BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Star by Yukio Mishima, translated by Sam Bett [in Booklist]

Revered writer of dozens of novels, plays, short stories, and essays, Yukio Mishima was an iconic master of the performative existence. A literary sensation by 24 for Confessions of a Mask (1949), a semi-autobiographical bildungsroman about a young homosexual’s hidden identity, fame would be Mishima’s “normal” throughout his short life. As model, actor, and filmmaker, he was also intimately familiar with the camera. His 1970 death by ritual suicide at 45 after a failed coup d’etat attempt was a meticulously staged event.

Unsurprisingly, performance drives Mishima’s protagonist here: on-screen, 23-year-old superstar Rikio is filming a yakuza thriller surrounded by relentless fans; off-screen, he’s doubting his very existence, propped up by his older, hardly attractive assistant, who’s also his secret lover and “partner in this artifice.”

Written shortly after Mishima himself starred in the yakuza-centered Afraid to Die, his slim novella – smoothly translated into English for the first time by prize-winning Sam Bett – is a raw, scathing examination of fame: “The very thing that makes a star worth watching is the same thing that strikes him from the world at large and makes him an outsider.”

YA/Mature Readers: An intimate observation of stardom beyond the screen for the reality-TV-watching, social media-savvy generation.

Review: “Fiction,” Booklist Online, March 29, 2019

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 1961 (Japan), 2019 (United States)


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