.

The kernel of Dr. Joyce’s argument is that “if key aspects of his biography, including the death, are linked significantly more to his sexuality than his politics, then this is grounds to reconsider the worth of promoting such a figure,” which was later reinforced by his other claim that “a theory thus presents itself that Mishima’s carefully orchestrated death was a piece of homosexual sadomasochist theatre rather than anything political, let alone fascistic or in the tradition of the Samurai.”

To be frank, I found this assertion utterly preposterous. When a man delivers a speech about the importance of the Samurai tradition, then kills himself Samurai-style by cutting open his stomach—literally “spilling his guts”—it seems perverse to wonder if he is being insincere, if he is engaging in “homosexual sadomasochist theatre.” Irony, camp, and theatrics are all fake. There is nothing ironic or campy or fake about actually killing oneself.

Joyce simply ignores the text of Mishima’s final speech, in which he decried the ugly post-war era of Japan, deploring its materialistic and spiritually vacuous society. He lambasted venal and cowardly mainstream politicians. He called for Constitutional reform. He highlighted the authenticity of the Japanese military tradition, contrasting it to the miserable reality of the Japanese Self-defense Force, pointing out the dishonor of the Japanese military forever being a mercenary force of America and capitalists. He rejected the hypocrisy and nihilism of the post-war democracy and its mantra of “respect for human lives.” He reasserted the paramount status of the Tennō (Emperor) and Dentō (tradition), and urged the audience to die as real men and warriors combating the nation-wrecking post-war political regime and value system.

Then he demonstrated that he meant it.

The speech remains every bit as pertinent, powerful, and inspiring when read today as it was back then. The speech alone is enough to guarantee the immortality of Mishima as a nationalist figure of global significance, to say nothing of his numerous politically and culturally themed writings, fiction and non-fiction alike, and his other relevant speeches, which Dr. Joyce was either unaware of or chose to ignore.

A central argument of Dr. Joyce against Mishima is that “he seems hardly political at all. His fiction, denounced by early critics of all political hues as full of ‘evil narcissism’ possessing ‘no reality,’ is almost entirely devoid of ideology.” This could not be further from the truth and seems based on sheer ignorance. I wonder how many works of Mishima Dr. Joyce has actually read or even read about? Did he ever read Mishima’s final speech in full, or his Anti-Revolutionary Manifesto?

Admittedly, Mishima was not a political theorist or a philosopher; he was primarily a novelist and playwright. But being a nationalist writer and activist, his literary world was rich in themes drawn from Japanese history, traditional culture, politics, and current affairs. And, when it comes to political and ideological relevance, it is accurate to understand Mishima more as a Right-wing artist and inspirational activist than a theorist, which certainly has value for the Dissident Right in the West.

4806040005_b70748afe4_b.jpgDr. Joyce maintained that “Mishima, of course, never explored the Emperor’s role in World War II in any depth, and his chief fixation appears solely to have been the decision of the Emperor to accede to Allied demands and ‘become human.’” This is a baffling statement which again simply betrays Dr. Joyce’s lack of knowledge. Besides rightfully decrying the Showa Emperor’s self-demotion to “become human” from his traditional status of “Arahitogami” (god in human form or demigod), Mishima also critically examined the Emperor’s role in politics before, during, and after the war, which revealed that what Mishima essentially venerated was not the individual Tennō but the tō (the unique and time-honored Japanese monarchical system).

For example, Mishima criticized the Showa Emperor, expressing strong sympathy with the rebel soldiers of the “2.26 Incident” of 1936, who were genuine patriots with lofty ideals who were mercilessly crushed by the explicit order of the Emperor. His Patriotism and Voice of the Martyrs were written with great feeling in commemoration of them. [1] [3]

Mishima also extolled the spirit and actions, and lamented the defeat of, the Samurai bands (prototypes of the movie The Last Samurai) who held fast to traditional values in defiance of Japan’s westernization in the wake of the Meiji Restoration. This is justifiably perceived as his criticism of the Meiji regime. Interested readers are recommended to take a look at my old review of the book Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima here [4].

Mishima believed that the Emperor could unify Japanese society as a cultural figure, standing above the political realm. He believed that if the monarchy stood as a national and cultural principle of unity, this would create a free space for political debate and cultural innovation, without endangering the cohesion of society. This view is rooted in Japanese tradition, but seeks to make space for important elements of modernity, including political pluralism and cultural freedom. One may agree or disagree with such views, but contra Joyce, they do exist, and they are not vague or vacuous.

A comprehensive search will discover that Mishima’s many books, essays, dramas, and speeches contain explicit or implicit messages defending Japan’s political, cultural, and military traditions, including but not limited to Bushido, expressed with the beauty and exuberance that are Mishima’s literary hallmarks and showing his profound cultivation in ancient Japanese and Chinese classics. His non-fiction books on cultural and political topics include For the Young Samurais, Introduction to Hagakure, Sun and Steel, and Theory of Cultural Defense. The same themes are discussed in his novel Runaway Horses and numerous essays. The five books cited above are especially popular and widely read in France and Italy.

In Sun and Steel (1968), Mishima writes, “Sword/martial art means to fight and fall like scattering blossoms, and pen/literary art means to cultivate imperishable blossoms.” Mishima has certainly lived up to this ideal himself, fulfilling it with his own sword and pen. According to literary critic Koichiro Tomioka, Sun and Steel is almost Mishima’s “literary suicide note” in which his cultural and philosophic thoughts were condensed. In it, Mishima argues that it is exactly the post-war era, in which all values have been inverted, that necessitates the revival of the ancient ethic code of “Bun-Bu-Ryodo” (cultivating a mastery of both pen and sword), as when “Bu” (sword) is gone, “Bun” (pen) slackens and decays. It is in the healthy tension created by the contrasting “Bun” and “Bu” that Mishima was seeking to reclaim traditional Japanese sensibilities.

Mishima also made some famous political statements in a long and heated debate with Leftist students at Tokyo University in 1969, the peak of a cultural and political maelstrom that had swept across Japan’s campuses at large. Their discussion went beyond different political stances into philosophical realms. While the students advocated transcending time and realizing a conceptual revolution in a new space, Mishima upheld the continuum of time. The topics included the Emperor, arts and aesthetics, ego and flesh, morality of violence, politics and literature, time and space, beauty as concept and reality, etc. While being an avowed and ardent Right-wing nationalist in politics and culture, Mishima actually showed sympathy with the Left-wing students’ opposition to capitalism and big business, telling the students: “If you guys are willing to recognize the sanctity and solemnity of the Emperor [as the head of the Japanese national community], I am willing join your ranks.”

Dr. Joyce also made a few jaundiced remarks that detract from his credibility. For example, he claims “[Mishima] was so poor at articulating his ideas to troops during his coup attempt that he was simply laughed at by gathered soldiers.” This is a surprisingly uninformed and erroneous assertion. It was true that Mishima was jeered and taunted by the gathered troops, who interrupted his speech multiple times by shouting. But their behavior had nothing to do with Mishima’s alleged inability to articulate his ideas. Mishima, after all, made a career of articulating ideas, a talent that did not fail him in his final speech.

The problem, rather, lies with the soldiers themselves, who understandably resented the fact that they were convened to listen to Mishima’s speech under duress because Mishima had taken their commander hostage. Moreover, most post-war Japanese servicemen were mere salarymen in a prosperous and materialistic society. They had little connection with the Japanese warrior tradition and were hardly capable of appreciating the problems of the spiritually vacuous society that had produced them. Mishima was perhaps aware of the possibility that he was “casting pearls before swine,” but he knew that his actions would give his words a far larger audience than the hecklers before him. Interestingly enough, according to a 2015 Mishima memorial in the Japanese nationalist publication Sankei Shimbun, some of the soldiers who mocked Mishima’s words later came around to his way of thinking.

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Dr. Joyce states that “[Mishima] lied during his own army medical exam during the war in an effort to avoid military service.” This was simply not true. According to a number of Japanese books and essays on Mishima written by his supporters and critics alike, a large amount of evidence on this particular issue pointed to Mishima’s father Azusa Hiraoka using his government connections to help his son evade military conscription, about which Mishima was unaware. Another version of the story is that, although Mishima passed the initial exam, he was diagnosed with pulmonary infiltrates and was judged physically unqualified and excluded from military service, which was unsurprising due to his chronically weak physical conditions from early childhood.

Rather than chasing after such pointless shadows, it is far more worthwhile to take notice of the fact that Mishima had long felt pangs of conscience and an acute sense of survivor’s guilt for his inability to fight as a result of his physical condition in his youth, which partly explained why he took up body building after the war, striving to become a better man in both physical and spiritual senses, and entered the cultural and spiritual world of Bushido and the Samurai.

Another baseless and snide remark from Dr. Joyce is “One could add speculations that Mishima’s military fantasies were an extension of his sexual fixations, including a possible attempt to simply gain power over a large number of athletic young men. But this would be laboring an all-too-obvious point.” There is simply no evidence that Mishima harbored such baleful intent toward the young men who joined his Tatenokai (Shield Society). There has not been a single allegation of sexual impropriety, either before or after Mishima’s death, either from the young men themselves or from the media at large, including many hostile tabloid papers eager to pounce on the first possible chance to sling mud at Mishima. Surely one could expect that Mishima’s young followers, however juvenile and starry-eyed they might have been back then, would have said something in the last half-century if they had really become targets of Mishima’s “sexual fixations.”

Dr. Joyce moves from disparaging Mishima to demeaning Japanese culture in general in his misguided dismissal of Seppuku. Joyce’s major source, namely Toyomasa Fuse, is a Leftist who hates his ancestral cultural roots, like many Japanese and other East Asians who have either grown up in post-war American society or have been educated in toxic American institutions of higher learning. A simple search online reveals that Fuse was one of a select few Japanese groomed by the American occupation regime as a new intellectual elite. Fuse went to the US in 1950, sponsored by the US government, and later received both his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from UC Berkeley, where he became a full-fledged Leftist and anti-traditionalist scholar. He was an active member of the anti-Vietnam War movement and moved from the US to Canada in 1968 with some other anti-war college professors. As the founder of the hilariously named Canada Suicide Studies Society, he specialized in and taught “Suicide Studies” at York University from 1972 until his retirement in 1997. Consulting Fuse on Japanese militarism is like consulting the Frankfurt School about Prussian militarism. Joyce, of all people, should know better.

The last sweeping and sloppy charge against Japanese culture by Dr. Joyce that I would like to counter is this: “Again, we must question, at a time when we are trying to break free from high levels of social concern and shaming in Europe, whether it is healthy or helpful to praise practices originating in pathologically shame-centered cultures.”

Surely Dr. Joyce realizes that social shaming in today’s Western countries is fundamentally different from social shaming in traditional Japanese society.

The shaming of whites in Western societies was imposed by an alien hostile elite on the native white populace for the purpose of undermining their traditional culture and values. But the shame culture of Japan is imposed by the Japanese community on its own members to encourage them to live up to communal standards and serve the common good. To put it simply, shaming in the West is an alien contrivance to undermine white society by pinning whites down with false guilt, while shaming in Japan is an indigenous and organic way that the Japanese maintain social norms and enhance social cohesion. The gradual decline of Japanese shaming culture in recent years due to Western influence is another trend that has alarmed traditionalists and nationalists in Japan.

If white societies had greater social cohesion and responsibility, reinforced by shaming, they probably would have resisted the takeover of hostile alien elites. Perhaps, then, white nationalists should study and adopt Japanese shaming mechanisms instead of bashing and trashing them. By calling traditional Japanese shame-centered culture embodied by Mishima “pathological,” Dr. Joyce might as well be quoting from the Frankfurt School, which sought to pathologize healthy white family and social norms, which are not so different from healthy Japanese norms.

Note

[1] [5] Two of the leaders of the uprising, senior captain Asaichi Isobe and senior captain Hisashi Kōno, evoked the greatest empathetic feelings from Mishima, and their patriotism, sincerity, and Samurai mettle became sources of his literary creations. Mishima wrote Patriotism and Voice of the Martyrs based on the Prison Note of Isobe, which featured the revengeful ghosts of the 2.26 uprising soldiers and Kamikaze pilots.

In a conversation with Tsukasa Kōno, elder brother of senior captain Hisashi Kōno, who was a key member of the uprising and committed suicide after the coup failed, Mishima remarks on the Showa Emperor’s dismissive words on the officers who decided to commit suicide: “Go ahead and kill themselves if they want. I’m not going to honor those despicable men with any official envoy.” Mishima commented: “It was not the rightful conduct for a Japanese Emperor. This is so sad.” Tsukasa asked Mishima: “Had those young officers known what the Emperor had said, would they have still shouted ‘Tennō Heika Banzai!’ (Long Live His Majesty the Emperor) before the firing squad?”

Mishima answered: “Even when the Emperor didn’t behave like an emperor, subjects ought to behave like subjects. They knew they must fulfill their part as subjects and chanted ‘Long Live the Emperor,’ believing in the judgment of the heaven. But what a tragedy for Japan!” When uttering his, he looked teary and his voice choked. After publishing Voice of the Martyrs, Mishima wrote in a letter to Tsukasa: “I wrote it with an intention to present it before the memorial tablets of your younger brother and other deceased officers of the 2.26 Uprising.”

 

Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: https://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: https://www.counter-currents.com/2020/01/in-defense-of-mishima/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: https://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Grave_of_Yukio_Mishima.jpg

[2] Against Mishima: https://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2020/01/08/against-mishima-sex-death-and-optics-in-the-dissident-right/

[3] [1]: #_ftn1

[4] here: https://www.counter-currents.com/2014/09/naoko-inoses-persona-a-biography-of-yukio-mishima/

[5] [1]: #_ftnref1

mercredi, 15 janvier 2020

Ryuji Tsukazaki on Mishima

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Ryuji Tsukazaki on Mishima

Following the publication of my review of Yukio Mishima’s guide to Hagakure, Andrew Joyce, a fellow contributor to The Occidental Observer, has published a thorough and highly critical account of the Japanese writer’s life. I was going to draw attention to Joyce’s piece, which has already been republished by The Unz Review.

Here is a partial summary of Joyce’s points:

  1. Despite being married, Mishima had a completely degenerate gay sex life and neglected his children.
  2. Mishima’s right-wing politics were adopted late and were vague, insincere, and ultimately a kind of posing.
  3. Mishima’s spectacular last day, far from being a serious traditionalist/militarist political statement, was merely the ultimate enactment of his perverse and self-destructive psycho-sexual fantasies.

Joyce concludes:

Members of the Dissident Right with an interest in Japanese culture are encouraged to take up one or more of the martial arts, to look into aspects of Zen, or to review the works of some of the other twentieth-century Japanese authors mentioned here. Such endeavors will bear better fruit. Above all, however, there is no comparison with spending time researching the lives of one’s own co-ethnic heroes and one’s own culture. As Europeans, we are so spoiled for choice we needn’t waste time with the rejected, outcast, and badly damaged members of other groups.

I invite you to read Joyce’s piece in full.

runaway.jpgAll this having been said, I still encourage people to watch Paul Schrader’s film on Mishima and to read Mishima’s guide to Hagakure (or better yet, Hagakure itself). I will myself, when time permits, try to read Mishima’s later more political fiction (e.g. Runaway Horses) and other nonfiction. A work of art is no less compelling, a logical argument no less persuasive, whatever the author’s personal deficiencies or proclivities.

On TOO, Joyce’s piece has received an informative, nuanced, and detailed comment from a certain Ryuji Tsukazaki, who seems to be fluent in Japanese. I reproduce Tsukazaki’s comment in full:

This essay probably needed to be written. But to any readers who think it seems a little unfair aggressively negative – it is.

The assertion that Mishima “seems hardly political at all” is just silly. It’s true that rightists who read his fiction often find it disappointing. Taken as a whole, his literary oeuvre certainly contains more weird homoeroticism than it does right-wing nationalism. But Mishima also wrote a lot of non-fiction, which was mostly explicitly political. Some titles that come to mind right away are “In Defense of Culture”, “For Young Samurai”, and “Lectures on Immorality”. (These are all my unofficial titles. I don’t think any of them are officially translated.) They are treatments of Japanese political culture, identity, and morality in the post-war era. It’s impossible to tie them to gayness or sadomasochism; they’re obviously sincere. Mishima also took part in debates on campuses during the late 60s student riots (he wrote essays about them too).

Despite the assertion that he became political “in the 60s”, perhaps because he was afraid of growing old – his most explicitly political work of fiction, Patriotism, came out in 1961, halfway through his career, when he was 35. “The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea”, another major midcareer work of fiction, isn’t explicitly political, but very clearly touches on themes of authentic masculinity, loyalty, and patrimony.

“he argued that Japanese right-wingers “did not have to have a systematised worldview,”” I don’t know the context of this quote, or what he said in the original, but it’s actually hard to argue with – especially because Japanese right-wingers have never HAD a systematised worldview. The desire for metaphysical, moral, and/or ideological formal systemization is very European. Prewar Japanese historical figures will often be described as fighting for democracy and human rights in one context and as fierce right-wing militarists in others (Kita Ikki and Toyama Mitsuru come to mind). If Mishima’s assertion bothers you, don’t sweat it – it’s not about you, it’s about the Japanese.

“Mishima is a pale shadow of ultra-nationalist literary contemporaries like Shūmei Ōkawa…” I have to niggle about this. Shumei Okawa is neither literary nor contemporary. He was active in the prewar era only, and I’m unaware of any fiction he wrote. The others you mentioned may be superior to Mishima as ultranationalists but not as men of letters.

As I said, this essay did need to be written – it’s hard to look deeply into Mishima and feel comfortable with Western rightist idolization of him. He was nothing so simple and appealing as le based Japanese samurai man. And it’s true that his life and work was driven greatly by his sexuality. It’s untrue that he was politically insincere or shallow. He was nothing like a European fascist, and he couldn’t be called a traditionalist. Nonetheless, he prioritized the authentically Japanese over the modern or Western; he prioritized the healthy over the sick, and the strong over the weak; and the masculine over the feminine or androgynous. He brought up these themes repeatedly in his writings, fiction and nonfiction.

“Mishima was a profoundly unhealthy and inorganic individual” – this sentence stuck out to me as undeniably true. And I think it’s also true of many other important writers and thinkers. When Nietzsche wrote that wisdom appears on earth as a raven attracted by the scent of carrion, he was doing nothing so simple as attacking wisdom. Blond Beasts rarely write groundbreaking philosophy or provocative fiction; conflicted people who hate themselves and/or the world they were born into do that more. (Nietzsche himself could be described as an unhealthy and inorganic individual, though not to Mishima’s level.) Mishima’s disturbed sexuality and weak, sick childhood were catalysts that forced him to really grapple with masculinity and identity on a personal and intellectual level. When we read about him we should be aware that he was not an ubermensch and that he was a pervert. I don’t see that as reason to dismiss him.

mercredi, 11 septembre 2019

Mishima’s Life for Sale

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Mishima’s Life for Sale

Yukio Mishima
Life for Sale
Translated by Stephen Dodd
London: Penguin Books, 2019

This past year has seen three new English translations of novels by Yukio Mishima: The Frolic of the Beasts, Star, and now Life for Sale, a pulpy, stylish novel that offers an incisive satire of post-war Japanese society.

Mishima’s extensive output includes both high-brow literary and dramatic works (jun bungaku, or “pure literature”) and racy potboilers (taishu bungaku, or “popular literature”). Life for Sale belongs to the latter category and will introduce English readers to this lesser-known side of Mishima. Despite being a popular novel, though, it broaches serious themes that can also be found in Mishima’s more sophisticated works.

YM-life.jpg27-year-old Hanio Yamada, the protagonist, is a Tokyo-based copywriter who makes a decent living and leads a normal life. But his work leaves him unfulfilled. He later remarks that his job was “a kind of death: a daily grind in an over-lit, ridiculously modern office where everyone wore the latest suits and never got their hands dirty with proper work” (p. 67). One day, while reading the newspaper on the subway, he suddenly is struck by an overwhelming desire to die. That evening, he overdoses on sedatives.

When his suicide attempt fails, Hanio comes up with another idea. He places the following advertisement in the newspaper: “Life for Sale. Use me as you wish. I am a twenty-seven-year-old male. Discretion guaranteed. Will cause no bother at all” (p. 7). The advertisement sets in motion an exhilarating series of events involving adultery, murder, toxic beetles, a female “vampire,” a wasted heiress, poisonous carrots, espionage, and mobsters.

In one episode, Hanio is asked to provide services for a single mother who has already gone through a dozen boyfriends. It turns out that the woman has a taste for blood. Every night, she cuts Hanio with a knife and sucks on the wound. She occasionally takes Hanio on walks, keeping him bound to her with a golden chain. Hanio lives with the woman for a while, and her son remarks, rather poignantly, that the three of them could be a family. The scene calls to mind the modern Japanese practice of “renting” companions and family members.

By the end of the vampire gig, Hanio is severely ill and on the verge of death. Yet he is entirely indifferent to this fact: “The thought that his own life was about to cease cleansed his heart, the way peppermint cleanses the mouth” (p. 83). His existence is bland and meaningless, devoid of both “sadness and joy.”

When Hanio returns to his apartment to pick up his mail, he finds a letter from a former classmate admonishing him for the advertisement:

What on earth do you hope to attain by holding your life so cheaply? For an all too brief time before the war, we considered our lives worthy of sacrifice to the nation as honourable Japanese subjects. They called us common people “the nation’s treasure.” I take it you are in the business of converting your life into filthy lucre only because, in the world we inhabit, money reigns supreme. (p. 79)

With the little strength he has remaining, Hanio tears the letter into pieces.

Hanio survives the vampire episode by the skin of his teeth and wakes up in a hospital bed. He has scarcely recovered when two men burst into his room asking him to partake in a secret operation. After the ambassador of a certain “Country B” steals an emerald necklace containing a cipher key from the wife of the ambassador of “Country A” (strongly implied to be England), the latter ambassador has the idea of stealing the cipher key in the possession of the former. The ambassador of Country B is very fond of carrots, and it is suspected that his stash of carrots is of relevance. Three spies from Country A each steal a carrot, only to drop dead. All but a few of the ambassador’s carrots were laced with potassium cyanide, and only he knew which ones were not. It takes Hanio to state the obvious: any generic carrot would have done the trick, meaning that the spies’ deaths were in vain.

Like Hanio’s other adventures, it is the sort of hare-brained caper one would expect to find in manga. Perhaps Mishima is poking fun at the ineptitude of Western democracies, or Britain in particular. (I am reminded of how Himmler allegedly remarked after the Gestapo tricked MI6 into maintaining radio contact that “after a while it becomes boring to converse with such arrogant and foolish people.”)

After the carrot incident, Hanio decides to move and blurts out the first destination that comes to mind. He ends up moving in with a respectable older couple and their errant youngest child, Reiko. Reiko’s parents are traditionalists who treat him with “an almost inconceivable degree of old-fashioned courtesy” (p. 122). The father reads classical Chinese poetry and collects old artifacts, among them a scroll depicting the legend of the Peach Blossom Spring. Reiko, meanwhile, spends her days doing drugs and hanging out with hippies in Tokyo. She is in her thirties, but she acts like a young girl. Although her parents are traditionally-minded, they bend to her every whim and do not discipline her.

It is explained that Reiko’s would-be husband turned her down out of a mistaken belief that her father had syphilis. Bizarrely, Reiko has convinced herself that she inherited the disease and that she will die a slow and painful death. Her death wish (combined with her parents’ negligence) appears to be the cause of her self-destructive behavior. She dreams of losing her virginity to a young man who would be willing to risk death by sleeping with her. Yet her fantasies turn out to be rather domestic. She play-acts a scene in which she tells an imaginary son that his father will be coming home at 6:15, as he does everyday.

This reminds Hanio of his former life as a copywriter and suddenly causes him to realize that the scourge of the city is palpable even in the cloistered confines of the tea house in which he is staying: “Out there, restless nocturnal life continued to pulse. . . . Such was the hell that bared its fangs and whirled around Hanio and Reiko’s comfortable little tomb” (pp. 147-48).

Hanio makes his escape one night when Reiko takes him to the disco. At the end of the novel, he visits a police station and asks for protection from some mobsters who want him dead (long story). The police dismiss him as delusional and cast him out. He is left alone, gazing at the night sky.

Underneath the campy pulp-fiction tropes, Life for Sale is a sincere meditation on the meaningless and absurdity of modern urban life. Surrendering one’s life is the most convenient escape from such an existence. The only alternative is to identify a higher purpose and pursue it relentlessly—after the manner of Mishima himself.

 

Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: https://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: https://www.counter-currents.com/2019/08/mishimas-life-for-sale/

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mercredi, 17 janvier 2018

Le bushidô selon Mishima

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Le bushidô selon Mishima

Rémy Valat
Historien

Ex: https://metamag.fr

Mishima est le nom de plume que se prêtait Hiraoka Kimitake (1925-1970). Le suicide de Hiraoka au moment d’une tentative avortée de coup d’État nationaliste le 25 novembre 1970 au siège des forces d’autodéfense à Tôkyô a été interprété de différentes manières, soit comme l’acte d’un déséquilibré, d’un martyr de la cause impériale, voire du geste du dernier samouraï.

Hiraoka Kimitake aurait intériorisé les appels au sacrifice du temps de guerre, puis arrivé à maturité, sa critique acerbe de la société de consommation avec laquelle il se sentait en décalage et son désir de retour à la tradition, l’auraient poussé à former une milice, éduquée sur le « pur » modèle japonais, une force paramilitaire qui aurait été l’embryon d’une nouvelle armée fidèle à l’empereur et à la tradition.

mishimasunsteel.jpgMishima, l’écrivain devenu l’homme d’un seul livre : le Hagakure

On comprend aisément le rejet de Hiraoka Kimitake pour la vassalisation du Japon par Washington après 1945 : une mise sous tutelle économique et culturelle, renforcée par la démilitarisation politique et morale du pays. Si le Japon dispose d’une armée conséquente, elle ne peut encore aujourd’hui être librement déployée sur un théâtre d’opération extérieur. Mais, Mishima-l’écrivain était avant tout un grand lecteur des œuvres occidentales (il appartient à la même génération que les étudiants-pilotes tokkôtai) et a, aussitôt le succès venu, vécu confortablement selon les valeurs de la société de consommation, qu’il vînt plus tard à critiquer. Surtout, Mishima était séduit par l’esthétique chrétienne de la mort et du sacrifice. Le tableau Saint Sébastien de Guido Reni, représentant le martyr le torse nu transpercé de flèches, le poussa même à reconstituer le tableau in vivo, en posant pour le photographe Hosoe Eikō (né en 1933) pour son album Ordalie par les roses (Barakei, 1963).

Hiraoka, l’homme avait une forte attirance pour l’esthétique de la souffrance et de la mort, stimulée par un désir d’exhiber son corps et ses préférences sexuelles, ces manifestations seraient peut-être le fruit d’une éducation perturbée (reçue d’une grand-mère et d’un père autoritaires, contre-balancée par une mère aimante). Cette fascination morbide est aussi le fruit de la propagande du temps de guerre (qui invitait au sacrifice), mais n’ayant pas eu le courage de s’engager (prétextant des douleurs pulmonaires), le don de sa personne pour l’empereur et la patrie sont restés pour lui un acte manqué qui l’emplissent de remords.

Ainsi, Mishima grand lecteur et grand écrivain s’enfermera dans la lecture d’un seul livre, le Hagakure de Yamamoto Jōchō (ou Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Jōchō est le nom qu’il prit après sa rupture avec son nouveau maître et l’adoption d’une vie recluse), auteur en qui il se reconnaissait et qu’il considèrait comme le samouraï modèle. Pourquoi ?

Yamamoto Tsunetomo (1659 – 1719) était un lettré, fidèle vassal du seigneur Nabeshima Mitsushige de la province de Saga. À la disparition de son maître (1700), il ne put pratiquer le suicide par accompagnement, pratique traditionnelle attestant de la dévotion du samouraï envers son seigneur. Yamamoto Tsunetomo a reçu une stricte éducation de guerrier, mais la bureaucratisation des missions des samouraïs a condamné à jamais la réalisation de ses rêves de jeunesse emplis de combats glorieux et d’honneurs acquis sur le champ de bataille. Le samouraï vécu mal la double interdiction de son suzerain, qui ne préconisait pas cet acte, et du gouvernement shôgunal, qui l’interdisait officiellement : accompagner son maître dans la mort aurait été pour lui la preuve ultime de sa loyauté et de son état de samouraï. Néanmoins, on ignore les motivations de son auteur aux différents stades de son existence (sa relation intime avec la mort), et il n’est pas à exclure qu’il puisse également s’agir d’une posture : Yamamoto Tsunetomo n’a jamais pris les armes de sa vie, il est mort dans son lit en ruminant un passé idéalisé…. Il est donc facile d’inviter les autres au sacrifice.


Son livre, en 11 rouleaux, le Hagakure (littéralement « à l’ombre des feuilles ») qui met notamment en avant plusieurs aspects de l’éthique des samouraïs et chers à Mishima : une ferme résolution à mourir (et donc à vivre au temps présent), le soin particulier à donner à l’apparence extérieure et l’acceptation de l’homosexualité, comme preuve de l’attachement suprême entre combattants. Mais, quoi qu’est pu en croire Mishima, ce texte n’a eu aucune influence à l’époque d’Edo, les rares samouraïs qui en connaissaient l’existence n’en recommandaient pas nécessairement la lecture, preuve du décalage de mentalité entre son auteur et son groupe social.

L’inspiration occidentale du bushidô moderne : le drame de la méconnaissance

L’esprit de sacrifice que Mishima emprunte au christianisme est aussi un héritage du Bushidô. The soul of Japan (ou Bushidô, l’âme du Japon, écrit directement en anglais et paru en 1900) de Nitobe Inazô (qui était de confession chrétienne). Celui-ci a rassemblé selon une grille de lecture moderne des traits culturels de la société japonaise et de la classe guerrière, les bushis, pour en dégager une éthique, faite de courage, de bienveillance, de courtoisie, du don de la personne, de sincérité, d’honneur, de loyauté, du contrôle de soi et d’esprit de justice, qu’il élève au rang de religion. Mais, cette morale des samouraïs est une tradition inventée, modernisée sur le modèle occidental. Celle-ci n’a jamais existé d’une manière aussi lisible : elle est une assimilation aux codes des chevaleries médiévales occidentales, une chevalerie qui est elle aussi pour une bonne part une tradition rénovée. Or, les anciens « codes des maisons» ou buke kakun, font peu ou pas référence à un « code des guerriers » et, depuis le XIXe siècle, les documents systématiquement mis en avant par les historiens japonais, peu nombreux et toujours les mêmes, ne se conforment pleinement ni aux mœurs ni aux pratiques sociales des samouraïs toutes époques confondues.

mishimaswordart.jpgLe terme « bushidô », utilisé en ce sens serait apparue pour la première fois dans le koyo gunkan, la chronique militaire de la province du Kai dirigée par le célèbre clan des Takeda (la chronique a été compilée par Kagenori Obata (1572-1663), le fils d’un imminent stratège du clan à partir de 1615. L’historien japonais Yamamoto Hirofumi (Yamamoto Hirofumi, Nihonjin no kokoro : bushidô nyûmon, Chûkei éditions, Tôkyô, 2006), constata au cours de ses recherches l’absence, à l’époque moderne, de textes formulant une éthique des guerriers qui auraient pu être accessibles et respectées par le plus grand nombre des samouraïs. Mieux, les rares textes, formulant et dégageant une éthique propre aux samouraïs (le Hagakure de Yamamoto Tsunetomo et les écrits de Yamaga Sôkô) tous deux intégrés dans le canon des textes de l’idéologie du bushidô, n’ont eu aucune influence avant le XXe siècle.

Ce fort désir de créer et de s’approprier une tradition s’intègre dans un contexte plus large et plus profond. L’intensification des échanges internationaux et le rapide processus de modernisation des sociétés au XIXe siècle a posé la question de la place du groupe et de la nation. Cette quête a pris la forme d’une modernisation de la tradition, en prenant le meilleur de ce qui est considéré être l’essence de la nation. Ce besoin identitaire était encore plus fort pour les pays colonisés, ou comme le Japon, pays en voie de développement ayant refusé d’emblée l’occidentalisation par la force. La puissance militaire des pays occidentaux ne pouvait s’expliquer que par une mentalité guerrière particulière (la chevalerie chrétienne) à laquelle il fallait trouver un pendant japonais (les samouraïs et le bushidô). Le samouraï deviendrait ainsi le symbole, l’outil assurant la cohésion de la société, et dont les valeurs soigneusement sélectionnées seraient érigées en une idéologie dépeignant une éthique purement japonaise.

Si le Bushidô et le Hagakure ont été sévèrement condamnés par l’occupant nord-américain et mis à l’index après la Seconde Guerre mondiale, les Japonais ont intériorisé et ont fait leur l’éthique du Bushidô imaginée par Nitobe Inazô. La samouraïsation de la société, et en particulier les films de propagande de la guerre Asie-pacifique, ont contribué à façonner, après épuration des traits militaristes du message initial, l’idéal de « japonéité » et l’image contemporaine du samouraï. Après la défaite de 1945 et deux bombardements atomiques, la population était en quête de sens. Le besoin de se sentir fort a contribué à l’émergence d’une mentalité nouvelle, démilitarisée, mais combative et héritée de la période expansionniste en Asie, construite autour de l’idéal d’une essence et d’un esprit typiquement japonais. Mais ce bushidô-là, n’est plus celui des samouraïs.

Mishima : le dernier samouraï

En somme, l’homme Hiraoka Kimitake était déchiré par des luttes internes, mélangées aux questionnements de la société japonaise de l’après guerre. Son suicide marque une volonté de dépassement…En apparence, sa vie et son dernier geste paraissent en contradiction avec l’éthique communément admise et « christianisée » du samouraï, qui est un mélange d’humilité, de discrétion, même dans la mort. Or, Mishima aimait être vue et admiré, trop attaché à son corps et aux apparences, il a préféré disparaître avant le déclin physique. La tentative de coup d’État était un coup de dé, en cas de réussite : la gloire ; en cas, d’échec : une mort longtemps désirée et mise en scène. Néanmoins, son geste est paradoxalement le plus représentatif de ce que furent réellement les guerriers japonais : individualistes, aimant être vus et attachés à leur honneur, ceux-ci défendaient becs et ongles leur liberté. Une liberté d’action que leur offrait le métier des armes et une possibilité d’intervention dans le domaine public. Comme eux, s’étant mentalement préparé à mourir, et quelques puissent être ses motivations personnelles, son suicide spectaculaire pour une cause légitime est le geste d’un homme libre et maître de son destin.

samedi, 16 décembre 2017

Yukio Mishima and the spirit of a genius based on the soul of history: The last great Japanese writer

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Yukio Mishima and the spirit of a genius based on the soul of history: The last great Japanese writer

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Japan witnessed many shifting sands since the Meiji Restoration of 1868 based on modernity, liberalism, nationalism, Westernization, reaching out to the past, forging a new future, and other convulsions that ultimately led to a brutal war. In other words, the paths were often contradictory and clashed not only on the political front but also within the soul. Of course, the events of World War Two altered the image of Japan internationally and ultimately enabled America to creep into the psyche of this nation – for good and bad. Hence, the genius of Yukio Mishima is that his books – and thinking – fused the complexities facing individuals in this new world of opportunity – and in the new world of forgetting the past that irked this amazing writer.

In Sun and Steel, Mishima writes, “Was I ignorant, then, when I was seventeen? I think not. I knew everything. A quarter-century’s experience of life since then has added nothing to what I knew. The one difference is that at seventeen I had no ‘realism’.”

mishimasword.jpgIf we take these words out of context but relate them to certain ideas held by Mishima, then these worlds can equally equate to the changing landscape of Japan based on skyscrapers and the dilution of faith and philosophy. In other words, maybe Japan had learned everything under the Meiji Restoration based on the hypocrisy of Western, Catholic, and Islamic empires that utilized fear and control at the drop of a hat. Of course, while Islamization followed the Ottomans and Catholicism followed the Spanish – the British view was that you didn’t have to enslave one hundred percent by destroying indigenous faiths. Instead, the essence of the British Empire was to exploit resources at all costs – while destroying the soul of poor indigenous British nationals based on child labor, the workhouse, and a host of other barbaric realities.

This is the world that modern Japan in the Meiji Era woke up to in the nineteenth century. It was a knowledge that exploitation, power, theft, the adulteration of culture, impinging and enslaving the indigenous through various forms outside of chains, controlling resources, and crushing the psyche of others would ultimately benefit the respective ruling elites of Western, Catholic, and Islamic empires. However, for Japan, the same logic they responded to was to become altered based on the changing shifts of time. Hence, Japan was out of step while the international ruling elites utilized their respective hypocrisy, while still controlling wealth and mindsets by utilizing all the negatives of Christianity and Islam to crush the spirit.

Mishima, fearing the soul of Japan was being lost indefinitely based on aspects of the above and the ravages of modernity in defeating the past – would also turn against “words” in time based on his idea of weakness. It is all these convulsions that Mishima sought to express. This is a far cry from modern and relatively mundane writers including Haruki Murakami, Kenzaburo Oe, Banana Yoshimoto, and others, who could never envisage such a world based on being “typical modern souls.”

yukio_mishima_by_reign_of_phoebus-d36cjrf.jpgMishima said, “If we value so highly the dignity of life, how can we not also value the dignity of death?  No death may be called futile.”

Once more, if we take this out of context but relate it to a psyche that once existed within the body politic of certain Japanese warlords, then Mishima may deem aspects of modern Japan – and modern societies in general – to lack “dignity.” Equally, in the mind of Mishima, many aspects of modernity leads to a “futile” existence based on ignoring the past in relation to culture, society, and history.

Mishima wrote, in The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, “The past does not only draw us back to the past. There are certain memories of the past that have strong steel springs and, when we who live in the present touch them, they are suddenly stretched taut and then they propel us into the future.”

Once more, if these words are taken out of context but relate to ideas held by Mishima, then it appears that the future and past are interwoven providing the past re-emerges. Of course, the degree of the past and its hold on the future is open to interpretation. Yet, in the eyes of Mishima a nation can’t truly be propelled if the past is negated and the new God now becomes modernity, the work ethic without a greater goal, a robotic existence based on national insurance numbers, the usurpation of tax by a self-centered central state, and the destruction of high culture for a quick fix based on trash. Therefore, the final days of Mishima were fused with all the convulsions that he witnessed personally – and based on the history he read – and a changing Japan that he feared would destroy the soul of this nation.

Mishima wrote, “A samurai is a total human being, whereas a man who is completely absorbed in his technical skill has degenerated into a ‘function’, one cog in a machine.”

In a past article, I said, In Mishima’s short memoir, Sun and Steel, it is clear that his obsession during the last ten years was a fusion of writing and bodybuilding to an extreme.  This book was published in 1968 and it reflected the psyche of Mishima in this period of his life. He now fused the pen with physical training and concepts of the new Japan betraying the old and glorified Japan. The book Sun and Steel relates to Mishima throwing away his earlier novel Confessions of a Mask. After all, Mishima was now building up to be a man of strength. In other words, the Nietzsche ubermensch was born within the ego and spirit of Mishima.”

Overall, while parts of the Islamic world are crushing freedom and writers are being butchered by Sunni Islamists in Bangladesh; while in the opposite direction the West is in a self-imposed machinery of narrowness based on the need to follow the politically correct narrative; then Mishima is an individual who is free from not only this world based on his dramatic death but, equally important, this great writer was free during his time on this earth despite all the trappings of modernity that could have crushed his soul. Therefore, in comparison with other contemporary writers in Japan, it is abundantly clear that Mishima is the last great writer who remains unmatched based on his literature and the power of his psyche in the last moments of his life.

 

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jeudi, 07 décembre 2017

Yukio Mishima’s The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea

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Yukio Mishima’s The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea

Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com

The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea remains imprinted upon the mind long after one has read it. It is one of Mishima’s shorter novels, but its tightly-woven narration heightens the intensity of the atmosphere, simulating a taut bowstring upon readying an arrow.

The novel takes place in Yokohama, Japan’s leading port city, during the American occupation, and unfolds mainly from the perspective of a 13-year-old boy by the name of Noboru Kuroda. Noboru lives alone with his mother Fusako, who runs a luxury shop that sells Western-style clothing; his father died when he was eight years old. He belongs to a gang of six precocious young boys who espouse a form of nihilism and hold mainstream society in contempt, reserving especial scorn for fathers.

mishimasailor.jpgNoboru is fascinated with the sea and ships. He convinces his mother to take him to a port, where a sailor by the name of Ryuji Tsukazaki, second mate aboard a freighter ship, shows him around his ship. The reader is introduced to Ryuji when Fusako invites him to the Kurodas’ home and Noboru observes the two embracing through a hole in the wall behind a chest in his bedroom.

Ryuji is rough-hewn, muscular, and ruggedly masculine. As a young man he was drawn to the restlessness and vastness of the sea and its rejection of the static confinement of landbound strictures. He was convinced that glory lay in store for him: “At twenty, he had been passionately certain: there’s just one thing I’m destined for and that’s glory; that’s right, glory!” (15). He wanted to lead a life of danger and adventure. Thus his vision of glory was inseparable from the perilous nature of seafaring: “They were consubstantial: glory and the capsized world. He longed for a storm” (15).

Ryuji becomes a hero to Noboru. As a young boy growing up without a father in postwar Japan, Noboru looks to him as a role model and worships the ideal of glory that he represents. He is in awe of Ryuji and likens him to “a fantastic beast that’s just come out of the sea all dripping wet” (41).

Ryuji leaves when his ship sets sail again, and his return marks the beginning of Part Two of the novel. Upon returning, Ryuji proposes to Fusako and the two agree to marry, which enrages Noboru. By marrying Fusako and embracing a life of domesticity, Ryuji is forced to sacrifice life at sea. He realizes this and at one point briefly questions his choice:

Are you really going to give it up? The feeling of the sea, the dark, drunken feeling that unearthly rolling always brings? . . . Are you going to give up the life which has detached from the world, kept you remote, impelled you towards the pinnacle of manliness? The secret yearning for death. The glory beyond and the death beyond. Everything was ‘beyond,’ wrong or right, had always been ‘beyond.’ (87)

Noboru becomes disillusioned with his former hero. Having turned his back on a life of glory, Ryuji forsakes his status as a hero of mythical proportions and becomes an everyday sort of fellow. This is foreshadowed in a scene in which he encounters Noboru one afternoon and calls out to him while flashing a forced grin. Here Ryuji comes across as a sheepish, almost pitiable figure attempting to endear himself to the boys.

Noboru informs the gang of Ryuji’s engagement to Fusako, and they decide it is necessary to “make that sailor a hero again” (107). There is a single means through which this can be achieved. The boys lure Ryuji to a secluded area under the pretense of getting him to talk about his adventures at sea. Ryuji begins to muse about the life he left behind. As he speaks, the immensity of his decision hits him just before he meets his end: “Now only embers remained. Now began a peaceful life, a life bereft of motion” (142).

The prose in the final scene is subtle and understated, which lends it a haunting effect. Mishima also refrains from inserting moral judgments that would color the reader’s interpretation of the deed, recalling Ryuji’s description of the sea’s indifference to human moral schemes.

Like many of Mishima’s works, the novel is essentially an allegory for the decline of traditional Japanese culture and the masculine spirit of the samurai amid the onslaught of Westernization and modernity.

Fusako embodies both the Westernization of Japan and the essence of the feminine. She leads a thoroughly Western lifestyle and decorates her home with Western furnishings, wears Western clothing, etc. She also represents the mentality of the modern West, one which prioritizes economic security, stability, and contentment above all other values. Such values are inherently feminine, eschewing adventure and heroism for comfort and safety. Fusako symbolizes the archetypal feminine, that which is earthbound and static, while Ryuji’s youthful aspirations represent celestial masculinity, that which strives to attain glory and greatness. Female seduction represents a woman’s attempt to lure a man into her domain and drag him down to earth, thereby derailing his quest for glory. Thus the gang scorns fatherhood because they realize that their fathers were each forced to compromise their individual quests for greatness and make concessions to societal custom.

The sense of glory that Noboru and the gang see in Ryuji is the antithesis of bourgeois, modern Western values, which in Mishima’s view were eroding traditional Japanese notions of honor. Thus the ideal of glory that Noboru reveres symbolizes the martial ethos of the samurai, and Noboru and the gang serve to enforce bushidō, the samurai code.

Yet Ryuji himself falls short of fulfilling this ideal. The choice between land and sea that lies before him and his ambivalence in the face of this dilemma is a reflection of the uncertain identity of postwar Japan, a country that over the course of a single century had transitioned from a feudal state into a global military power and was forced to grapple with how to reconcile its indigenous culture with modernity. Ultimately Japan pursued the course of Westernization, reflected in Ryuji’s rejection of his former life.

Thus Ryuji’s rejection of his life at sea in order to marry Fusako represents a surrender to the West/modernity as well as to the feminine. Faced with the fall of his hero, Noboru comes to believe that Ryuji can only be redeemed through dying a heroic death. The gang’s final act symbolizes an attempt to halt Westernization and restore heroism and glory to Japan. In this sense the gang parallels Mishima’s militia, the Tatenokai (“Shield Society”). On the morning of November 25, 1970, Mishima and four Tatenokai members seized control of a Japanese military base and attempted to enact a coup that would restore prewar imperial rule in what is now known as the Mishima Incident. The coup failed but ultimately served as a symbolic ritual (like the murder of Ryuji) that set the stage for Mishima’s suicide.

The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea is far more than an exploration of adolescent mischief gone awry. It illustrates that civilizations fluctuate between two opposite poles: a feminine spirit of bourgeois complacency and mediocrity and a masculine spirit that valorizes glory and greatness. The difference between the two is perhaps most evident in their respective attitudes toward death. In societies characterized by the former, an early or unnatural death is considered the worst fate that can befall a man. Many modern people expend an enormous amount toward artificially prolonging the degenerative state of old age for as long as possible. In societies characterized by the latter, it is held that weakness and dishonor are far worse than death. In such societies it is regarded as noble and heroic to sacrifice one’s life for a great cause, the “Grand Cause” that Ryuji invokes while reminiscing upon his life at sea (142). Mishima sought to do the same and intentionally committed seppuku when he was in his prime.

The modern world is defined by that which Fusako embodies: a desire for contentment and economic security at the expense of glory and heroism. In Greek mythology, sailors who were lured to land by the seductive song of the Sirens invariably met their end. Likewise the prospect of easy living appears alluring in times of national uncertainty but in the long run leads to civilizational decline. Thus the final act of the novel represents not the depravity of disturbed teenagers but rather the role of gang violence in enforcing justice and restoring order to a disturbed world.

jeudi, 23 novembre 2017

Beauty & Destruction in Yukio Mishima’s The Temple of the Golden Pavilion

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Beauty & Destruction in Yukio Mishima’s The Temple of the Golden Pavilion

In 1950, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji) in Kyoto was burned to the ground by a young monk. The temple had been built in the fourteenth century and was the finest example of the architecture of the Muromachi period. Covered in gold leaf and crowned with a copper-gold phoenix, it projected an image of majesty and serene beauty. It had been designated a National Treasure in 1897 and was considered a national symbol in Japan. Transcripts of the monk’s trial indicate that the temple’s beauty consumed him with envy, and the reminder of his own ugliness engendered in him a hatred of everything that was beautiful. The temple haunted his imagination and became the object of his obsession. This neurotic fixation finally compelled him to destroy it.

This inspired Mishima to write his novel The Temple of the Golden Pavilion. He uses the incident as a basic framework upon which he crafts both a psychological portrait tracing the protagonist’s descent into madness and obsession and a philosophical meditation on the nature of beauty, time, and morality. The novel is a masterpiece and stands as one of Mishima’s greatest works.

Pavillon-dor_9173.jpegThe narrator, Mizoguchi, is physically weak, ugly in appearance, and afflicted with a stutter. This isolates him from others, and he becomes a solitary, brooding child. He first learns of the Golden Temple from his father, a frail country priest, and the image of the temple and its beauty becomes for him an idée fixe. The young Mizoguchi worships his vision of temple, but there are omens of what is to come. When a naval cadet visits his village and notices his stutter, Mizoguchi is resentful and retaliates by defacing the cadet’s prized scabbard. From the beginning, he realizes that the beauty of the temple represents an unattainable ideal: “if beauty really did exist there, it meant that my own existence was a thing estranged from beauty” (21). Over time, this seed in his mind metastasizes and begins to consume him.

Like many youths who are afflicted with both physical defects and an overactive imagination, Mizoguchi is prone to delusions of grandeur, imagining himself as a great artist with a special destiny. He takes pride in being misunderstood by others. This sense of alienation feeds his obsession throughout the book.

Mizoguchi’s reaction upon first encountering the temple is one of disappointment, but this changes after he comes across a miniature model of it enclosed in a glass case and realizes that the temple represents an ideal that can be incarnated within his mind at both infinitely small and infinitely large scales. The image of the temple often acquires a boundless and all-encompassing form in his imagination: “It filled the world like some tremendous music, and this music itself became sufficient to occupy the entire meaning of the world. The Golden Temple . . . had now completely engulfed me and had allowed me to be situated within its structure” (125). Conversely, at times he envisions the temple as a miniature model that he is able to possess and control. This duality reflects the tension both between remaining engulfed within the temple or becoming integrated into the real world and between the temple’s hold upon him and his urge to destroy it (Paul Schrader’s biopic Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters contains a dramatization of parts of the novel, in which at one point Mizoguchi holds a model of the temple and crushes it with his hands).

Upon entering the Zen Buddhist priesthood and becoming an acolyte of the temple, Mizoguchi’s obsession intensifies. He hopes that the temple will be destroyed by American air raids, and he along with it: “It became my secret dream that all Kyoto should be wrapped in flames” (47). But when the temple still remains unscathed by the end of the Second World War, Mizoguchi finds that its apparent indestructibility takes on a threatening quality, as if the temple’s beauty had descended from heaven and imposed its divine authority upon the physical world. The transcendent ideal of beauty embodied by the temple increasingly fills him with unease and bitterness. The temple’s very existence serves as an eternal, immutable reminder of his own inferiority and the ideals that elude his grasp. His eventual burning of the temple recalls an incident toward the beginning of the book in which a girl called Uiko is shot by her deserter boyfriend when he learns of her betrayal and realizes that he no longer truly possesses her. The metaphysical and quasi-erotic union with the temple that Mizoguchi dreamt of attaining as he perished along with it while Kyoto went up in flames is impossible. It can only be approximated if Mizoguchi destroys the temple.

mishimaGPav.jpgAll human beings possess a will to power in the Nietzschean sense. This finds its highest expression in self-actualization and self-mastery, and in the achievements of great artists, thinkers, and leaders, but in its lower forms is embodied by the desire of defective beings to assert themselves at all costs. This is manifested in Mizoguchi’s desire to destroy the temple, which intensifies in proportion to his realization that he will never be able to possess it or approach its beauty.

Two years later, Mizoguchi is recommended by Father Dosen (the Superior of the Temple) to attend Otani University, where he befriends a clubfooted boy by the name of Kashiwagi. While the two are on a walk near the university, they spot a girl approaching them. Kashiwagi uses the opportunity to demonstrate to Mizoguchi how he seduces women. He convulses his body and purposefully trips on his clubfeet, falling to the ground. Then he cries out to the girl in an attempt to win her sympathy by drawing attention to his suffering.

Mizoguchi attempts to imitate Kashiwagi’s tactic and make love to a girl but finds that he is impotent. For his mind still remains fixed upon the ideal of beauty represented by the Golden Temple, which renders him incapable of exploiting his disability to his advantage: “Then the Golden Temple appeared before me . . . . It was this structure that now came and stood between me and the life at which I was aiming” (125). As the novel advances this conflict becomes increasingly pronounced.

Later on, Mizoguchi tells Kashiwagi about the Zen koan that Father Dosen read to the priests on the day of Japan’s defeat. The koan involves a priest, Nansen, who settles a dispute over a kitten between two groups within his temple. He declares that he will kill the kitten unless anyone speaks; when met with no response, he cuts the kitten in two. Nansen’s chief disciple, Joshu, reacts by removing his shoes and placing them on his head upon hearing of the incident. Kashiwagi offers his own interpretation and suggests that the kitten represented beauty, which Nansen sought to destroy. He remarks: “Beauty is like a decayed tooth. It rubs against one’s tongue, it hangs there, hurting one, insisting on its own existence. Finally it gets so that one cannot stand the pain and one goes to the dentist to have the tooth extracted” (144). In his view Joshu’s act of placing his shoes on his head was a way of satirizing Nansen’s solution: Joshu realized that destroying an object of beauty was a futile act of desperation and could not eradicate the ideal of beauty itself.

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During this conversation, Kashiwagi creates a flower arrangement in the traditional Japanese style, composed of irises and cattails that he persuaded Mizoguchi to steal from the temple grounds. Shortly thereafter, he is visited by the woman who instructed him in this art. After he coldly informs her that her instruction is no longer needed and he wishes never to see her again, she smashes the vase of flowers, and Kashiwagi then hits her face. The manner in which this tranquil scene abruptly escalated into violence exemplifies a tension between elegance and beauty on the one hand and brutality and violence on the other that lies at the core of Japanese culture. An undercurrent of potential brutality lurks beneath Japanese refinement and decorum. The two are not separate but rather closely intertwined. (A modern example would be the deviant and often sadomasochistic sexuality prevalent in Japanese anime and manga, which coexists alongside traditional Confucian mores.) Thus Kashiwagi remarks earlier while he and Mizoguchi are walking about that “it’s on a beautiful spring afternoon like this that people suddenly become cruel” (106). Mishima discusses this theme in a clip from an English-language interview [4] he gave in 1970:

You can easily find two contradictory characteristics of Japanese cultures, or Japanese characters. One is elegance, one is brutality. These two characteristics are very tightly combined sometimes . . . Sometimes we are too sensitive about defilement, or elegance, or a sense of beauty, or the aesthetic side. Sometimes we get tired of it. Sometimes we need a sudden explosion to make us free from it.[1]

Mizoguchi’s immolation of the temple can be seen in a similar light. It was a “sudden explosion” that erupted from his obsession with beauty. But amidst the malaise of postwar Japanese society, the dynamic between beauty and violence took on a different form. Mizoguchi’s act is inseparable from this context.

Mishima believed that postwar Japan was characterized above all by spiritual emptiness. Until 1945, Japanese emperors were officially regarded as direct descendants of the sun goddess Amaterasu. With Japan’s defeat and the signing of the Humanity Declaration, Emperor Hirohito renounced his claim to divinity. Mishima rebuked the Emperor for this and saw his renunciation of divinity as a capitulation to secular Western values. In his view the loss of the Emperor’s divine identity was the ultimate symbol of the disintegration and hollowing out of Japanese civilization in the face of modernity.

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Mizoguchi’s obsession with the temple represents an attempt to fill this void. But Mizoguchi realizes that the temple symbolizes something fundamentally alien both to his nature and to postwar Japanese society in general. The temple was inextricably linked with the history and iconography of Imperial Japan. Initially Mizoguchi sees it as a refuge from the nihilistic apathy and emptiness of the society in which he lives. Yet the more he broods upon this alienation, the more resentful and vengeful he becomes. Thus the destruction of the temple in part represents a subconscious attempt to eradicate what remained of Imperial Japanese civilization. By the end of the novel, Mizoguchi dreams of bringing about nationwide anarchy: “When the Golden Temple has been burned down . . . the world of these fellows will be transformed, the golden rule of their lives will be turned upside down, their train timetables will be thrown into utter confusion, their laws will be without effect” (185).

The novel possesses a political significance on a broader level in that it sheds light on the psychology behind modern leftism. This is best articulated when Mizoguchi voices his hope that the temple will be destroyed in American air raids: “What I dreamed of was something like a huge heavenly compressor that would bring down disasters, cataclysms and superhuman tragedies, that would crush beneath it all human beings and all objects, irrespective of their ugliness or their beauty” (47). Such represents egalitarianism taken to its logical conclusion. It is impossible to create equality by raising everyone to an equal level. Complete equality can only be achieved by cutting down “tall poppies” and eliminating standards altogether. Mizoguchi’s fantasy finds a parallel in modern progressive ideology.

There is also a semi-autobiographical dimension to the novel. As a child, Mishima was weak, sickly, and smaller than average. He was raised during his formative years by his grandmother, who kept him indoors and forbade him from playing with other boys or engaging in rough play. Like Mizoguchi, the young Mishima was introspective, solitary, and obsessed with the ideal of beauty. Mizoguchi mentions that “when action was needed, [he] was always absorbed in words” (12), which recalls Mishima’s description of his childhood in Sun and Steel. However, rather than lashing out at society on account of his physical inferiority, Mishima sought to strengthen himself and became a bodybuilder as well as a skilled practitioner of Japanese kendo (swordsmanship).

Individuals like Mizoguchi are thus faced with a choice. They can seek either to destroy hierarchical value systems or to uphold transcendent ideals like beauty and greatness and aspire toward them.

Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: https://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: https://www.counter-currents.com/2017/11/beauty-and-destruction-in-yukio-mishimas-the-temple-of-the-golden-pavilion/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: https://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/GoldenPavilionInWinter.jpg

[2] Image: https://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/220px-Burned_Kinkaku.jpg

[3] Image: https://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/GoldenPavilion1.jpg

dimanche, 04 décembre 2016

Chant de la Tatenokai ( Société du bouclier), fondée par Yukio Mishima

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Chant de la Tatenokai ( Société du bouclier), fondée par Yukio Mishima

起て!紅の若き獅子たち (高音質ハイレゾ)

起て!紅の若き獅子たち (楯の會の歌) 昭和45年5月

作  詞 三島 由紀夫
作編曲 越部 信義 
歌 唱 三島由紀夫と楯の會


夏は稲妻 冬は霜
富士山麓に 鍛え来し
若きつはもの これにあり
われらが武器は 大和魂
とぎすましたる刃こそ
晴朗の日の 空の色
雄々しく進め 楯の會
 
憂いは隠し 夢は秘め
品下りし世に 眉上げて
男とあれば 祖國を
蝕む敵を 座視せんや
やまとごころを 人問わば
青年の血の燃ゆる色
凛々しく進め 楯の會
  
兜のしるし 楯ぞ我
すめらみくにを守らんと
嵐の夜に逆らひて
よみがえりたる 若武者の
頬にひらめく曙は
正大の気の旗の色
堂々進め 楯の會

samedi, 23 avril 2016

L'universo eroico di Yukio Mishima

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vendredi, 01 mai 2015

Mishima entdecken

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Mishima entdecken

von Jens Strieder

Ex: http://www.blauenarzisse.de

Dieses Jahr wäre Yukio Mishima 90 Jahre alt geworden. Ein Sammelband beleuchtet die verschiedensten Facetten des japanischen Ausnahme-​Autors. Zweifelsohne: Mehr als ein Geheimtipp für Mishima-​Leser.

mishDDDD.jpgBereits vor fünf Jahren, kurz vor dem 40. Jahrestag seiner öffentlich inszenierten Selbstentleibung, erschien mit Yukio Mishima – Poesie, Performanz und Politik ein Sammelband. Er behandelt zentrale Themenkomplexe in dessen Werk.

Kein starrer, politischer Blick

Die behandelten Themen reichen von Mishimas Ästhetisierung und Poetisierung des Politischen über seine Beziehung zur traditionellen japanischen Dichtung und dem Theater bis hin zum performativen Charakter der eigenen Vita und der philosophischen Selbstkonzeption des Autors. Sämtliche Beiträge des Bandes stammen von Japanologen und ausgewiesenen Kennern der Materie.

Dieser Umstand hat positive und negative Seiten. Zum einen wird so ein allzu starrer Blick auf den politischen Werdegang Mishimas verhindert, zu dem häufig vor allem diejenigen neigen, die ausschließlich aus diesen Gründen mit dem Autor sympathisieren. Auf der anderen Seite führt die größere Distanz der Beiträger jedoch auch zu dem altbekannten akademischen Dünkel, der sich, ganz dem Zeitgeist verpflichtet, auch gern mal in moralisierenden Urteilen erschöpft.

Nichtsdestotrotz weisen die einzelnen Texte auf viele interessante Sachverhalte hin und untersuchen ihren jeweiligen Gegenstand mit großer Akribie. Christoph Held, der sich mit Mishimas kurzer Erzählung Yukoku, zu Deutsch Patriotismus, befasst, legt beispielsweise überzeugend dar, warum die politische Dimension der Geschichte in erster Linie als Teil ihrer ästhetischen Konstruktion zu verstehen ist. Mishima selbst sagte einmal, Yukoku sei keine politische Erzählung. Tatsächlich ging es Mishima wohl eher darum, den derart in Szene gesetzten Tod als höchsten Akt der Reinheit und ästhetischen Vervollkommnung in seinem Sinne darzustellen.

Verbindung von Geist und Tat

Sehr interessant ist auch ein Beitrag von Gerhard Bierwirth, der sich mit Mishimas Streben nach Anerkennung befasst und dabei Hegels Phänomenologie des Geistes im Hinterkopf hat. Dabei bestechen besonders seine Thesen zu Mishimas Konzeption der Verbindung von Geist und Tat hervor. Sie waren charakteristisch für den Japaner und er machte sie er auf verschiedene Weise für sich fruchtbar. In dem Beitrag Mishimas Seppuku als performatives Motiv bei Murakami und Shimada von Claudia Wünsche wird vor allem das Verhältnis der späteren japanischen Autorengeneration zu Mishima beleuchtet. Dass ein stark vom Westen geprägter Autor wie Haruki Murakami mit Mishima vergleichsweise wenig anzufangen weiß, dürfte auf der Hand liegen. Umso interessanter ist es zu sehen, wie die beiden Autoren die Person Mishimas in ihr Werk integrieren. Dies geschieht beispielsweise durch eindeutige Anspielungen. Hier wird aber auch deutlich, wie sehr Mishimas gesamtes Schaffen nach wie vor primär vor dem Hintergrund seines Todes und seiner letzten Lebensjahre betrachtet wird.

Nietzsche und Mishima

Zu dieser Zeit entstand seine nicht selten als Hauptwerk bezeichnete Roman-​Tetralogie Das Meer der Fruchtbarkeit. Auf den ersten Blick wenig originell mag der Beitrag des japanischen Sozialphilosophen Ken´ichi Mishima wirken. Gegenstand ist hier der Einfluss Nietzsches auf Mishima. Nun gibt es in der ersten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts etliche Autoren, die sich mit Nietzsche beschäftigten. Der Text enthält aber einige interessante und wichtige Erkenntnisse zu Mishimas Nietzsche-​Rezeption, die unter anderem maßgebend für seinen vitalistisch-​ästhetizistischen Heroismus war. Auch die Distanz zum eigenen zeitgenössischen kulturellen Umfeld teilten beide. Etwas trockener wird es bei Rebecca Maks Untersuchung von Die Stimmen der toten Helden, die sich mit der intermedialen Dualstruktur dieser Prosaerzählung befasst und primär Japanologen bzw. Literaturwissenschaftler interessieren dürfte.

Erfreulicherweise befindet sich die Erzählung auch im Anhang, so dass deutschsprachige Leser die Möglichkeit haben, einen weiteren, bisher nicht ins deutsche übertragenen Text Mishimas kennen zu lernen. Ohne Zweifel: Alle in diesem Band versammelten Texte lesenswert. Entscheidend ist dabei wohl, wo der Interessenschwerpunkt des jeweiligen Lesers liegt. Für begeisterte deutsche Mishima-​Leser ist der Band jedoch wohl unverzichtbar. Denn die bisher zu diesem Autor erschienene Sekundärliteratur ist kaum oder nur noch antiquarisch erhältlich.

Yukio Mishima – Poesie, Performanz & Politik. Iaponia Insula. Studien zu Kultur und Gesellschaft Japans Bd. 21. Iudicium Verlag 2010. 269 Seiten. 24 Euro.

mercredi, 22 avril 2015

Il sogno di Mishima

vendredi, 06 mars 2015

Yukio Mishima: the Body as Spirit

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The Body As Spirit: Yukio Mishima, Author, Intellectual, And Warrior

“It is… possible for people to use the body as a metaphor for ideas,” Japanese author Yukio Mishima says in Sun and Steel.

Mishima had been a weak and sickly child, doted on by his over-protective grandmother. He wasn’t allowed to play with other boys, and grew up alienated from male culture (as well as from his mother, who was not allowed to look after him unsupervised). For him, Mishima says, “words came first of all; then… came the flesh. It was… already wasted by words.”

Yukio Mishima, bodybuilder and author

Yukio Mishima

For the author the answer to this waste — which he must have seen also in the Japan of post-World War II, defeated by the American atomic bomb — was to take up Kendo (traditional Japanese sword fighting) and bodybuilding, and to transform his thin frame into a powerful vehicle that could compete with his intellect.

The competition was partly one for attention, and partly one for a Way of being. Like aesthetes in the West, flamboyance and sincerity were not alien to each other, but one and the same. Controversially, Mishima formed his own private army, of about 100 members: the Tatenokai or “Shield Society.” He wanted, he said, to create a society for students who couldn’t, because of ideological reasons, join the Marxists on campus — Marxism was all the rage at the time.

One of the issues that divided the author and the Marxists (whom Mishima respected) was devotion to the emperor. Mishima never said it, but another — and perhaps an even more important area — was the body. The Tatenokai, and Mishima’s own “Way” of being was increasingly to the physical. In a flash of insight, Mishima

understood all kinds of things hitherto unclear to me. The exercise of the muscles elucidated the mysteries that words had made. It was similar to the process of acquiring erotic knowledge. Little by little I began to understand the feeling behind existence and action.

Marxism was intellectual. Mishima was increasingly concerned with the physical, precisely as an expression of ideas rooted in a kind of primordial drama. The flash of insight had come as the author considered the nature of tragedy.

Tragedy, says Mishima, “is born when the perfectly average sensibility momentarily takes unto itself a privileged nobility…”

It follows that he who dabbles in words cannot participate in it. It is necessary, moreover, that the “privileged nobility” find its basis strictly in a kind of physical courage… Tragedy calls for an anti-tragic vitality and ignorance, and  above all a certain ‘inappropriateness.’

By “ignorance,” of course, Mishima does not mean stupidity, vulgarity, or uncouthness (Mishima was very much concerned with elegance, though not as we might understand it today), but, rather, a move away from the intellect toward instinct.

Inoffensive in the West, “inappropriateness” was perhaps a more shocking idea in Japan of Mishima’s era (and even today), where rules of social etiquette are strict and complex, and understanding ones place in the order of society comes as second nature. But, the tragic hero must, of course, go against the convention of his own time. He is the one that steps forward, taking on the challenge to save society from some existential threat, while everyone else goes about their more mundane business.

It is odd, then, that Mishima suggests that the physical body “is foreign to the spirit,” being closer to ideas. Nevertheless, in criticizing those who allow their bodies to become ugly, he suggests that the body can be a vehicle for the spirit. A bulging belly is a “sign of spiritual sloth”, for example. This and other unattractive traits, says Mishima, is “as though the owner were exposing his spiritual pudenda on the outside of his body.”

The author equates such physical ugliness with “individuality.” “If,” says Mishima cryptically, “the body could achieve perfect, non-individual harmony, then it would be possible to shut individuality up for ever in close confinement.” But the idea of “perfect, non-individual harmony” seems to be key to Mishima’s growing interest in the physical. He could escape from the world of the internally and externally ugly through perfecting the body and making that his guiding spirit.

Angel Millar

Angel Millar is an author, blogger, and the editor of People of Shambhala.

lundi, 23 février 2015

Yukio Mishima: nazionalista, genio e morte perfetta

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Yukio Mishima: nazionalista, genio e morte perfetta

di Lee Jay Walker

Ex: http://chronachelodigiane.net

Yukio Mishima afferma: “Se valutiamo così altamente la dignità della vita, come possiamo non valutare anche la dignità della morte? Nessuna morte può essere definita futile“. Questo osservazione è scioccante per molte persone che non hanno mai letto Mishima, o letto profondamente il suo lavoro. Poi la sua morte incombe sulla realtà o irrealtà, poiché in ultima analisi si liberò o si dedicò a una mera illusione?

In realtà, da dove iniziare quando si scrive su Mishima? Inoltre, un critico deve affermare che conosce l’argomento dal lavoro interiore dell’individuo di cui scrive? Oppure immagini e riflessioni avrebbero maggiore profondità, grazie alle immagini degli ultimi momenti di Mishima? Dopo tutto, milioni di buddisti e cristiani hanno letto i libri sacri, ma la storia ci dice che il Buddismo Zen ha sostenuto il nazionalismo fino in fondo in Giappone, negli anni 30 e 40. Pertanto, i templi buddisti di Kyoto nel secolo scorso salutarono il massacro di cinesi inermi. Allo stesso modo, gli aborigeni in Australia si chiedono dove siano l’amore e la pace cristiani? Adolf Hitler rispettava l’Islam in quanto Muhammad avviò la schiavizzazione dei non-musulmani nella jihad, imponendo il potere dalla legge islamica Sharia e della dhimmitudine. Secondo Hitler, il cristianesimo era debole, mentre l’Islam era forte perché questa fede giustificava le guerre sante con il Corano e gli Hadith, radicati nella realtà della guerra e della concentrazione del potere. Quindi, forse è meglio guardare le istantanee e poi formulare le idee; perché Mishima certamente fece così. Dopo tutto, il nazionalismo come tutte le ideologie e o modelli di pensiero si basa su miti, ma con elementi di verità. Se la verità esiste veramente. Detto ciò, la mia istantanea di Mishima è la sua morte, perché le istantanee della storia fluivano nel suo sangue, ma finendo con l’arrampicarsi sugli specchi. Dopo tutto, la morte di Mishima non ha mutato il Giappone o riportato il Paese all’età di Edo, quando il senso di un Giappone isolato non esisteva pienamente per via del complesso sistema daimyo. Sì, un Giappone isolato esisteva, in certa misura, ma era un mito perché il daimyo Shimazu commerciò ed invase Ryukyu (Okinawa). Allo stesso tempo, la completa nipponizzazione del nord era in corso e presto gli Ainu si dissolsero nella schiatta e nella realtà coloniale linguistica giapponese. Pertanto, i momenti finali di Mishima furono un dramma totale, perché le sue azioni furono inutili. Tuttavia, dicendo ciò, Mishima morì di morte desiderata, nonostante i momenti finali siano una realtà che non si può pienamente percepire. Presumo che per quei fugaci minuti e secondi prima del decesso autoindotto, mente e spirito di Mishima fossero in estasi perché parte della sua fantasia divenne la realtà desiderata. Ma ben presto un articolato nazionalista non sarebbe stato, al dunque, per nulla impressionato da Mishima. perché l’occidentalizzazione continua a venare la psiche giapponese.


Nella breve memoria di Mishima, “Sole e Acciaio”, è chiara la sua ossessione degli ultimi dieci anni per la scrittura e un culturismo estremo. Questo libro fu pubblicato nel 1968 e riflette la psiche di Mishima che fuse la penna con l’allenamento fisico e i concetti sul “nuovo Giappone” che tradiva il “vecchio e glorificato Giappone”. Sole e Acciaio parla di come Mishima si sbarazza del suo precedente romanzo “Confessioni di una maschera”, perché ora Mishima costruiva l’uomo forte. In altre parole, l'”Ubermensch” di Nietzsche nasceva nell’io e nello spirito di Mishima. Mishima ora puntava ad allontanarsi dal suo genio letterario e a sprofondare nel mondo del “corpo e dell’azione”. Tuttavia se, come sostenuto, desiderava liberarsi e abbandonare il “potere della parola”, formandosi da “guerriero” nella sua visione del mondo, allora non ci riuscì. Gli ultimi giorni struggenti della sua vita si basarono sul “potere delle parole” e delle “idee”, derivanti dalla passione interiore in cui confusione, nazionalismo, ricerca dell’attenzione e uomo d’acciaio si fusero nella morte che l’ha glorificato. Mishima evidenziò anche la dualità con cui costantemente lottò, quando afferma: “Molte persone esprimono incredulità che un simile processo possa già essere al lavoro fin dai primi anni di una persona. Ma, senza ombra di dubbio, è ciò che mi è successo, gettando così le basi di tendenze contraddittorie in me, nella determinazione ad andare avanti lealmente, nella funzione corrosiva delle parole, svolgendo il lavoro della mia vita. E il desiderio d’incontrare la realtà in qualche campo in cui le parole non giochino alcun ruolo”. E’ chiaro che la dualità di Mishima deve avergli causato enorme ansia, insieme allo sviluppo di un forte ego basato su potere e forza. Dopo tutto, se si guarda il filmato della sua “rivolta illusoria”, allora si può vedere una passione e uno spirito difficile da trovare nell’ego altrui. Forse Mishima semplicemente combatteva contro se stesso? O forse l’ego ha superato la realtà o forse “la droga della vita” si fuse nella “droga di una morte glorificata?” Qualunque cosa stesse realmente accadendo nella sua mente, certamente credeva in se stesso, perché la trama nazionalista desiderata veniva ignorata dalle masse. Mishima aveva una natura complessa, perché aveva poco tempo per i cosiddetti intellettuali, venerando gli uomini d’azione. Nella sua mente s’identificava con samurai famosi, forti capi militari e persone che si sacrificarono. Ciò trascinò la sua anima, perché vedeva l’abilità letteraria come debolezza, ma come poteva Mishima esprimersi ed ispirare gli altri senza le “parole della passione?” L’allenamento fisico ossessivo di Mishima indicava la creazione del sé guerriero, ma i guerrieri che si sacrificarono avevano qualcosa da sacrificare. Mishima non aveva nulla da sacrificare, perché le sue azioni non furono solo inutili, ma dovute al mondo illusorio che si era creato. La maggior parte delle cricca letteraria del Giappone, negli anni ’60, era di sinistra, e i suoi libri erano incentrati su modelli di pensiero militaristi e nazionalisti. Mishima quindi si fissò sul Bunburyodo e una morte che facesse appello al suo ego. “Il mare della fertilità”, scritto da Mishima in quel periodo era una raccolta di quattro libri molto intriganti. L’anno successivo iniziò l’addestramento in una base militare e formò il suo esercito privato. Mishima era ormai negli ultimi anni di vita ed era intento alla fine nobile desiderata. Mishima nel 1969 su Runaway Horses affermava: “In che situazione strana tende a ritrovarsi un uomo all’età di trentotto anni! La sua giovinezza appartiene al lontano passato. Tuttavia, il periodo della memoria inizia con la fine della giovinezza e ad oggi non ha una singola vivida impressione. Quindi persiste nel sentire che nulla più che una barriera fragile lo separa dalla giovinezza. Ascoltando sempre con la massima chiarezza i suoni di questo dominio vicino, ma senza poterne penetrare la barriera“.


sun_and_steel.jpegMishima, nato nel 1925, era molto giovane durante la Seconda Guerra Mondiale ma poté partecipare all’ultimo anno di guerra; era scusato. All’epoca deve esser stato ossessionato dall'”uomo d’acciaio”, perché il suo amico Hasuda, collega scrittore, afferma: “Credo che si debba morire giovani, alla sua età”. Hasuda fu fedele alla parola, perché si suicidò. Sembra che l’omosessualità possa anche aver tormentato Mishima, poiché in Confessioni di una maschera (1949) si occupa di emozioni interiori e passioni. Tuttavia, se Mishima conosceva bene la storia di molti samurai, allora avrebbe creduto che l’omosessualità fosse la forma più pura di sesso. Inoltre, molti leader del Giappone nel periodo pre-Edo ed Edo ebbero concubini maschi. Pertanto, Mishima si vergognò dell’etica cristiana arrivata in Giappone con la Restaurazione Meiji (1868)? Se no, allora molti “uomini d’acciaio” del vecchio Giappone ebbero relazioni omosessuali e questo andava inteso alla luce della realtà. Dopo tutto, la lealtà nel vecchio Giappone era per il sovrano daimyo e i compagni samurai. Pertanto, la compassione era ritenuta cosa per deboli, a causa della natura della vita. Non sorprende che forti legami maschili prendessero piede nella psiche dei samurai e tale realtà culturale sia all’opposto dell’immagine dell’omosessualità nel Giappone moderno, percepita per deboli. Il Wakashudo aveva diversi modi di avviare i ragazzi nel “vecchio Giappone” e nella mentalità dei samurai, le donne venivano viste femminilizzare gli uomini indebolendone lo spirito. Il sistema Wakashudo fu spesso abusato dal clero buddista per proprie gratificazioni sessuali, in passato. Tuttavia, il sistema dei samurai si basava sulla creazione di “un processo di apprendimento secondo un codice etico” impiantando lealtà e forti legami per cui, in tempi di difficoltà, i samurai rimasero attaccati all’istruzione ricevuta. Mishima, gonfiando i muscoli e dalle competenze marziali ben levigate, divenne l'”uomo d’acciaio”. Tuttavia, fu contaminato dalle pose femminili fusesi nel suo martirio. Posò volentieri di fronte alle telecamere e le immagini di San Sebastiano ucciso da molte frecce o del samurai che invoca il suicidio rituale, giocarono la sua psiche e il suo essere. Il mondo di Mishima era reale e surreale, perché potere e forza si fusero, ma avendo una natura femminile seppellita nell’anima. Mishima dichiarò: “Il tipo più appropriato di vita quotidiana, per me, fu la quotidiana distruzione mondiale; la pace è il più duro e anormale modo di vivere”. Pertanto, il 25 novembre 1970, si avverò ciò che Mishima era divenuto. Tale realtà si basava su visioni suicide, quindi il suo mondo illusorio sfociò in un fine violenta. Tuttavia, la verità di Mishima fu la fine violenta e caotica entro una realtà struttura. Dopo tutto, Mishima stilò dei piani successivi alla morte. Inoltre, Mishima si dedicò per tale giorno da anni, ma ora il tempo della recitazione era finito, in parte, perché ancora si agitava nel mondo dell'”ego”. Nel suo mondo illusorio il “sé” avrebbe agito collettivamente con forza, a sua volta generando “uno spirito” tratto dal sogno di Mishima di morte glorificata. Eppure, non era un soldato, dopo tutto aveva mentito, non avendo combattuto per il Giappone; quindi, la retorica nazionalista fu proprio tale e il 25 novembre fu più una”redenzione personale” che pose fine alla “dualità della sua anima”. L’uomo delle parole sarebbe morto nel “paradiso dell’estremo dolore”, perché l’ultima sciabolata che lo decapitò non fu netta, furono necessari diversi tentativi. Dopo tutto, non era un soldato, non era un samurai e lo non erano neanche i suoi fedeli seguaci. L’atto finale è la prova che i “sognatori” sono proprio ciò; quindi, il finale non fu una bella immagine di serenità, ma una scena “infernale stupida e di follia autoindotta”. Il mondo illusorio di Mishima non poteva cambiare nulla, perché non riusciva a riscrivere la storia. Sì, dopo di lui si poté riscrivere la storia e forse questa era cui Mishima anelava?


Nonostante ciò, Mishima è un genio letterario e aveva più spirito ed ego della maggior parte delle persone. Il suo potere poggiava sui “demoni interni con cui lottava” e su una cultura che glorificava il sacrificio di sé. Tuttavia, Mishima non aveva nulla da sacrificare, perché l’ultimo evento della sua vita non scosse il Giappone, essendo più che altro “egoismo” nato dall'”irrealtà”. Eppure, l’opera di Mishima è molto particolare e nel XX secolo affianca i più grandi scrittori internazionali. Pertanto, il ragazzo di Tokyo fu enigmatico e dalla cruda passione. Purtroppo la passione di Mishima manca oggi e forse è qui che il suo “genio risiede”. In Mishima si può immaginare l’energia del passato e il visionario. Pertanto, le mancanze nella sua vita furono le mancanze di tutti; ma ciò va trascurato, perché ignorare gli scritti di Mishima significa ignorare una forza potente nell’energia letteraria del Giappone. Mishima, a differenza della maggior parte degli scrittori, trascese la nazione a cui apparteneva, perché la sua scrittura colpisce un nervo scoperto nell'”animo interiore”.

Fonte: aurorasito

vendredi, 21 novembre 2014

Hiroshi Teshigahara, La Femme des Sables, (Japon, 1964)

 

Hiroshi Teshigahara, La Femme des Sables, (Japon, 1964)

Ex: http://cerclenonconforme.hautetfort.com

Abe-Kobo-La-Femme-des-sables.gifLa deuxième des quatre œuvres issues de la collaboration de Teshigahara avec l’écrivain Kobo Abe, La Femme des Sables, est son long métrage le plus célèbre. C’est aussi certainement celui qui laisse l’impression la plus forte et la plus durable.

 

Si l’on peut rester de marbre devant Le Traquenard ou Le Visage d’un Autre, à cause notamment de certaines longueurs franchement pénibles, d’un style parfois curieux et d’un propos relativement décousu, le flot d’images surréalistes et envoûtantes de La Femme des Sables, en revanche, constitue une expérience esthétique fascinante, et ce malgré un director’s cut de 147 minutes bien tassées.

 

Visuellement, cette œuvre  regorge de trouvailles : superpositions de plans, alternance entre les gros plans d’insectes, de grains de sable ou du grain de la peau humaine, et de longues étendues désertiques animées par le vent ou par les traces laissées par un être humain… La photographie en noir et blanc est franchement splendide, et du point de vue de l’atmosphère générale, le terme « hanté » ne semble pas usurpé.

La trame du film elle-même est plutôt originale : un citadin, instituteur de son état dans une mégapole japonaise et entomologiste amateur, se rend dans le désert à la recherche de spécimens rares, dans l’espoir de voir son nom passer à la postérité dans une encyclopédie. Après une longue marche, il s’allonge sur le sable et laisse ses pensées vagabonder. Il songe aux papiers, aux archives, aux dossiers, aux permis, à la masse effroyable de paperasse qui donne à chacun un sentiment ambigu : celui d’appartenir à une société et d’être reconnu par celle-ci, tout en étant au fond qu’un nom parmi tant d’autres – un grain de sable parmi les grains de sable.

Il s’assoupit, et à son réveil il se laisse convaincre par un inconnu de se laisser guider jusqu’à un village au beau milieu du désert où il pourra se restaurer et passer la nuit.  Arrivé au village, notre homme découvre une maison de bois passablement délabrée, encaissée au fond d’une fosse de sable. Le voyageur descend par une échelle de corde à la rencontre de son hôte, une femme vivant seule dans cette tombe à ciel ouvert. Au cours du repas, l’homme plein d’orgueil et sûr de sa supériorité de citadin, prend  son hôte de haut lorsque celle-ci lui parle de son quotidien et des étranges phénomènes dont elle est régulièrement témoin.

L’homme se rend compte au cours de la nuit que la femme vit d’un labeur peu commun : elle entasse des kilos de sable dans de grandes caisses de métal, que des paysans hissent depuis le sommet de la fosse à l’aide d’un treuil. On pense tout d’abord qu’il s’agit d’une méthode fastidieuse destinée à éviter que la maison ne finisse par être intégralement ensevelie ; on apprend plus tard que ce sable est revendu à des entrepreneurs peu scrupuleux qui mettent en œuvre ce matériau peu coûteux et dangereux dans leurs constructions.

La condescendance du voyageur vis-à-vis de la femme qui le nourrit et l’héberge est bien vite vengée : le matin venu, l’homme  s’aperçoit en effet que l’échelle de corde a disparu… Il ne tarde pas à comprendre qu’il  est tombé dans un piège et que sa survie dépend de l’aide qu’il voudra bien apporter à la femme des sables dans sa tâche absurde et sans fin. L’homme passe de la révolte et de l’espoir à la résignation, puis au dépassement de sa condition tout au long de ce film en forme de quête initiatique.

femmesable-affretro2.jpg

 

Le film tourne autour de la notion d’identité : la place que l’homme occupe dans la société, instituteur au sein d’une grande ville, semble largement suffire à son épanouissement ; pourtant son incursion d’entomologiste amateur en quête de renommée et les réflexions qu’il se formule au cœur du désert, au sujet de ce qui fonde l’identité en tant que citadin, sont deux éléments qui montrent bien que notre homme redoute déjà au fond de lui de n’être rien d’autre qu’un grain de sable dans le désert. Lorsqu’il se retrouve confronté à une villageoise recluse au fin fond du désert pourtant, son statut officiel lui fournit une assurance mâtinée d’orgueil qui se mue vite en condescendance ; plus tard encore au cours de sa captivité, il nourrit toujours l’espoir d’être secouru, il place tous ses espoirs dans la certitude que le monde moderne auquel il appartient finira par le rattraper, qu’on viendra le chercher, que tout rentrera dans l’ordre pour lui.

A mesure que le film se déroule, toutes les craintes de l’homme s’avèrent fondées. Il comprend qu’il n’a jamais rien acquis d’autre qu’une identité de façade, intégralement administrative et sans réalité charnelle. Sa solitude cauchemardesque trouve un écho direct dans cette image du prisonnier au fond d’une tombe de sable. De nombreux plans du film viennent alimenter l’analogie, parfois en exacerbant le caractère futile des tentatives d’évasion : l’homme est semblable aux insectes qu’il collectionne, s’agitant vainement pour s’extirper de cette fosse où il lui faut maintenant apprendre à vivre.

Toute la futilité et l’absurdité de la condition humaine sont mises en évidence de façon tragique ; le labeur quotidien, infiniment renouvelé, infiniment absurde, rappelle bien évidemment le mythe de Sisyphe. Il ne faut pas s’en étonner : l’ouvrage de Kobo Abe semble en effet largement redevable à la philosophie existentialiste. La conclusion de la Femme des Sables est d’ailleurs fidèle, en substance, à celles que Kierkegaard, Sartre ou Camus ont pu formuler dans leurs travaux :  Teshigahara nous suggère en effet à la fin de son long métrage que l’homme doit trouver sa liberté intérieure en acceptant sa condition, en collaborant avec la femme des sables et en se livrant à une activité intellectuelle.  

Au-delà de cette lecture philosophique, qu’il ne faut bien évidemment pas se sentir obligé de partager, il reste un petit bijou du cinéma japonais des années 60, à l’ambiance particulièrement soignée, et dont la beauté formelle n’est certainement pas la moindre des qualités.

Lydéric / C.N.C.

Note du C.N.C.: Toute reproduction éventuelle de ce contenu doit mentionner la source.

samedi, 15 novembre 2014

Mishima: "La mer et le couchant" (1955)

Mishima: "La mer et le couchant" (1955)

Lu par Laurent James

mardi, 23 septembre 2014

Naoko Inose’s Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima

mishimaXXXX.jpg

Naoko Inose’s Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima

By Riki Reipersona

Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com

Naoko Inose
Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima [2]
Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 2013

Editor’s Note:

This is a review of the Japanese edition of Persona, which is available now in English translation. I have read the translation, which appears to be much longer (864 pages) than the Japanese original. It is a treasure trove of information on Mishima.  As an aside, the book’s unselfconscious frankness about sex and meticulous cataloging of genealogy and rank give one a sense of the consciousness of pre-Christian European society. 

The Japanese version of Persona was originally published in November 1995 by Bungei Shunshu (literally meaning “the Literary Spring and Autumn”), an established and prestigious publishing house in Japan. The author, Mr. Naoki Inose, is a maverick and contentious figure who served as the vice governor of Tokyo municipality for a long time while also being a highly prolific and popular writer, having penned no less than 30 books so far, mostly on political, historical, and cultural themes. He was lately in hot water, being forced to step down from his official post due to alleged involvement in a murky financial scandal. His political and administrative stance, by post-war Japanese standards, is mainstream conservatism (center-Right).

The main body of the book has about 390 pages, including a prologue, four chapters, and an epilogue. There is also a brief postscript and an extensive bibliography which together occupy another nine pages. Considering the length of the book, it is surprising that there are only four chapters. The 17-page Prologue is a novel-like start, the main character of which is a former schoolmate of Yukio Mishima, and whose father also happened to be an old acquaintance and old schoolmate of Mishima’s father Azusa Hiraoka (Hiraoka is the real family name of Mishima), both pursuing the careers of elite imperial government officials, but with quite different fates. The author’s intention in starting the book in this way was to highlight Mishima’s family background so as to shed light on the factors, both familial and historical, that shaped and molded the early development of Mishima’s quite unorthodox and eccentric personality.

Indeed, the author goes far further than most would expect, expatiating on the overall political and social picture of Japan in the late Meiji and early Taisho periods at the very beginning of the 20th century, which, in the author’s presumed reckoning, might better disclose and clarify the political, socio-cultural, and family backdrops of Mishima’s childhood, which was characterized by a mixture of docile and rebellious elements. The first chapter, called “The Mystery of the Assassination of Takashi Hara,” lasts almost 80 pages. Here the author talks about the historical background of the time in which Mishima’s grandfather Sadataro Hiraoka saw his career blossom then wither due to larger and uncontrollable political struggles.

Sadataro was a capable functionary favored and appointed by then the Internal Minister and later the Prime Minister of Japan Takashi Hara, nicknamed the “Commoner Prime Minister,” to be the governor of Karabuto (the Southern half of the Sakhalin Island, ceded to Japan by treaty after the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 and forcibly annexed by Soviet Union at the end of WWII). However, due to some suspicious financial dealing and mishaps which were seized by political foes to attack him, and political sectarian conflicts during the Hara administration and after his assassination, Sadataro was relieved of his governorship, and from then on, Mishima’s family’s fortune started to take an abrupt and sharp downturn.

The second chapter, “The Insulated Childhood,” shifts attention from the rise and fall of the Hiraokas to Mishima himself. Mr. Inose spends 90 pages on Mishima’s complex and seeming contradictory childhood, using narration interspersed by flashbacks, and talks about the family life of the Hiraokas, the inter-relationship of family members, religion, Mishima’s grandparents and parents, especially his fastidious and arbitrary grandmother and his bemused father, against the background of decline of the family’s fortunes as a result of political failures of his grandfather. The author devotes large passages to explaining such matters as Mishima’s poor physical health, his tender, timid, and self-isolating personality as a child molded by the uncannily tense family ambience, and his father’s desperate last-ditch effort that brought about his narrow escape from the military draft in his late teen years near the end of the Second World War.

In this chapter, the author also starts to introduce Mishima’s passion for literature, which developed quite early, and his first attempts at writing, as well as his friendship and literary exchanges with several likeminded youths who gave him encouragement and inspiration. One point meriting emphasis is the influence of Zenmei Hasuda, a young imperial army officer, a steadfast traditionalist and nationalist, and a talented writer who killed a senior officer for cursing the Emperor and then committed suicide near the end of the war.

In the third chapter, that lasts almost 100 pages, the author continues to elaborate on the young Mishima’s literary and private life, culminating in his crowning literary achievement, the novel Kinkakuji translated as The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, which the author rightfully perceives as a landmark of the first phase of Mishima’s literary life, which is characterized by richly colored, minutely detailed, and often unsettling depictions of the inner lives of men among the ruins of post-war Japan — a formerly proud nation wallowing in nihilism.

It is noteworthy that Mishima’s works at this stage are rather different from the second stage of his literary activities, in which his works display a clearly nationalist and Rightist perspective. While Mishima’s exquisite writing reached its peak (or near peak) quite early in his life, his understanding of and awakening to the Japanese identity and nationalism centered on the monarchist tradition underwent a gradual process of maturation and was still immature and inchoate at his first literary stage, i.e. the time around his writing of Kinkakuji and other non-nationalist works, in contrast to his second literary phase of more virile, robust, and nationalistic works from Sun and Steel to The Sea of Fertility. In addition, Mishima’s dandyesque personal life of drinking, socializing, and mingling with fashion-conscious rich girls as described in this chapter was also indicative of his less than mature literature and personality at his stage of his life.

yukio-mishimaXXXXWW.jpgChapter four, being the longest of the four chapters at about 110 pages, stands out as a relatively independent account of Mishima’s later years, dealing with both literature and political/ideological developments, leading to his failed coup, featuring his impassioned exhortation to the military servicemen and his ritual suicide by seppuku. This part covers the Mishima most familiar and interesting to Western readers. The chapter covers his body-building practices, his continued literary endeavors, consummated by the masterpiece The Sea of Fertility,his nominations for the Nobel Prize for Literature, and his increasingly active socio-political undertakings, including organizing his private militia troop, the Tatenokai (Shield Society), his serious and strenuous military training in Jieitai (Self-Defense Force), the post-war Japanese military — with the rather naïve aim of safeguarding the Emperor in concerted effort with the military in case of domestic unrest or even sedition at the hands of the leftist or communist radicals — and the events of this final day, November 25, 1970.

Although Persona has an overly long and detailed discussion of Mishima’s family history, the book still flows and proves an engaging read on the whole. The last chapter, though a bit overshadowed by the three preceding chapters, is definitely the most pertinent and fascinating of the whole, filled with interesting facts with insightful and trenchant observations.

Mishima’s veneration of the Emperor (Tenno) and ultimately the Imperial bloodline (Kotoh) of Japan, his candid criticism of Emperor Hirohito, and his final urge toward the coup and the subsequent suicide were already implied in his Kinkakuji, albeit symbolically as the impregnable top floor of the Kinkakuji pavilion itself. These themes became explicit in Voice of the Spirits of Martyrs published in 1966, which especially demonstrates Mishima’s mixed feelings if not overtly bitter resentment of Hirohito for his ignoble role in the failed Ni-Ni-Roku (Feb. 26) Coup of 1936[1] and his abject “I-am-a-human-not-a-god” announcement in 1945.[2] In the book, Mishima speaks through the mouth of a 23-year-old blind man, giving voice to the spirits of the Ni-Ni-Roku rebels and the Kamikaze pilots, i.e., the spirits of martyrs, speaking of the post-war economic boom coupled with the moral decay of Japanese society:

Under the benevolent imperial reign, the society brims with peace and stability. People smile albeit not without conflicts of interest and confusion of friends and foes. Foreign money drives and goads people, and pseudo-humanism becomes a necessity for making a living. The world is shrouded in hypocrisy while physical force and manual labor are despised. Youthful generations feel suffocated by torpor, sloth, drugs, and meaningless fights, yet they all move along the prearranged path of mundanity like meek sheep. People think about making money, even small amounts, for which they degrade their own value. Private cars multiply, whose stupid high speed renders people soulless. Tall buildings mushroom while the righteous cause and moral principles collapse, and the glittering glass windows of those buildings are just like fluorescent lights of implacable desires. Eagles flying high in the sky and break their wings, and the immortal glories are sneered at and derided by termites. In such a time, the Emperor has become a human.[3]

According to Mishima, the daily routines under the rapid economic growth of 1960s is but an ugly and hollow sign of happiness, all attributable to the fact that the Emperor Hirohito has proclaimed himself no longer a divine figure, a sacrosanct “Arahitogami”[4] but a mere human being devoid of sanctity. Mishima expressed this view via the collective voice of the spirits of the martyrs, that the Emperor has assumed a duality of image, one being the last sacred embodiment of the national myth, and the other being one kind smiling grandfather presiding over the economic rationalism of the current age, and it is the latter, the protector of the daily routines of the post-war Japan, that Mishima found intolerable, as the voice of the martyr spirits makes quite clear:

The reign of His Majesty has been dyed in two different colors. The period of the bloody red color ends with the last day of the war, and the period of the ash grey color begins from that day. The period of the authentic red color soaked with blood starts with the day when the utmost sincerity of the brotherly spirits was thrown away, and the period of that pallid grey color starts from the day of the ‘I-am-a-human’ announcement of His Majesty. The immortality of our deaths is thus desecrated.[5]

The “brotherly spirits” here refer to the soldiers of the failed 2.26 coup of 1936, failed by the Emperor Hirohito, by his headstrong refusal to understand and sympathize with their righteous patriotism and pure sincerity. Mishima also believed that the “I-am-a-Human” announcement of Hirohito in the wake of WWII rendered the heroic sacrifices of the lives of the Kamikaze Tokkottai (Special Attack Units) utterly futile and pointless.

According to the author, Mishima’s mother Shizue revealed a little secret about the writing of Voices of the Spirits of Martyrs on the occasion of the commemoration of the seventh anniversary of Mishima’s death, namely, the work was actually written one night. She recollected that Mishima handed the manuscript to her as he had always done and uttered “I wrote this in one stroke last night, and it’s now completed.” She read through it quickly, felt her “blood curdled,” and asked Mishima how he wrote this piece. Mishima answered: “I felt my hand moving naturally and the pen sliding on the paper freely. I simply couldn’t help it even if I wanted to stop my hand. Low voices as if murmuring could be heard across my room in the midnight. The voices seemed to be from a group of men. When I held my breath to listen carefully, I found they were the voices of the dead soldiers who had participated in the 2.26 Incident.” Shizue continued to remark that “I had known the saying about haunting spirits before but didn’t paid attention until that moment when I came to realize that Kimitake (Mishima’s real first name) was perhaps haunted by something, and I felt chills down my spine.”[6]

In the summer of the same year Voices of the Spirits of Martyrs was published, Mishima went to Kumamoto Prefecture on Kyushu Island, South Japan, and this trip would prove to have a decisively catalyzing effect on the consolidation of the nationalist and traditionalist ideology that guided his later literary and political actions, provided the urge for the writing of his final work The Sea of Fertility, and eventually paved the way for his suicide. The pivot of Mishima’s interest was the local Samurai warrior group Shinpuren (The League of Divine Wind) which was violently opposed to the various policies of westernizing reform enacted by the Meiji regime in the 1870s.

The original driving force of the Meiji Restoration was the idea of “Revering the Emperor and Repelling the Foreign Barbarians” (Sonnojoi), which stipulated that legitimacy came not from the Shogun but from the Emperor and that Western forces, epitomized by the dreaded “Black Ships,” must be decisively expelled.[7] Yet after abolishing the rule of the Tokugawa Shogunate by uniting around the rallying call of “Sonnojoi,” the newly-established Meiji regime immediately and drastically changed its course and started to purse a policy of reform: opening Japan to the outside world, imitating Western ways, and curbing or eliminating the traditional customs of Japanese society deemed by the new regime as un-Western and uncivilized. New laws were promulgated by the Meiji government: the former Shizoku (Samurai aristocrats) were prohibited from carrying swords in public places, a sacred and unalienable right in their eyes, marking their distinguished status from the masses. They were also forced to change their hairstyles (cutting off the buns at the back of their heads). These were the direct causes to the Insurrection of Shinpuren in 1876 (the ninth year of the Meiji period).

The members of Shinpuren were so thoroughly alienated and infuriated by the Meiji government that they went to comical lengths to reject modernity. For example, when banknotes replaced traditional metal coins, they refused to touch them with their hands, picking them up with chopsticks instead. They made long detours to avoid walking under electrical wires. If no detour was possible, they would cover their heads with a white paper fan and pass hurriedly under the wires. They cast salt on the ground after meeting anyone dressed in western garb. When they decided to revolt against the Meiji government, they insisted on using only traditional bladed weapons like the sword (Katana), spear (Yari), and cane knife (Naginata), instead of the “dirty weapons of the western barbarians.”

This group, consisting of about 170 men, launched a night-time attack on the Kumamoto garrison. The garrison troops were caught off guard and initially panicked. But they regrouped and started to fire volleys of bullets into the armor-wearing, sword-wielding Shinpuren warriors storming at them. The samurai fell one after another, and altogether 123 warriors died in the battle or committed seppuku after sustaining serious wounds, including a dozen 16- or 17-year-old teenagers.

It was indeed a sad and heart-wrenching story. Why were they willing to die to protect their right to carry samurai swords? It is hard to comprehend it by the commonsense of our de-spiritualized modern age. The rebellion was mocked by newspapers in Tokyo as an anachronism even at the time, let alone in post-War Japan. Nevertheless, the Shinpuren samurai believed they were serving the cause of righteousness and justice, and it was their spotless sincerity and combination of faith and action that deeply impressed Mishima. The following passage his comment on Shinpuren in a dialogue with Fusao Hayashi[8]:

Talk about the thoroughness of thinking, when thinking expresses itself in an action, there are bound to be impurities entering it, tactics entering it, and human betrayals entering it. This is the case with the concept of ideology in which ends always seem to justify means. Yet the Shinpuren was an exception to the mode of ends justifying means, for which ends equal means and means equal ends, both following the will of gods, thus being exempt from the contradiction and deviation of means and ends in all political movements. This is equivalent to the relation between content and style in arts. I believe there also lies the most essential, and in a sense the most fanatical sheer experimentation of the Japanese spirit (Yamatodamashii).[9]

As hinted previously, the trip to Kumamoto and the examination of the historical record of Shinpuren gave Mishima a model and meaning for his future suicide. In fact, three years before his suicide he published a piece in the Yomiuri Shinbun, in which he stated rather wistfully the following words: “I think forty-two is an age that is barely in time for being a hero. I went to Kumamoto recently to investigate the Shinpuren and was moved by many facts pertaining to it. Among those I discovered, one that struck me particularly was that one of the leaders of theirs named Harukata Kaya died a heroic death at the same age as I am now. It seems I am now at the ceiling age of being a hero.”[10] From such clues, which are actually numerous, the author argues that Mishima started at about forty to reflection on his own death and probably settled on terminating his own life upon the completion of his four-volume lifework The Sea of Fertility.

The heavy influence of Shinpuren is manifest in the second volume of The Sea of Fertility, namely Runaway Horses, in which the protagonist Isao Iinuma, a Right-wing youth, holds a pamphlet titled The Historical Story of Shinpuren and was depicted as possessing an burning aspiration of “raising a Shinpuren of the Showa age.” And the full content of the aforementioned book was inserted into Runaway Horses in the form of a minor drama within a major drama. The historical background of the novel was set in early 1930s. The 19-year-old Isao attempts to assassinate a man called Kurahara, known as the king fixer of backdoor financial dealing, who was in Mishima’s eyes the representation of Japanese bureaucrats who considered the “stability of currency” as the ultimate happiness of the people and preached a cool-headedly mechanical if not callous way of crafting economic policies. Kurahara was quoted saying, “Economics is not a philanthropy; you’ve got to treat 10% of the population as expendable, whereby the rest 90% will be saved, or the entire 100% will die” — the self-justifying words of a typical ultra-realist and even a nihilist — a stark contrast to the pre-War ideal of the Emperor as an absolute patriarch, a profoundly benevolent feudal ruler who guarded the identity, history, and destiny of the Japanese people — a metaphysical figure that Mishima embraced, held dear, and vowed to defend and revive regardless of cost.

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In sum, Mishima’s spiritual and historical encounter with Shinpuren and his military training can be viewed as elements in the design of his own death, as steps ascending to the grand stage. Shortly after concluding his military training, Mishima wrote a short book, A Guide to Hagakure, on Jocho Yamamoto’ famous summation of Bushido doctrine, Hagakure. Mishima’s Guide also illuminates his final action:

One needs to learn the value of the martial arts to be pure and noble. If one wants to both live and die with a sense of beauty, one must first strive to fulfill necessary conditions. If one prepares longer, one will decide and act swifter. And though one can choose to perform a decisive action oneself, one cannot always choose the timing of such an action. The timing is made by external factors, is beyond a person’s powers, and falls upon him like a sudden assault. And to live is to prepare for such a fateful moment of being chosen by destiny, isn’t it?! Hagakure means to place stress on a prior awareness and a regulation of the actions for such preparations and for such moments that fate chooses you.[11]

It is exactly in such a fashion that Mishima prepared for and embraced his self-conceived and fate-ordained final moment, to serve a noble, beautiful, and righteous cause.

Notes

1. Emperor Hirohito was angry at the assassinations of his trusted imperial ministers at the hands of the rebel soldiers. He vehemently refused to lend an ear to the sincere patriotic views of the rebels, refused to side with them, and immediately ordered the suppression of the coup and had the leaders tried and executed quickly.

2. Emperor Hirohito made this announcement partly due to the pressure of the US occupation forces, i.e. the GHQ, and partly willingly, as a cooperative gesture if not an overtly eager attempt to ingratiate himself with the conqueror.

3. Naoki Inose, Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima (Tokyo: Bungei Shunshu Press, 1995), p. 323.

4. Meaning literally “a god appearing in human form,” a highly reverential reference to the Japanese Emperor until the end of WWII.

5. Persona, pp. 323, 324.

6. Persona, p. 324.

7. American naval fleets commanded by Commodore Matthew Perry to force Japan to open itself to the world, which first arrived in 1853 and once again in 1854.

8. A famous and highly accomplished literary figure of contemporary Japan who is known for being flamboyant and highly contentious writer and literary critic. As a young man, he was a Leftist, he turned toward the Right-wing nationalism in the 1930s and remained a staunch and steadfast nationalist during the war and throughout the post-war years until his death.

9. Persona, pp. 327, 328.

10. Persona, p. 333.

11. Persona, p. 341.


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mardi, 26 août 2014

The Immortal Death of Mishima

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The Immortal Death of Mishima

By Christopher Pankhurst

Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com

When Yukio Mishima arose on the morning of November 25th 1970 he knew that it would be his last day on Earth. It was the deadline for completion of his novel, The Decay of the Angel, the fourth book in his tetralogy, The Sea of Fertility. He placed the completed manuscript, sealed in an envelope addressed to his publisher, on a table. Mishima had given intimations that the completion of the tetralogy would be the culmination of his life’s work. A month before his death he wrote to his future biographer, “Finishing the long novel (The Sea of Fertility) makes me feel as if it is the end of the world.”[1] The previous night he had left a note on his desk saying, “Human life is limited, but I would like to live forever.”[2]

He had spent some time preparing for his last day. Just the week before, there had been a major exhibition of his life held in Tokyo. One hundred thousand people viewed the exhibition, a token of Mishima’s popularity. Only Mishima, and a few of his most trusted comrades, knew that the exhibition was also a valediction. Prominently on display was Mishima’s 16th-century samurai sword, made by Seki no Magoroku, which he would be taking with him on the morning of November 25th to stage an attempted coup d’etat.

Mishima’s co-conspirators in the plan were four members of his private army, the Tatenokai, or Shield Society. This small corps (about 100 men) was formed with the stated intention of protecting the Emperor and, due to Mishima’s prestige, was allowed to use official military facilities for its training purposes. Mishima had arranged a meeting with General Mashita on the morning of the 25th and the group of five men was escorted to his office in the Ichigaya military base in Tokyo. There they took the general hostage and demanded that all the soldiers present at the garrison be assembled on the parade ground to listen to a speech given by Mishima. Mishima delivered his halting speech to a chorus of jeers from the assembled soldiers. He concluded with the patriotic chant, “Long live the Emperor!”

Retiring back to the general’s office he concluded that, “They did not hear me very well.” He then stripped to the waist and knelt down. Again shouting, “Long live the Emperor!” he stabbed himself in the abdomen with a short sword. This was the ancient samurai form of suicide by disemboweling: hara-kiri or seppuku. He pulled the blade across his stomach spilling blood into his lap until his intestines poked out of the deep cut. His second-in-command, Masakatsu Morita, then attempted to behead Mishima to relieve his agony, as had been agreed beforehand. Morita aimed a blow but missed the neck, cutting deeply into Mishima’s back. Another blow also missed the neck and a third, though on target, failed to sever the head. Another of the Tatenokai, Hiroyasu Koga, then took over and sliced Mishima’s head from his body. Morita then attempted an unsuccessful seppuku, barely penetrating his skin, and Furu-Koga cut his head off.

Mishima’s act of seppuku was the first to take place in Japan since the end of the Second World War, when hundreds of Japanese subjects committed seppuku in the grounds of the Imperial Palace to apologize to the Emperor for having lost the war. Many of the combatants in the Pacific also committed seppuku rather than suffer the dishonor of being captured by the Americans. Mishima’s suicide was radical and atavistic; it was a complex gesture both culturally and individually; and, ultimately, despite the confusion surrounding his act, it ensured that he would make his mark on eternity.

The Japanese Prime Minister, on hearing the news of Mishima’s death commented that, “He must have been kichigai, out of his mind.”[3] This judgement had more to do with the political establishment’s sense of embarrassment at Mishima’s anachronistic act than anything else. The point was expressed more clearly by the writer Nobuko Lady Albery: “It was a political embarrassment as well because just when Japan was on the point of becoming a member of the advanced industrialized nations whom we have copied so doggedly all those years; and then, here comes this writer killing himself as if the clock were put back two centuries.”[4]

In order to understand Mishima’s radical suicide it is necessary to understand the context of suicide in Japanese society, and the specific meaning of seppuku as a form of suicide. It is also necessary to consider Mishima’s own ideas concerning ritual death; ideas which are a complex mix of the traditional and the idiosyncratic.

Yukio-Mishima-Portrait02-766x1024.jpgIn Japan suicide has never been the taboo act that it traditionally is in the West. Since the advent of Christianity suicide in the West has been forbidden by the Church and often also by law. This taboo against suicide stems from Augustine who argued that life, being a gift from God, is not to be taken away, even by one’s own hand. This taboo was enshrined in law and continues to cast a dark shadow into modern times. As recently as 1969 a teenager was birched in The Isle of Man for attempting to commit suicide.[5] And it is still the case that official investigations into suicides will try their best to remain euphemistic about the cause of death:

Religious and bureaucratic prejudices, family sensitivity, the vagaries and differences in the proceedings of coroners’ courts and post-mortem examinations, the shadowy distinctions between suicides and accidents – in short, personal, official and traditional unwillingness to recognize the act for what it is – all help to pervert and diminish our knowledge of the extent to which suicide pervades society. . . For suicide to be recognized for what it is, there must be an unequivocal note or a setting so unambiguous as to leave the survivors no alternatives: all the windows sealed and a cushion under the dead head in front of the unlit gas-fire.[6]

In addition to the religious taboo against suicide there are other significant differences in the perception of suicide in Japan and the West. Suicide in the West is now generally seen as a mental health issue, and the potential suicide is treated as a psychological problem. This diagnosis tends to come from a deeper assumption that the problem lies at the level of the individual. In Japan there is a much stronger sense of social belonging so that it is perfectly possible for someone to commit suicide for reasons that have more to do with social standing. There is a specific type of suicide that is seen to represent atonement for a social or legal misdeed (whether real or perceived). This type of suicide is known as inseki-jisatsu.

Suicide after a social scandal is called inseki-jisatsu (suicide to take responsibility for a scandal) in Japan, but the inseki-jisatsu occurs regardless of whether the person is guilty or guiltless. Inseki-jisatsu is caused by a sense of disgrace. Those who commit inseki-jisatsu think that a scandal related to them adversely affects a community which they belong to, and that the scandal disgraces their names regardless of the truth of the scandal. . . Inseki-jisatsu occurs in Japan because the Japanese people tend to possess a strong sense of belonging to their community, and they cannot imagine losing the community which forms their identity. After the inseki-jisatsu, people usually do not blame the people who have committed suicide. . . because blaming the dead is thought to be disrespectful in Japan.[7]

Whereas in the West suicide is a shameful, forbidden act, in Japan there is a long tradition of the honorable suicide. For a Japanese person suicide can be a means of making amends or redeeming himself. Suicide can also serve to make amends for another person. Inseki-jisatsu can sometimes be carried out by employees who wish to cover up for their bosses’ corruption. The suicide will thus remove a key witness whilst at the same time atoning for any sense of scandal. This is considered to be a noble act because it allows for the good name of one’s community to remain intact. The ultimate honor, in this context, is to die for the Emperor. Most famously, the kamikaze pilots in the Second World War were eager to give their lives in service to the Emperor. To be chosen for such a suicide mission was considered a great honor.

This cultural distinction between Japanese and Western attitudes to suicide also extends to “murder-suicides”:

A Japanese mother (in Los Angeles) attempted to drown herself and her two children in the sea in 1985. The mother survived, but her two children died. This mother was prosecuted for murder, and the mother was regarded as an egoistic mother who killed her children without necessity in the USA. However, Japanese society was sympathetic to the mother. The mother and her children were treated as an expression of alteregoism, and it was thought that the children could not live happily without a mother even if they were not killed. Mothers who killed their children and then attempted suicide are usually not punished severely in Japan while in the USA those mothers are severely punished for the murder of their children.[8]

Even though Japanese society has changed rapidly and has become increasingly Westernized it is still affected by its historic attitude towards suicide. According the World Health Authority, Japan has the highest suicide rate of any developed country at almost 26 per 100,000 people.[9] About a quarter of suicides in Japan are motivated by financial concerns, and the number has been increasing since the global financial crisis in 2008 led to a contraction of the Japanese economy. Often, suicide is considered an honorable solution to debt because life insurance payments will cover the amount owing. Thus, social stigma is banished and the person’s good reputation remains unblemished.

It is necessary to bear in mind this important difference of attitude between Western societies and Japan when considering Mishima’s suicide. He came from a tradition that was capable of understanding the sense of honor that could be associated with suicide. Within this culture of honorable suicide, seppuku is considered as a particularly noble act. Seppuku was the traditional form of suicide practiced by the samurai so it is associated with great courage and aristocracy. The degree of courage needed to carry out this act is both immense and self-evident. According to Toyomasa Fusé, a renowned expert on the subject:

Of all types of suicide, seppuku is considered to be the most painful. Since the lower abdomen has heavy muscle linings and fats, even the sharpest blade would not be able to pierce it easily. It is said that the deepest thrust of the sharpest blade could not be more than 7cm deep. A samurai committing seppuku is expected to stab the left side of his abdomen first and then slit it open sideways. In the process he will also cut and slit the internal organs, causing excruciating pain. It usually takes hours before one dies successfully, thereby prolonging the excruciating pain and requiring a superhuman courage and perseverance. It is understandable, then, that this form of suicide had become a way of dying and a badge of courage for a proud warrior class such as the samurai in Japan.[10]

Mishima’s autopsy found that he had a cut five inches long and up to two inches deep across his abdomen.[11] His seppuku was evidently carried out according to the superhuman standards set down by the samurai, and would have required great physical strength as well as courage. If anything, Mishima’s seppuku is even more remarkable for the fact that he was not trained to carry it out. His biographer, Henry Scott Stokes, interviewed two of Mishima’s martial arts teachers who both confirmed that he was not trained to carry out seppuku. One commented that his wrists were stiff and that he was unable to hold his kendo sword correctly, whilst the other said that Mishima had asked him for details of how to carry out seppuku, on the pretext that he was to write something on the subject.[12]

yu6133770_128960986741.jpgIn fact, Mishima had written a description of seppuku in gruesome detail some years earlier. In the short story, Patriotism, he describes a young officer who is unwilling to act against his former comrades who had taken part in the Ni Ni Roku rebellion. In order to maintain his honor, the officer commits seppuku:

The lieutenant aimed to strike deep into the left of his stomach. His sharp cry pierced the silence of the room. Despite the effort he had himself put into the blow, the lieutenant had the impression that someone else had struck the side of his stomach agonizingly with a thick rod of iron. For a second or so his head reeled and he had no idea what had happened. The five or six inches of naked point had vanished completely into his flesh, and the white bandage, gripped in his clenched fist, pressed directly against his stomach. He returned to consciousness. The blade had certainly pierced the wall of the stomach, he thought. . . With only his right hand on the sword the lieutenant began to cut sideways across his stomach. But as the blade became entangled with the entrails it was pushed constantly outward by their soft resilience; and the lieutenant realized that it would be necessary, as he cut, to use both hands to keep the point pressed deep into his stomach. He pulled the blade across. It did not cut as easily as he had expected. . . By the time the lieutenant had at last drawn the sword across to the right side of his stomach, the blade was already cutting shallow and had revealed its naked tip, slippery with blood and grease. But, suddenly stricken by a fit of vomiting, the lieutenant cried out hoarsely. The vomiting made the fierce pain fiercer still, and the stomach, which had thus far remained firm and compact, now abruptly heaved, opening wide its wound, and the entrails burst through, as if the wound too were vomiting. Seemingly ignorant of their master’s suffering, the entrails gave an impression of robust health and almost disagreeable vitality as they slipped smoothly out and spilled over into the crotch. . . Blood was scattered everywhere. The lieutenant was soaked in it to his knees, as he sat now in a crumpled and listless posture, one hand on the floor. . . The blade of the sword, now pushed back by the entrails and exposed to its tip was still in the lieutenant’s right hand. It would be difficult to imagine a more heroic sight than that of the lieutenant at this moment, as he mustered his strength and flung back his head.[13]

Mishima was viscerally aware of the gory reality of seppuku even if he was not formally trained to carry it out. He was not naïve about what seppuku would entail. But at the same time he did have a very romantic view of seppuku, glorifying it as an aesthetically pleasing, divinely sanctioned, and heroic death.

His fascination with the aesthetic aspects of violent death was first presented in his autobiographical novel Confessions of a Mask, published when he was 24 years old. In this work, Mishima recounts finding an art reproduction of Guido Reni’s St. Sebastian amongst his father’s books. As he looks at the picture of the male nude penetrated by arrows he becomes overwhelmed with sexual arousal, filled with “pagan joy,”[14] and for the first time in his life he masturbates, ejaculating into his hand. This conflation of homosexual arousal, artistic aestheticism, bloody violence, and youthful death would remain important concerns of Mishima’s throughout his life.

Mishima’s sense of “pagan joy” whilst masturbating over the painting of Sebastian is apt, as Sebastian has long been both an unofficial patron saint of homosexuals and an honorary pagan. It has long been recognised that depictions of Sebastian can attract inappropriate sexual attention. In the early 16th century a particularly lifelike depiction of a nude Sebastian by Fra Bartolommeo had to be removed from the church where it had been on display because women were admitting through the confessional that it was inspiring them to sinful thoughts.[15] More recently Derek Jarman filmed a quasi-pornographic life of Sebastian, which fell foul of the censors due to its graphic content.

The historical Sebastian was a captain in the Praetorian Guard who promulgated Christianity and actively sought to convert others to that faith. He was originally a favourite of the Emperor Diocletian but when he fell from grace due to his religious activities he was ordered to be executed. He was tied up and shot at with arrows. Although the iconography depicting his martyrdom is usually associated with this scene, he did not actually die from his wounds. He was rescued and nursed back to life by a woman, St. Irene. Sebastian then denounced the Emperor and was clubbed to death as a punishment.

The fact that Sebastian was a favourite of Diocletian but then, later in life, denounced him provides an interesting parallel with Mishima’s own life. When he was a boy, Mishima was awarded a silver watch by Emperor Hirohito for his academic achievements. As was customary for the Japanese, Mishima worshipped the Emperor. But following Japan’s defeat in 1945, Hirohito was forced by the Americans to renounce his divinity. In a speech to the nation, he stated that the Emperor was not divine, and that the Japanese were not superior to other races. For many Japanese, particularly Right wing nationalists, this was an unacceptable humiliation. Mishima was later to write a story in which the ghosts of kamikaze pilots return from the dead to berate the Emperor for renouncing his divinity. In Japan, criticism of the Emperor was a severe social taboo. Despite Mishima’s avowed, indeed somewhat extreme, Emperor worship, he became a controversial figure in Japan for this criticism of the Emperor.

Mishima saw the Emperor as a fixed, solar principle in whom was embodied the sacred potential of the Japanese people. Like Sebastian whose denunciation of Emperor Diocletian was motivated by knowledge of a higher principle, allegiance to which was more powerful than allegiance to life, Mishima’s criticism of Hirohito was inspired by the realisation that the Emperor was a divine presence, and that this divinity was the source of ultimate meaning. His allegiance is primarily to this numinous presence and only secondarily to the person of the Emperor. “Why did the Emperor have to become a human being?” he asks in Voices of the Heroic Dead. And, like Sebastian, Mishima was willing to die in service to this ultimate metaphysical allegiance.

Mishima was later to write a sort of aesthetic manifesto, Sun and Steel, in which he described how his role as a writer had become inadequate, and how he sought fulfilment through the cultivation of the body. As Mishima saw it, words had led him towards a certain conception of beauty; but due to the temporal corrosiveness of words which could only reveal beauty by segmenting reality into semantic chunks – and thereby presenting a succession of endings to the continuity and purity of life – the pursuit of literature was no longer sufficient to his ambition. He equates intellectual activity with nocturnal and weak pursuits, and he contrasts this with the practice of physical development which is solar and strong. Through this physical development he is able to aspire to an ideal form, one that can achieve a greater sense of purity than merely spiritual or intellectual development.

Because Mishima has come to see literature as hamstrung in its pursuit of beauty, due to the temporal and subjective constraints that delimit its scope, he turns instead to the body as a means of approaching the ideal. As in Confessions of a Mask, written almost twenty years earlier, he sees the death of the idealised, youthful body as a sort of perfection: “Here lies the mysterious significance of an early death, which the Greeks envied as a sign of the love of the gods.”[16] The ageing process becomes a sort of falsification, as it is a degeneration of youth, beauty and purity. Mishima has come to see youthful death as a means of cheating this degeneration; of retaining purity; and of conferring immortality.

The problem for Mishima was that at the time he was writing Sun and Steel he was no longer a young man. He had missed his opportunity to be conscripted to an early death during the Second World War. In order to achieve an ideal physical form, and so recapture the perfection of youth, Mishima takes up bodybuilding. The weights come to embody the principle of steel: a counterpoint to human flesh that confers a condition of hard immortality. By fashioning his body in this way, he is able to create a form that is somehow an unveiling of a deeper truth: “By its subtle, infinitely varied operation, the steel restored the classical balance that the body had begun to lose, reinstating it in its natural form, the form that it should have had all along.”[17] Like a sculptor, he reveals the perfect form that lies inherent in the uncarved stone. And thus, in diurnal, solar, physical activity, Mishima finally creates the sculpted form that will provide a fitting sacrifice for the Emperor. This sacrifice will allow his form to retain its recreated perfection for eternity.

The attempt to achieve an aestheticisation of the body, and an elevated sense of purity, ran concurrent with Mishima’s lifestyle which was, in many respects, deeply embedded in the Kali Yuga. His homosexuality was notable in Japan at that time, if not for its practice then for his literary depiction of it. Indeed, there was no term for homosexuality in Japanese:

In the modern idiom, one might say he was “outed as gay,” but circa 1950s Japan lacked a conceptual term that linked sexual practice to identity in this capacity. Likely for this reason Mishima felt it necessary to coin the first word of its kind, danshokuka, which translates to the effect of “man lover person.” This neologism, presented in the novel Forbidden Colors (1954), starkly broke away from traditional Japanese notions of sexual orientation in favor of a more Western construction of the self.[18]

In Confessions of a Mask, Mishima describes the masturbation fantasies he had as a teenage boy. These involve a great deal of torture, blood, and cannibalism, always inflicted on young men. The literary expressions of his homosexual desire were always explicit and morbid, and seem to jar with his fanatical pursuit of an idealised purity. Further to this, he posed for a series of somewhat avant garde photographs, collected in the book Torture by Roses. He also posed for photographs as Saint Sebastian, modelled on the Reni painting he described masturbating over in Confessions. And, he starred in a number of downmarket gangster films. His house was very large and styled as a Western colonial house at a time when Japanese houses tended to be small and modest, and of an Eastern character. So, in many respects he was unusual in being very interested in and influenced by contemporary Western tendencies whilst at the same time developing an increasingly extreme view of Japanese purity.

mishima.jpgAll of this leads many observers to conclude that the right wing nationalism that Mishima adopted in the 1960s, culminating in his formation of the Tatenokai and attempted coup d’etat, was another mask that he wore, one that provided him with a convenient pretext to commit the suicide that he had aestheticised and eroticised for so long. Whilst it would be foolhardy to try to identify the “real” motives of such a complex man, it is still possible to see that this argument is inadequate to the facts. One critic who follows this line of thought declares that Mishima’s suicide was, “the ultimate in literary irony.”[19] A rereading of the extract quoted above concerning the physical effects of performing seppuku should give appropriate context to thoughts of an ironic suicide. A person does not cut out his intestines as an act of literary irony.

Yet, at the same time, Mishima’s embrace of nationalism was somewhat problematic. In Runaway Horses, the second novel of his final tetralogy, he tells the story of Isao, a Right-wing nationalist intent on sparking an Imperial revolution. Isao is a fanatic inspired by a book, The League of the Divine Wind by Tsunanori Yamao. In The League of the Divine Wind, the story is told of a group of nationalist samurai who objected to the reforms of the Meiji restoration, such as commerce with foreigners and the prohibition on wearing a sword. They attempt to instigate a revolution to cleanse Japan of these impurities. When the revolution fails, each of the men commits seppuku. Isao is utterly enchanted with this book and gathers together a group of like-minded nationalists who attempt to follow the example of the League of the Divine Wind. His intent is to carry out a series of assassinations and attacks on infrastructure, then to commit seppuku. His idea of seppuku is utterly romantic: “Before the sun. . . at the top of a cliff at sunrise, while paying reverence to the sun. . . while looking down upon the sparkling sea, beneath a tall noble pine. . . to kill myself.”[20] When the Lieutenant to whom he describes this ideal points out that it is not possible to choose the exact circumstances of one’s death the text continues: “Isao gave no heed to the Lieutenant’s words. Subtle discourse, exegesis, the ‘on the one hand this, on the other that’ approach – all these were foreign to his way of thinking. His ideal was drawn upon pure white paper in fresh black ink. Its text was mysterious, and it excluded not only translation but also every critique and commentary.”[21]

Isao is committed to the purity of the act rather than the contingencies of its enactment or the likelihood of its success. For him, it is essential that there must be the possibility of ultimate meaning in life, and for him this meaning is effected through the figure of the Emperor. What can be seen as a pathological suicidal impulse is, in fact, rather more subtle than that. Isao cannot countenance living in a Japan that has become corrupted through internal venality and imported decadence. For him, the Emperor is the point of singularity around which all else must orbit for life to have meaning. His revolutionary act is exoterically aimed at purifying Japan and resisting the encroachment of the foreign barbarians, but esoterically it is aimed at achieving the realisation, the immanence, of the existence of an ultimate principle:

And the greatest sin is that of a man who, finding himself in a world where the sacred light of His Majesty is obscured, nevertheless determines to go on living without doing anything about it. The only way to purge this grave sin is to make a fiery offering with one’s own hands, even if that itself is a sin, to express one’s loyalty in action, and then to commit seppuku immediately. With death, all is purified. But as long as a man goes on living, he can’t move either right or left, or take any action whatever, without sinning.[22]

As Runaway Horses unfolds, Isao appears more and more as a misguided figure. He is continually coming up against the reality of the contingencies of life that jar with the beautiful ideal he has constructed for his own life. His father betrays him to the police before his group are able to carry out their attacks. His father reasons that Isao is a naïve idealist who lacks pragmatism, “There’s such a thing as the favorable moment. Determination alone counts for nothing. Thus I have to conclude that my son is too young. The necessary discernment is still beyond him. . . Rather than take action, the best course is to achieve results without acting.”[23] This assessment is a fundamental misunderstanding of Isao, and by extension, of Mishima.

The interesting thing about Runaway Horses is that the character of Isao is an exact analogue of Mishima in many respects. At the time of writing the book Mishima himself was in the process of forming a small corps of right wing nationalists who would attempt a similar, albeit less murderous, rebellion. It is also certain that Mishima was already committed to the idea of carrying out seppuku as the climax to this action. Many critics have dismissed Mishima’s politics as silly and suggested that the formation of the Tatenokai and the assault on Ichigaya were merely elaborate pretexts for the performance of Mishima’s seppuku. The characterisation of Isao tends to support this analysis as it shows that Mishima has moved on from the idealised and romantic notions of heroic seppuku that he depicted in Patriotism. Instead, we can read Isao as Mishima’s attempt to detach himself somewhat from the naïve idealism he had previously described. Unlike the officer in Patriotism, Isao is unable to achieve the death that he had envisaged. He exists in a messy world of contingency, and when he finally commits seppuku he must do so hastily, before being captured. This leads some to conclude that Mishima was far too sophisticated to really believe in the ideals of the Tatenokai, and that he simply exploited them for his own narcissistic ends.

There is some plausibility to this view but it is crucial to understand that the Tatenokaiand attempted coup were not incidental to Mishima’s intentions but were the apposite vehicle for them. He was sincere in his Right-wing nationalism and in his wish to re-establish samurai values and he was willing to die for this cause. Yet at the same time he realised that there would be no chance of his miniscule, poorly trained army succeeding in their coup. This disjunction between the purity of his idealised ambition and the pragmatic possibilities open to him also encompasses the various personal and artistic proclivities that seem out of sync with his uncompromising aesthetic of death and Emperor worship, such as his homosexuality and sadism. It would appear that his awareness of weakness, decadence and egotism was no barrier to his grasp of numinous purity. And in death he was able to transcend all of these things and realise perfection. Isao, despite not being able to commit seppuku in the manner he had dreamed of, nonetheless experiences a profound and victorious vision in death: “The instant that the blade tore open his flesh, the bright disc of the sun soared up and exploded behind his eyelids.”[24]

Lying behind all of Mishima’s diverse interests was a deeper imperative to establish the reality of an ultimate source of meaning, beyond human contingency. For Mishima this principle was embodied in the Emperor. The siege of Ichigaya was undertaken with a sincere motive but the external, real world, outcome of the event was always going to be a matter of secondary importance. The incidental details of his suicide, including his lifelong preparation, were arranged with a superior artist’s eye for the dramatic. But all of this was in service to a greater idea, one which could only be realised through transcending contingency. With his death he was able to sacramentalize his life and achieve a final victory by touching the face of the divine. As the note read, “Human life is limited, but I would like to live forever.”

Notes

1. Henry Scott Stokes, The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima (Peter Owen, 1975), p.235.

2. Ibid., p. 234.

3. Ibid., p. 51.

4. The Strange Case of Yukio Mishima (supplementary documentary on Mishima: A life in Four Chapters), 2008, DVD, The Criterion Collection.

5. A. Alvarez, The Savage God: A Study of Suicide (Penguin Books, 1971), p. 66.

6. Ibid., p. 106.

7. Aya Maeda, “How suicide has been conceived in Japan and in the Western World: Hara-kiri, Martyrdom and Group Suicide,” in Erich A. Berendt (ed.), Facing Finality: Cognitive and Cultural Studies on Death and Dying (University of Louisville Press, 2009), p.100.

8. Ibid., p. 102.

9. Rob Gilhooly, “Inside Japan’s ‘Suicide Forest’,” The Japan Times, June 26, 2011.

10. Toyomase Fusé, “Suicide and Culture in Japan: A Study of Seppuku as an Institutionalized Form Of Suicide,” Social Psychiatry, 1980, 15, pp. 57-63.

11. Scott Stokes, The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima, p. 51.

12. Henry Scott Stokes, “Headless in Ichigaya: Yukio Mishima’s Legacy,” 2006, Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

13. Yukio Mishima, Patriotism (New Directions, 1966), pp. 45-51.

14. Yukio Mishima, Confessions of a Mask (Panther Books, 1972), p. 37.

15. Richard A. Kaye, “‘Determined Raptures’: St. Sebastian and the Victorian Discourse of Decadence,” Victorian Literature and Culture, 1999, 27(1), p. 27.

16. Yukio Mishima, Sun & Steel (Secker & Warburg, 1971), p. 68.

17. Ibid., p. 24.

18. Matthew Chozick, “Queering Mishima’s Suicide as a Crisis of Language,” Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies, 15 October 2007.

19. Peter Abelsen, ‘Irony and Purity: Mishima’, Modern Asian Studies, 30(3), pp. 651-79.

20. Yukio Mishima, Runaway Horses (Vintage Classics, 2000), p. 125.

21. Ibid., p. 125.

22. Ibid., p. 188.

23. Ibid., p. 315.

24. Ibid., p. 421.

Source: The original version of this essay was published in a Black Front Press volume on Mishima. This version is to be reprinted in a Ravenshalla Arts compilation of writings by Christopher Pankhurst.


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jeudi, 17 mai 2012

Yukio Mishima: Man of Pure Action

Yukio Mishima: Man of Pure Action

In Action, Contemplation, and the Western Tradition, Julius Evola writes that action can take on the qualities of ‘Being’ only if the action is ‘pure.’ According to Evola, the pure act does not aim at “contingent and particular fruits, considering as the same happiness and calamity, good and evil, even victory and defeat, looking neither at the ‘I’ nor at the ‘you’, overcoming love as well as hatred and any other pair of opposites.”

Evola sees a man in the motion of a pure act as becoming truly free. In it, such a man breaks away from the bonds of individualism and everything that grounds him to the material order of things. Here, man can act from “the deep and in a way supra-individual core of being” and with a quality that “never varies, divides, or multiplies: they are a pure expression of the self,” as Evola writes in Ride the Tiger.

Evola explains that pure action is taken regardless of the pleasure or pain implied in one of its acts. This does not mean that pure action is devoid of pleasure, but rather it enjoys only heroic pleasure, or the superior pleasure derived from “decisive action that comes from ‘being’.” Evola considers in the realm of ‘heroic pleasure’ the type of pleasure that is derived from “action in its perfection” or actions that require training to the point of becoming an acquired skill.

A popular literary figure who lived and died embodying these principles is Yukio Mishima. Although in no way associated with the Traditionalist school and more of an intellectual than a strict metaphysician, Mishima sought the revival of the Samurai “Tradition” and attempted to live his life by the code and ethics described in the Hagakure, despite his living in an era far more decadent and removed from Tradition than the one Hagakure’s writer, Yamamoto Tsunetomo, lived in and sought to overcome.

Mishima famously committed suicide in the traditional Seppuku way after taking several capitalist governmental figures hostage. Mishima’s obsession with death and his suicide can be interpreted as conformance with the Hagakure’s dictate that the Samurai “decide to die” and the advice that it should probably be done before old age because by that time one would likely have little reason to continue living. Mishima’s suicide should also be seen as an expression of the pure act though.

Scorning modern man’s and Japan’s loss of tradition and contempt for the body, Mishima died not as a martyr for his cause and much less a savior for his people, but instead, he died in service to the pure idea. Mishima overcame petty individuality and in his act died as a Samurai. Mishima himself wrote that he wished to “achieve pure action that admitted of no imagination, either by the self or by others” in Sun and Steel. Mishima clearly acquired Being in its actual sense while making death his heroic pleasure.

Throughout Mishima’s text, other Traditional attitudes can be observed. Mishima explains that the “glorification of individual style in literature” is “no more than a beautiful ‘perversion of words’.” Here, Guenon’s observation that art is first reduced to Quantity through the introduction of “individuality” is seen.

Mishima also saw a universality in man from what was highest in him as opposed to the lowest. Despising the frailty of his youth, Mishima used body building to strip “my muscles of their unusualness and individuality.” Doing this, he realized “the triumph of knowing that one was the same as others.” Using both words and muscles, Mishima did not deny his individuality or being, but achieved the supra-individuality Evola referred to. He used both to “universalize my own individuality” and created a “general pattern in which individual differences ceased to exist.”

Mishima undoubtedly captures the spirit of the warrior in Sun and Steel, but he also has the powers of the spiritual/intellectual class as well. He would fit the mold of Evola’s conception of the early Brahmin. Mishima himself stated that contemplation to the point of discounting the body leads to a “steadily perverted and altered reality.” Instead, through an asceticism of strength, Mishima claimed to have found “a reality that rejected all attempts to make it abstract… that flatly rejected all expression of phenomena by resort to abstraction.”

Here, the problem of the modern notion of spirituality as abstract, renouncing, and soft is solved. Like Buddha, Mishima combated the infernal becoming of the Kali Yuga by developing a spirituality that sought direct contact with reality, overcoming what he saw as the nihilism of this state by living a philosophy of steel and pure action.

mercredi, 02 février 2011

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters

mishima.jpg

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters

Trevor LYNCH

Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com/

Similar things happen in the United States too: an alienated, bookish radical right-winger takes up weight-lifting and martial arts, creates a private militia, dreams of overthrowing the government, then dies in a spectacular, suicidal, and apparently pointless confrontation with the state. In the United States, however, such people are easily dismissed as “kooks” and “losers.” However, when it happened in Japan, the protagonist, Yukio Mishima, was one of the nation’s most famous and respected novelists.

Director Paul Schrader’s 1985 movie, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, is an excellent introduction to Mishima’s life and work. It is by far the best movie about an artist I have ever seen. It is also surely the most sympathetic film portrayal of a figure who was essentially a fascist, maybe since Triumph of the Will.

Paul Schrader, of German Calvinist descent, is famous as the writer or co-writer of the screenplays of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Bringing Out the Dead. His other screenplays include Brian De Palma’s Obsession, Peter Weir’s The Mosquito Coast, and his own American Gigolo. Other movies directed by Schrader include the remake of Cat People and the brilliant Auto Focus, a biopic about a very different sort of artist, Bob Crane. It is so creepy that I will never watch it again, even though it is a masterpiece.

Mishima, however, is Schrader’s best film. He also co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Leonard. (The score, moreover, is the best thing ever written by Philip Glass.)

The narrative frame of the movie is Mishima’s last day, which is filmed in realistic color. The story of his life is told in black and white flashbacks, inter-cut with dramatizations of parts of three of Mishima’s novels, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoko’s House, and Runaway Horses, which are filmed on unrealistic stage sets in lavish Technicolor.

Yukio Mishima was a very, very, very sensitive child. Born Kimitake Hiraoke in 1925 to an upper middle class family with Samurai ancestry, he was taken from his mother by his grandmother, who kept him indoors, told him that he was physically fragile, prevented him from playing with other boys, and made him her factotum until she died when he was twelve. Then he returned to his parents.

Highly intelligent and convinced of his physical frailty, Mishima became bookish and introverted: a reader and a writer, a poet and a dreamer. He wrote his first short stories at age 12. Denied an outlet for healthy, boyish aggression, be became a masochist. He was also homosexual.

Imbued with Samurai tradition, he longed to fight in the Second World War and die for the emperor, but he was rejected as physically unfit for duty, a source of life-long self-reproach. He had a cold when he reported for his physical, and he later claimed that out of cowardice he exaggerated his symptoms so the doctor thought he had tuberculosis.

Mishima’s first book was published when he 19. He wrote at least 100 books—40 novels, 20 collections of short stories, 20 plays (including a screenplay and an opera libretto), and 20-odd book-length essays and collections of essays—before his death at age 45. He also dabbled in acting and directing.

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion

Schrader’s dramatization of Mishima’s 1956 novel The Temple of the Golden Pavilion focuses on the author’s Nietzschean exploration of the role of physiognomy and will to power in the origin of values. Nietzsche believed that all organisms have will to power, even sickly and botched ones. In the realm of values, will to power manifests itself particularly in a desire to think well of oneself. A healthy organism affirms itself by positing values that affirm its nature. The healthy affirm health, strength, beauty, and power. They despise the sickly, weak, and ugly.

But sickly organisms have will to power too. They affirm themselves by positing values based on their natures, values that cast them in a positive light and cast healthy organisms in a negative light. This is the origin of ascetic and “spiritual” values, as well as the Christian values of the Sermon on the Mount, which Nietzsche calls “slave morality.”

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion is loosely based on the burning of the Reliquary (or Golden Pavilion) of Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto by a deranged Buddhist acolyte in 1950. In Mishima’s story, the arson is committed by Mizoguchi, an acolyte afflicted with ugliness and a stutter. The acolyte recognizes the beauty of the Golden Pavilion, but also hates it, because its beauty magnifies his deformities.

Mizoguchi’s clubfooted friend Kashiwagi tries to teach Mizoguchi to use is disabilities to arouse women’s pity and exploit it to get sex. Kashiwagi can use his disability because he lacks pride and will to power. Mizoguchi, however, cannot enjoy beauty by means of self-abasement. He cannot own his imperfections. The vision of the Golden Pavilion prevents him. He can like himself only if the Golden Pavilion is destroyed, thus he sets it ablaze.

In Nietzsche’s terms, the destruction of the Golden Pavilion is an act of transvaluation. The beauty that oppresses Mizoguchi must be destroyed. For Nietzsche, this act of destruction serves to create a space for new values that will allow him to affirm his disability, just as the destruction of aristocratic values creates a space for slave morality.

Schrader includes this dramatization of The Temple of the Golden Pavilion to illustrate Mishima’s exploration of his own youthful nihilism. Short even by Japanese standards (5’1”), skinny, physically frail, Mishima envied and eroticized the bodies of healthier boys, an eroticism that Mishima’s Confessions of a Mask clearly indicates was tinged with masochistic self-hatred and sadistic fantasies of brutality and murder. (Mishima first became sexually aroused at a photograph of a painting of the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian.)

Self-Transformation

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, however, is a look backwards, at paths Mishima could understand but could not follow. Unlike Kashiwagi, Mishima could not own his physical imperfections. Unlike Mizoguchi, he could not annihilate the ideal of beauty to feel good about himself. This left Mishima with only one choice: to remake his body according to the ideal of physical beauty. Thus in 1955, Mishima started lifting weights, with impressive results. He also took up kendo and karate.

Mishima documented his physical transformation with a very un-Japanese exhibitionism. He posed frequently for photographers, producing a book, Ordeal by Roses (1963), in collaboration with photographer Eikoh Hosoe. Mishima also posed in Young Samurai: Bodybuilders of Japan and OTOKO: Photo Studies of the Young Japanese Male by Tamotsu Yatō. His acting work was also an extension of this exhibitionism, as was his dandyism. When he wasn’t posing nude or in a loincloth, his clothes were exclusively Western. He dressed up like James Bond and dressed down like James Dean.

In 1958, his body and self-confidence transformed, Mishima married Yoko Sugiyama. It was an arranged marriage. They had two children. (Among Mishima’s requirements for a wife was that she have no interest in his work and that she be shorter than him. As an indication of his social circles, Mishima had earlier considered Michiko Shōda as a possible bride. She went on to marry Crown Prince Akihito and is now Empress of Japan.)

In 1959, Mishima built a house in an entirely Western style. Following the Nietzschean principle that every authentic culture has an integrity and unity of style, Mishima rejected multiculturalism, including mixing Japanese and Western lifestyles. Since he could not live in an entirely Japanese house, he chose to live in an entirely Western one, where he could “sit on rococo furniture wearing Levis and an aloha shirt.”

Kyoko’s House

The second Mishima novel Schrader dramatizes is Kyoko’s House (1959), which cries out for an English translation. According to the literature, Kyoko’s House is an exploration of Mishima’s own psyche, aspects of which are concretized in the four main characters: a boxer, who represents Mishima’s new-found athleticism; a painter, who represents his creative side; a businessman, who lives an outwardly conventional life but rejects postwar Japanese society; and an actor, who represents his narcissism.

Schrader focuses only on the story of the actor, who takes up bodybuilding when humiliated by a gangster sent to intimidate his mother, who was in debt to loan-sharks. The moneylender turns out to be a woman. She offers to cancel the loan if the actor sells himself to her.

The narcissist, whose sense of reality is based on the impression he makes in the eyes of others, realizes that even his newly acquired muscles are not real to him. The realization comes when his lover, on a sadistic whim, cuts his skin with a razor. In physical pain, he finds a sense of reality otherwise unavailable due to his personality disorder. Their sexual relationship takes a sadomasochistic turn that culminates in a suicide pact—foreshadowing Mishima’s own end.

Having put so much of himself into Kyoko’s House, Mishima was deeply wounded by its commercial and critical failure. Schrader had first wanted to dramatize Mishima’s Forbidden Colors, his novel about Japan’s homosexual subculture, but Mishima’s widow refused permission. (She denied that Mishima had any homosexual proclivities.) But it is just as well. From what I can gather, Kyoko’s House is a far better novel than Forbidden Colors.

Schrader did not dramatize the story of the boxer in Kyoko’s House, but it also foreshadows Mishima’s life as well. After one of his hands is shattered in a fight, the boxer becomes involved in right-wing politics. Mishima makes it quite clear that the boxer’s political commitment is not based on ideology, but on a physically ruined man’s desire for an experience of self-transcendence and sublimity.

The businessman’s outlook is also important for understanding Mishima’s life and outlook. He thinks postwar Japan is a spiritual void in which prosperity, materialism, peace, and resolute amnesia about the war years have sapped life of authenticity, which requires that one face death, something that was omnipresent during the war.

Authenticity through awareness of death, pain as an encounter with reality, and right wing politics as a form of self-transcendence (or therapy): Kyoko’s House maps out the trajectory of the rest of Mishima’s life.

Mishima’s Political Turn

Mishima, like many Western right-wingers, saw tradition as a third way between capitalism and socialism, which are essentially identical in their materialistic ends and their scientific and technological means. He always had right-wing tendencies, but his writings in the 1940s and 1950s were absorbed (self-absorbed, truth be told) with personal moral and psychological issues.

Like many Japanese, however, Mishima became increasingly alarmed by the corruptions of postwar consumer society. He saw the Samurai tradition as an aristocratic alternative to massification, a spiritual alternative to materialism. He saw the Japanese military and the emperor as guardians of this tradition. But these guardians had already made too many compromises with modernity. Mishima was particularly critical of the emperor’s renunciation of divinity at the end of the Second World War. In his writings and actions in the last decade of his life, Mishima sought to call the emperor and the military back to their mission as guardians of Japanese tradition.

In the fall of 1960, Mishima wrote “Patriotism,” a short story about the aftermath of the “Ni Ni Roku Incident” of February 1936, an attempted coup d’état by junior officers of the Imperial Army who assassinated several political leaders. The officers wished the government to address widespread poverty caused by the world-wide Great Depression. The coup was cast as an attempt to restore the absolute power of the emperor, but he regarded it as a rebellion and ordered it crushed.

Mishima’s story focuses on Lieutenant Shinji Takeyama and his young wife, Reiko. The Lieutenant did not take part in the coup but was friends with the participants. He is ordered to help suppress it. Torn between loyalty to the emperor and loyalty to his friends, he chooses to commit suicide by self-disembowelment after a night of love-making. Reiko joins him in death.

Mishima published “Patriotism” in 1961. In 1965, he directed and starred in 28-minute film adaptation which he first released in France. The film of Patriotism is erotic, chilling, and cringe-inducingly graphic (people regularly fainted when they saw it in theaters). In retrospect, it seems like merely a rehearsal for Mishima’s eventual suicide. The music, fittingly, is the Liebestod (Love-Death) from Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde. Mishima’s widow locked up the film after her husband’s death. After her death, it was released on DVD by the Criterion Collection. (Mishima also committed suicide on screen in Hideo Gosha’s 1969 film Tenchu!)

Schrader shows bits of the filming of Patriotism and also dramatizes a very similar episode from Runaway Horses (1969), the second volume of Mishima’s The Sea of Fertility quartet (1968–1970). The Sea of Fertility is a panorama of Japan’s traumatic crash course in modernization, spanning the years 1912 to 1975, narrating the life of Shigekuni Honda, who becomes a wealthy and widely-traveled jurist.

Runaway Horses, set in 1932–1933, is the story of Isao Iinuma, a right-wing student who seeks the alliance of the military to plot a rebellion in 1932. The goal is to topple capitalism and restore absolute Imperial rule by simultaneously assassinating the heads of industry and the government and torching the Bank of Japan. The plot is foiled, but when Isao is released from prison, he carries out his part of the mission anyway, assassinating his target. The assassination, of course, is politically futile, but Isao feels honor-bound to carry out his mission. He then commits hari-kiri.

Isao’s plot is clearly based on the Ni Ni Roku Incident of 1936. The novel also tells the story of the Samurai insurrection in Kunamoto in 1876. But it would be a mistake to conclude that Mishima put his hope in a successful military coup as the most likely path to a renewal of Japanese tradition. Mishima’s focus was on the ritual suicides of the defeated rebels.

The Way of the Samurai

Japan had 300 years of peace under the Tokugawa Shogunate. Conflict had been outlawed; history in the Hegelian sense had been ended. Yet the arts and culture flourished, and the Japanese had not been reduced to a mass of dehumanized and degraded producer-consumers. The cause of this was the persistence of the Samurai ethic.

The Samurai, of course, like all aristocrats, prefer death to dishonor, and when prevented from demonstrating this on the battlefield, they demonstrated it instead through ritual suicide. They also demonstrated their contempt of material necessity through the cultivation of luxury and refinement. The cultural supremacy of the ideal of the honor suicide served as a bulwark protecting high culture against degeneration into bourgeois consumer culture, which springs from an opposing hierarchy of values that prizes life, comfort, and security over honor.

Mishima’s cultural-political project makes the most sense if we view it not as an attempt to return to militarism, but as an attempt to uphold or revive the Samurai ethic in postwar Japan so that it could play the same conservative role as it did under the 300-year peace of the Shogunate. (Mishima’s outlook would then be very similar to that of Alexandre Kojève, who in his Introduction to the Reading of Hegel claimed that Japan under the Shogunate showed how we might retain our humanity at the end of history through an aristocratic culture that rested on the cultural ideal of a “purely gratuitous suicide.”)

Mishima produced a spate of political books and essays in the 1960s, most of which have remained untranslated. Two of the most important, however, are available in English. In 1967, Mishima published The Way of the Samurai, his commentary on the Hagakure (literally, In the Shadow of the Leaves), a handbook authored by the 18th-century Samurai Tsunetomo Yamamoto. In 1968, Mishima published Sun and Steel, an autobiographical essay about bodybuilding, martial arts, and the relationship of thought and action which also discusses ritual suicide. (In 1968, Mishima also published a play, My Friend Hitler, about the Röhm purge of 1934. He was coy about his true feelings toward Hitler. In truth, he was more a Mussolini man.)

Mishima the Activist

But Mishima did more than write about action. He acted. In 1967, Mishima enlisted in the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) and underwent basic training. In 1968, Mishima formed the Tatenokai (Shield Society—Mishima was pleased that the English initials were SS), a private militia composed primarily of right-wing university students who studied martial arts and swore to protect Japanese tradition against the forces of modernization, left or right.

In 1968 and 1969, when leftist student agitators had the universities in chaos, Mishima participated in debates and teach-ins, criticizing Marxism and arguing that Japanese nationalism, symbolized by loyalty to the Emperor, should come before all other political commitments.

On November 25, 1970, after a year of planning, Mishima and four members of the Shield Society visited the Icigaya Barracks of the Japanese Self-Defense force and took the commander hostage. Mishima demanded that the troops be assembled so he could address them. He had alerted the press in advance. He stepped out onto a balcony in his uniform to harangue the assembled troops, calling them to reject American imposed materialism and to return to the role of guardians of Japanese tradition.

seppuku.jpg

The speech was largely drowned out by circling helicopters, and the soldiers jeered. Mishima returned to the commander’s office, where he and one of his followers, Masakatsu Morita, committed seppuku, a ritual suicide involving self-disembowelment with a dagger followed by decapitation with a sword wielded by one’s second.

Mishima’s stunt is often referred to as a “coup-attempt,” but this is stupid. Mishima had been talking about, writing about, rehearsing, and preparing for suicide for years. He had no intention of surviving, much less taking power. His death was an attempt to inspire a revival of Samurai tradition. In Samurai fashion, he wanted a death that mattered, a death of his choosing, a death that he staged with consummate dramatic skill.

Mishima also wished to avoid the decay of old age. Having come to physical health so late in life, he had no intention of experiencing its progressive loss. (His last novel, The Decay of the Angel, paints a very bleak portrait of old age.)

Schrader’s depiction of Mishima’s suicide is far less graphic than Patriotism but every bit as powerful. He saves the climaxes of The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoko’s House, and Runaway Horses to the very end, inter-cutting them with Mishima’s own suicide, to shattering effect.

This is a great movie, which will leave a lasting impression.

Mishima’s Legacy

In the end, though, what did Mishima’s death mean? What did it matter? What did it accomplish?

It would be all too easy to dismiss Mishima as a neurotic and a narcissist who engaged in politics as a kind of therapy. Right wing politics is crawling with such people (none of them with Mishima’s talents, unfortunately), and we would be better off without them. If a white equivalent of Mishima wished to write for Counter-Currents/North American New Right, we would welcome his work (as we would welcome translations of Mishima’s works!). But we would also keep him at arm’s length. Such people should be locked in a room with a computer and fed through a slot in the door. They should not be put in positions of trust and responsibility.

But Mishima is safely dead, and the meaning of his death cannot be measured in terms of crass political “deliverables.” Indeed, it is a repudiation of the whole calculus of interests that lies at the foundation of modern politics.

Modern politics is based on the idea that a long and comfortable life is the highest value, to be purchased even at the price of our dignity. Aristocratic politics is based on the idea that honor is the highest value, to be purchased even at the price of our lives.

The spiritual aristocrat, therefore, must be ready to die; he must conquer his fear of death; he even must come to love death, for his ability to choose death before dishonor is what raises him above being a mere clever animal. It is what makes him a free man, a natural master rather than a natural slave. It is ultimately the foundation of all forms of higher culture, which involve the rejection or subordination and stylization of merely animal desire.

A natural slave is someone who is willing to give up his honor to save his life. Thus modern politics, which exalts the long and prosperous life as the highest value, is a form of spiritual slavery, even if the external controls are merely soft commercial and political incentives rather than chains and cages.

Thus Mishima’s eroticization of death is not a mental illness needing medication. By ceasing to fear death, Mishima became free to lead his life, to take risks other men would not have taken. By ceasing to fear death, Mishima could preserve his honor from the compromises of commerce and politics and the ravages of old age. By ceasing to fear death, Mishima entered into the realm of freedom that is the basis of all high culture. By ceasing to fear death, Mishima struck a death-blow at the foundations of the modern world.

In my review of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, I argued that the Joker is Hollywood’s image of a man who is totally free from modern society because he has fundamentally rejected its ruling values—by overcoming the fear of death. An army of such men could bring down the modern world.

Well, Yukio Mishima was a real example of such a man. And, as usual, the truth is stranger than fiction.

Afterword

In my reviews of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army, I argued that somebody in Hollywood and the comic book/graphic novel industry must be reading up on Traditionalism, for the super-villains in these movies can be seen as Traditionalists. Since Traditionalism is the most fundamental rejection of the modern world, weaponized Traditionalists make the most dramatically potent foils for liberal, democratic, humanistic superheroes like Hellboy and Batman.

Well, shortly after I wrote that, Savitri Devi’s Impeachment of Man was ordered by someone at one of the major comics companies.

I can see it all now. Somewhere down the line, Hellboy will be squaring off against the Cat Lady of Calcutta and her fleet of Zündelsaucers, and Batman will face his new arch-nemesis . . . a five-foot Samurai with spindly legs in tights.

vendredi, 24 décembre 2010

Anche Mishima a volte ritorna nel futuro...

Anche Mishima a volte ritorna nel futuro...

di Errico Passaro

Fonte: secolo d'italia


mishimawwwwww.jpgYukio Mishima è un intramontabile della cultura mondiale, oggetto di ripubblicazioni a getto continuo, convegni di studio, rappresentazioni teatrali e altre forme di tributo. Un omaggio inconsueto ed inaspettato alla figura dello scrittore giapponese viene dal romanzo vincitore dell'ultimo Premio Urania, Lazarus di Alberto Cola (Mondadori, pp. 317, € 4,20).  
 

 

Cola ci porta in una Tokyo futuristica, dove gli scienziati del progetto Lazarus hanno "resuscitato" Mishima per farlo diventare vessillo di una parte politica, quella dei "nostalgici", nelle elezioni politiche alle porte; il simulacro dello scrittore, dotato del suo stesso corpo e dei suoi stessi ricordi, ma destinato ad una vita effimera come i replicanti di Blade Runner, si ritrova comparsa di una sofisticata messinscena, che arriva alla ricostruzione fedele del quartiere dove aveva vissuto la sua prima vita.

 

Mishima, tuttavia, sfugge al suo destino con l'aiuto della setta segreta dei Mistici, in un viaggio verso la "bella morte" intriso di atmosfere crepuscolari, fino ad un epilogo carico di una sovrumana serenità. Uno dei punti di forza del romanzo è la verosimiglianza dei personaggi. Su tutti svetta Gabriel, il Virgilio di Mishima nella sua nuova vita, dominato dal potere della Pulsazione, che gli consente di agire sulla mente degli altri, ma che lo lascia alla merce del Mostro dentro di lui, governabile solo a forza di dosi di droga: lo seguiamo per flashback nella sua formazione marziale e nella sua iniziazione al potere parapsicologico, fino alla sua trasformazione in «un ronin moderno, un samurai senza padrone… un uomo sull'onda… uno strumento senza fine». Intorno a Gabriel, ruotano antagonisti e comprimari: dalla parte dei "cattivi", Hitasura, padrone dello "zaibatzu" che gestisce il progetto Lazarus e che ingaggia Gabriel per recuperare il Mishima in fuga, e Yasuwara, il corrotto capitano della Polizia del Pensiero in combutta con Hitasura; dalla parte dei "buoni", solo per citare i principali, la tenutaria Madame Ho, l'allibratore Kano, Mama-San e Tori, le mentori di Gabriel nella Setta dei Mistici e, soprattutto, Miko, la compagna di casa non vedente di Gabriel, apparentemente indifesa, ma in realtà detentrice di un segreto che emergerà solo nel finale del romanzo. A parte, il "rigenerato" Mishima, «figlio dell'unione illecita tra illusione e tecnologia», spaesato, malinconico, esangue, diverso da quello spudorato e tonitruante consegnato alle cronache letterarie e politiche della storia reale, più vicino all'intimismo delle Confessioni di una maschera che alla belluinità di altre sue opere, un soggetto «attirato dal lato estetico di una sensibilità superiore», «perfetta fusione fra lotta e sacrificio, impeto e amore».

 

Una virtù del romanzo è, poi, la sua qualità stilistica. In Cola colpisce, soprattutto, il tratto preciso nella descrizione dei gesti, inusuale nella letteratura di genere; i suoi toni smussati; la tendenza all'introspezione, allo scavo psicologico, alla costruzione di una biografia credibile dei suoi attori. Un ulteriore pregio della narrazione di Cola è la ricostruzione del contesto futuro. La prima parte si svolge nella metropoli nipponica, sottoposta al controllo asfissiante dei rilevatori di onde cerebrali: davanti allo sguardo del lettore, si accavallano immagini di «una città sempre più puttana in cui è difficile conservare la memoria», fitta di grattacieli occupati abusivamente, bordelli, case di gioco, ring di sumo clandestini e tutta una serie di luoghi seminterrati, ambigui, formicolanti di un'umanità disumana, dove perfino gli alberi sono geneticamente modificati. La seconda parte del romanzo, invece, è ambientata fra campagna e mare, in un luogo che sembra anche un tempo diverso, aria pulita e lanterne invece che smog e neon. Il romanzo si segnala, ancora, per la sua attenzione al fattore sociale, di cui si fa portavoce Mishima stesso: «Vivevo in un Paese che era pieno di contraddizioni» dice «ed ero una delle sue espressioni».

Lo scrittore è costretto a vivere per una seconda volta ciò che, nella sua incarnazione naturale, aveva combattuto, prima, e rifiutato, poi, con l'estremo gesto del suicidio rituale: lo svilimento dei valori, il carrierismo sociale, l'arroganza della burocrazia, l'aggressività della speculazione economica, la corruzione della politica, che rendevano la sua amata-odiata Patria un mondo di relazioni inautentiche. Ma quello che è il vero tratto distintivo di Lazarus rispetto a tanti romanzi consimili e coetanei, anche non di filone, è la predominanza della riflessione filosofica, non di rado affidata a citazioni tratte dall'opera di Mishima. Tutta la vicenda umana dei protagonisti è impregnata di misticismo orientale e si svolge in uno stato di mezzo fra vita e morte, sogno e realtà, passato e presente; ma l'esperienza spirituale non rimane circoscritta alla prossimità con la dimensione sovrannaturale, ma si sostanzia in una serie di valori-guida cardinali: la "bellezza" e la "morte", come nell'etica e nell'estetica decadente; il dovere morale del giri («È la traccia che ci rende unici, che ci rende uomini…ciò che il giri richiede è lo spirito di un guerriero, cioè qualcosa di fiero e puro»); il koha («…la smania di affrontare prove spirituali di virilità») e il ninkyo («il codice d'onore personale»); la tensione al futuro («Quale futuro può attenderci se si vive nella continua nostalgia del passato?»), il potere dell'esempio («Ai miei tempi lottavo con la forza delle idee, e con l'azione dettata dall'esempio»), la forza dell'arte («La realtà trova sempre il modo di bloccare i tentativi dell'uomo di trasformare la vita in un attimo di poesia»), la critica al culto della memoria («La memoria è uno specchio capriccioso, perché le immagini riflesse ci illudono. È lo specchio degli inganni») e della vittoria («La sconfitta non è tale se è volta ad un ideale, e la si può tramutare in un seme di gloria futura»). Dopo tanti meritati complimenti, una sommessa critica: siamo sicuri che "rigenerare" un'icona non valga a distruggerla? Un mito, antico o moderno che sia, non vive forse della sua irraggiungibilità? Creare doppioni di personaggi archetipici non è come mettere in circolazione caricature dell'originale, parodie lontane anni-luce dal potere di attrazione e suggestione della matrice? Il romanzo sembra, invece, alludere ad un potere fascinatorio che, nel processo di duplicazione, non si perderebbe e continuerebbe a magnetizzare le masse. E di questo noi, nel nostro piccolo, ci permettiamo di dubitare.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Tante altre notizie su www.ariannaeditrice.it

samedi, 04 décembre 2010

Mishima, l'eterna giovinezza di un samurai

Mishima, l'eterna giovinezza di un samurai

Quarant’anni fa moriva lo scrittore giapponese

Lo ricorda un ex ragazzo che crebbe nel suo mito

Strumenti utili
mishimacccvvvv.jpgLe parole non bastano. Così parlò Yukio Mishima, e il 25 novembre del 1970 si uccise davanti alle telecamere col rito tradizionale del seppuku. Alle parole seguì il gesto e la scrittura debordò nella vita per compiersi nella morte. Il suicidio eroico di Mishima scosse la mia generazione, versante destro. Era il nostro Che Guevara, e sposava in capitulo mortis la letteratura e l’assoluto, l’esteta e l’eroe, il Superuomo e la Tradizione. Lasciò un brivido sui miei quindici anni. Poi diventò un mito a diciassette, quando uscì in Italia Sole e acciaio, il suo testamento spirituale. È uno di quei libri che trasforma chi lo legge; gustato riga per riga, non solo letto ma vissuto, come un libro d’istruzioni per montare la vita, pezzo per pezzo. Altro che Ikea, il pensare si riversava nell’agire. Le parole non bastano.

Andammo in palestra, dopo quel libro, tra i manubri e i pesi, sulla scia di Mishima e del suo acciaio per scolpire il corpo all’altezza dei pensieri e per dare una vita ardita a un’indole intellettuale. Correvamo a torso nudo d’inverno con alcuni pazzi amici per andare incontro al sole. Dopo una corsa di dieci chilometri c’era un ponte che era la nostra meta finale perché sembrava che corressimo verso il cielo. Arrivavamo sfiniti ma a testa alta, con uno scatto finale, e una benda rossa sulla fronte. Pazzi che eravamo, illusi di gloria. Ridicoli. Vedevamo il sole come obbiettivo, non guardavamo sotto, all’autostrada, che banalmente scorreva sotto il ponte. Eravamo nella via del Samurai, mica sull’asfalto. Inseguivamo il mito. Un mito impolitico, che ci portava lontano dall’impegno militante e ci avvicinava a quella comunità eroica che Mishima aveva fondato due anni prima di darsi la morte. Mishima diventò col tempo il nostro Pasolini, disperato cantore di un mondo antico contro il mondo moderno e le sue macerie spirituali, l’americanizzazione e i consumi. Oggi di Mishima non è più proibito parlare, tutte le sue trasgressioni restano vietate, eccetto una che però basta a glorificarlo agli occhi del nostro tempo: Mishima era omosessuale. Sposato, ma omosessuale. E così viene oggi celebrato dai media e riabilitato.

Su Radio3 è andato in onda qualche giorno fa un bel programma a lui dedicato di Antonella Ferrera. Ho scritto più volte di lui, accostandolo al Che, d’Annunzio e Pasolini. Fu grande gioia ripubblicare, con un mio saggio introduttivo, Sole e acciaio, dieci anni dopo la sua prima lettura. Avevo ventisette anni ma avevo un conto in sospeso con la mia giovinezza, e fui felice di onorarlo. Il peggior complimento che ricevetti fu da un professore che allora mi disse: è più bella la tua introduzione del testo. Mi piace ricevere elogi, non nego la vanità. Ma quell’elogio fu peggio di un insulto, disprezzava il breviario della nostra gioventù. Come poteva paragonare un saggetto giovanile e letterario a un testamento spirituale così denso e forte? L’ho riletto dopo svariati anni, quel piccolo libro; non era un libro sacro, d’accordo, ma lo trovai ancora bello e teso, spirituale e marziale.

Poi c’era Mishima romanziere, gran letterato, ma poco rispetto al testimone dell’Assoluto. Certo, Mishima soffriva di narcisismo eroico, c’era in lui una componente sadomaso e molto di quel che lui attribuiva allo spirito dell’antico Giappone imperiale proveniva in realtà dalla letteratura romantica d’occidente e dalle sue letture. Mishima era stato lo scrittore più occidentale del Giappone, era di casa in America, veniva in Italia, amava Baudelaire e d’Annunzio, Keats e Byron, perfino Oscar Wilde. Faceva il cinema, scriveva per il cinema e per il teatro moderno, amava i film di gangster, era amico di Moravia. E c’era in lui quell’intreccio di vitalismo e decadentismo comune agli esteti nostrani. La stessa voluttà del morire di d’Annunzio, lo stesso culto della bella morte degli arditi e poi di alcuni fascisti di Salò...

Ma il miracolo di Mishima fu proprio quello: ritrovare nella modernità occidentale il cuore antico del suo Giappone, il culto dell’imperatore, la via del samurai, il pazzo morire; il nostro pensiero e azione che diventano in Giappone il crisantemo e la spada. Ribelle per amor di Tradizione. Certo, dietro il suicidio non c’è solo il grido disperato e irriso verso lo spirito che muore; c’è anche il gusto del beau geste clamoroso e c’è soprattutto l’orrore della vecchiaia, del lento e indecoroso morire nei giorni, negli anni. Dietro il samurai c’era Dorian Gray. Ma colpisce la sua cerimonia d’addio, vestito di bianco come si addice al lutto in Giappone, e prima il suo congedo in scrittura. Saluto gli oggetti che vedo per l’ultima volta... Mi siedo a scrivere e so che è l’ultima volta... Poi il pranzo dai genitori alla vigilia, la ripetizione fedele delle abitudini, come se nulla dovesse accadere. E il giorno dopo conficcarsi una lama nel ventre e farsi decapitare, dopo aver gridato tra le risa dei soldati, l’occhio delle telecamere e il ronzio degli elicotteri, il suo discorso eroico caduto nel vuoto.

Quell’immagine ti resta conficcata dentro, come una spada, capisci che l’unica morale eroica è quella dell’insuccesso, pensi che il successo arrivi quando il talento di uno si mette al servizio della stupidità di molti; diffidi delle vittorie e accarezzi la nobiltà delle sconfitte. E leggi Morris e la Yourcenar che a Mishima dedicò uno splendido testo, per accompagnare con giuste letture il suo canto del cigno. Su quegli errori si fondò la vita di alcuni militanti dell’assoluto, alla ricerca di una gloria sovrumana che coincideva con la morte trionfale, la perdita di sé nel nome di una perfetta eternità... Perciò torno oggi in pellegrinaggio da Mishima e porto un fiore di loto ai suoi 45 anni spezzati, e ai nostri quindici anni spariti con lui.

vendredi, 03 décembre 2010

Il cuore di Mishima

mishimaMMMMMMKKK.jpg

Il cuore di Mishima

di Marco Iacona

Ex: http://www.scandalizzareeundiritto.blogspot.com/ 

Yukio Mishima (ma è più corretto scrivere Mishima Yukio), è stato un personaggio – non solo persona, appunto, ma personaggio – capace di esprimere la grandezza e la pienezza del vivere in ogni gesto o frase e per tutti i momenti che hanno composto i quarantacinque anni della sua breve vita (l’ultima sua frase prima del suicidio: «la vita umana è breve, ma io vorrei vivere per sempre.»). A quarant’anni esatti dalla morte (25 novembre 1970), lo ricordiamo come uno degli intellettuali, scrittori e uomini d’azione (personaggio, dunque, assolutamente novecentesco), capaci di dare un senso ben preciso al cosiddetto “secolo breve”.
 
 In Mishima c’è un pezzo – anche piccolo – di ogni personalità che ha arricchito gli anni del nostro passato. Lui è innanzitutto il D’Annunzio d’oriente (poeta, prosatore, acceso patriota, esteta, uomo dalla forte personalità che “confonde” vita ed epica), ma è anche un uomo pronto al sacrificio per il rispetto dei principi e politicamente non-etichettabile come Che Guevara; Mishima è un uomo destinato a suscitate scandalo ed essere, contemporaneamente, venerato dai propri sostenitori come Lawrence d’Arabia l’avventuriero, ma anche profondamente influenzato da una cultura che non è quella del proprio paese (il Giappone) come il grande Akira Kurosawa (e come lui non amatissimo in patria); infine un uomo segnato da un destino tragico e contraddistinto da un’esistenza inquieta come Drieu La Rochelle e Camus: un uomo nato e poi vissuto con un deficit di libertà (all’interno del Giappone crebbe peraltro con un’educazione molto rigida), ma che questa stessa ricercò dappertutto, nelle lettere, nei costumi e nell’amore per una patria sottoposta a rigide imposizioni di politica internazionale.
 
 Come tutti i (veri) grandi intellettuali del Novecento – viene in mente anche il nostro Pasolini – Mishima subisce l’influenza di “correnti” di pensiero opposte le une alle altre, c’è tanta modernità – nella forma di una “antichità riadattata” – ma tanta tradizione nelle sue prose che risulta davvero difficile produrre le giuste coordinate per un “pensiero” eternamente sfuggente. Conservatore anzi tradizionalista? Senz’altro, data la venerazione per il Giappone imperiale. Decadente? Anche, come decadenti furono gli scrittori che esibirono “moralità” proprie e chiusero un’epoca fra estetiche nietzscheane e pulsioni romantiche. Mishima è autore d’inarrivabile profondità e narratore schietto, senza censure “ideologiche” ai limiti della sfacciataggine, un Rimbaud dei nostri tempi.
 
Al momento del suicidio – con la cerimonia del seppuku – davanti alle televisioni, con migliaia di curiosi e in straordinario “fortuito” anticipo sulla scoperta del potere “condizionante” dei media, lui che parla con poetica delicatezza di omosessualità e frigidità citando Freud e Fromm, in Italia si litiga - molto più “banalmente” - sulla legge sul divorzio e si dibatte sui progetti per la costruzione del ponte sullo stretto di Messina (!); lui bisessuale dichiarato anticipa gli “outing” di artisti e intellettuali del terzo Millennio, anticipa le preoccupazioni che un gesto compiuto davanti a milioni di spettatori possa influire sul comportamento di altrettanti concittadini e sulle elite del proprio paese, e anticipa il “gusto” per i riflettori accesi sulla cultura giapponese. La “morte in diretta” in Italia sarebbe arrivata “soltanto” undici anni dopo nel 1981 con le sofferenze di Alfredino Rampi all’interno di un pozzo poco lontano da Roma, la “mania” per il Giappone – un certo tipo di Giappone spesso però caricaturale – sarebbe arrivata grazie alla cultura di Manga e Anime dal 1978 in poi. Il cinema Giapponese invece era già noto in Italia dai primi anni Cinquanta, ma ben poca cosa forse.
 
In un’Italia bacchettona sfiorata appena dalle novità del Sessantotto (il Sessantotto che è anche quello del suicidio di Jan Palach però), un paese nel quale in pochi vanno oltre un americanismo da “buon padre di famiglia”, Mishima è un autore che dà fastidio. Nonostante le candidature al premio Nobel, alcuni quotidiani italiani non ne citano il nome quando danno la notizia del gesto estremo (nel titolo si parla solo di un celebre scrittore; la “Stampa” titola: “Uno scrittore di Tokio”…); a far notizia è il “fanatismo” dei protagonisti nonché la stranezza degli accadimenti. Punto. Molti cadono vittima della “cattiva” fama di Mishima compresa quella del “militarista”: lo scrittore ha fondato due anni prima un corpo paramilitare privato l’“associazione degli scudi” del quale è naturalmente il comandante, e peraltro ha deciso di morire con un gesto da “onesto” avanguardista, dando prova che il protestare contro la rinuncia del Giappone alle proprie tradizioni non è mera chiacchiera giornalistica (si ripassi il suo “Sole e acciaio” per capire meglio).
È il rigore mishimiano a dar fastidio ancora oggi a chi ritiene che il “disprezzo per la morte” degli uomini del Sol-levante sia solo il cattivo ricordo degli anni della seconda guerra mondiale. Ed è l’idea che la guerra, dopo venticinque anni (e con la capitolazione definitiva del Giappone), non sia definitivamente finita a “terrorizzare” gli osservatori, e con essa il doppio pensiero che l’«assoluta inefficienza delle forza armate giapponesi ad assicurare la difesa del paese» e «la vigente Costituzione imposta al Giappone dagli accordi di Yalta e Potsdam», sia un’intollerabile ferita per un paese dalle eccellenti tradizioni militari. Una “maledizione” che Mishima si porta addosso da decenni. La maledizione del “fascista”, militarista e ultranazionalista, la maledizione che colpisce chi decide di non rassegnarsi ai verdetti della seconda guerra mondiale: quanti nomi si potrebbero fare in proposito… Quella “malattia della politica” che Mishima ha cercato di scansare per decenni (si definiva un antipolitico), torna dunque nella vita dello scrittore sotto la forma di una condanna senza appello anche nel post-mortem. Lui si batte per il ritorno del Giappone allo “spirito tradizionale” - quello che fu dei samurai - e per il ripristino delle condizioni di difesa dell’Imperatore che incarna lo spirito della nazione (prima di morire Mishima urla: «Tenno Heika Bazan!» - Viva l’Imperatore!), ma per gli “osservatori” invece è solo un tipo “fascista”, un nazionalista come “tanti” negli anni caldi del ritorno alle contrapposizioni ideologiche. Se a ciò aggiungiamo l’amore mishimiano per la Grecia classica e il teatro tradizionale giapponese (passioni indigeste per chi è accecato dal sol dell’avvenire), la cura maniacale del corpo (dagli anni Cinquanta Mishima si dedica al culturismo e al Kendò e la sua immagine diventa icona della bellezza fisica maschile), e l’importanza data ai valori dello stile, del gusto e dell’azione non è arduo pensare che il destino dell’autore di “Neve di primavera” fosse rigidamente scritto fin dai primi anni.
 
Come Céline, come Pound come altri (compreso il nostro D’Annunzio), l’approccio a Mishima è ancora oggi schizofrenico... Fascista illeggibile per qualche “anima bella”, ma in realtà scrittore amatissimo dalle donne e dagli uomini in egual misura (e ciò lo rende ancora una volta unico), e dalle capacità narrative paragonabili a quelle di un Dostoevskij (edito peraltro in Italia anche da Feltrinelli). Il rapporto – letterario – fra Mishima  e le donne è un capitolo a se stante della biografia dello scrittore tokyoto; anche nei suoi lavori meno recenti o più commerciali come “Musica” o la “Leonessa” la donna assume un ruolo da protagonista sconosciuto a gran parte della letteratura moderna. Donna non come “parte” di un universo maschile ma come protagonista “alla pari” soprattutto nei rapporti d’amore. Eccola la “cifra mishimiana”: l’andare oltre lo schema occidentale – capitalistico-borghese – che tipicizza il rapporto maschio/femmina per aprire nuovi capitoli attraverso l’analisi delle proprie tradizioni, attraverso la fitta indagine psicologica. Dopotutto, anche questo è l’autore che seppe riversare in autentici capolavori - e quasi da subito - come “Confessioni di una maschera” il proprio disagio esistenziale per la cosiddetta normalità; si trovasse al di “dentro”, nel suo animo, o al di “fuori” dell’essere umano, cioè nella società.
 
È quasi scontato in cauda ricordare che fra i suoi ammiratori ci fosse Marguerite Yourcenar capace di percepirne, così come fece per Julius Evola, una cifra “trascendente”, un quid  di eccezionalità. Ancora oggi però c’è l'intellettuale sconosciuto a chi ha gli occhi bendati dal pregiudizio... Caduti i muri, i veti e le censure, siamo sicuri cadrà anche la barriera che impedisce di entrare nell’universo di Yukio Mishima, nell’universo delle "confessioni" di chi strappò al secondo Novecento la grigia maschera del conformismo.
Maia