Confessions of a Mask – Yukio Mishima

Confessions of a Mask

“What we call evil is the instability inherent in all mankind which drives man outside and beyond himself toward an unfathomable something, exactly as though nature had bequeathed to our souls an ineradicable portion of instability from her store of ancient chaos.”- Stephan Zweig.

The air grew heavier as the blood soared; the sensuality insect crawled with an unprecedented ardor blinding the intoxication that arose from a monstrous swell. The naked flesh bled to the wraith of arrows and while tranquility festooned youthful fragrance, the insect stirred a storm that thundered as cloudy-white patches filled the empty spaces. The musty smell of the ejaculated sperm mingled with the stale cigarette stink that dangled between the tender lips of an eight-year old squatting on the broken stairs, smoking the discarded stub wondering if she could touch the voluptuous breasts of the woman who smiled at her. A topless Barbie lay besides, the naked breasts of a doll immersed in nicotine fumes. Upstairs, a man admired the lacy lingerie beneath his striped shirt and the adored swell of the breasts hid under the layers of a tightly woven bandage far from the reach of the little girl. A worn sponge was being a dutiful servant to the slapping fingers; white mist covering a bare face.

“Indeed of all kinds of decay in this world, decadent purity is the most malignant.”

Lust, they say corrupts the purity of love. Puberty brings lust; maturity bestows love. Love is a shapeless sensation that at times normalizes irrationalities. Love has always been an anomalous creature; sensuality flooding sanity into passionate disorders. If so, then why are we adamant to categorize this amorphous divinity with standardize regularities? What is “normal love”? Who decides its normality stance? We, the so called societal gurus ; prisoners of our very own sins. ‘Confessions of a Mask’, is a convoluted mêlée of a remorseful conscience between the standardized societal normality and abnormalities.

“How would I feel if I were another boy? How would I feel if I were a normal person?”

Kochan keeps referring to himself as an abnormal person. For Kochan, the sensuality of a woman is equated to the same emotion that arises from viewing a “broom” or a “pencil”. He was fascinated with “tragic lives”; a feeling of nothingness that emerged from self-renunciation captivated Kochan. The night-soil man in his dark-blue trousers, the smell of sweat that reeks from the marching soldiers, Omi’s armpits filled with copious youthful hair, fishermen with their naked torsos; seductions that enhanced his puberty. Masturbating to the vision of a young male teacher and not to the thought of a naked woman, made Kochan question the legitimate normality of his pubescence. Mishima keeps homosexuality afloat in the stormy waters of social mores. In a homogeneous spiritual Japanese society, the existence of homosexuality was even more unimaginable than an actor’s factual face in a Kabuki theatre. The protagonist’s continuous struggle is heartbreaking to read, particularly, when in search for a normal life he imposes a Spartan-like self-discipline to evade the indulgence his “bad-habit” (masturbation) and his alter ego masquerading in a costume gala establishing a pre-amble to a counterfeit existence. The idea of being a stranger in a crude savage land seemed more plausible for an unflustered life. The commencing of a platonic love affair with Sonoko further propels Kochan’s remorseful conscience in a claustrophobic existence. The desire of an impassive kiss from a woman; the desperate need for an embryonic feeling of heterosexuality. The prose made me furious at times, to glimpse a world ridden with hypocrisies of insecure minds. A world where rape, incest is placed on a identical immoral dais as homosexuality is certainly a malignant society. A man should not be made to feel guilty if his heart craves the touch of another man. A woman should not be ostracized for loving another woman. Love is a warm shadow where we find refuge from our own wars. So, how dare the heterosexuality elites try to shackle a shadow? If, “normal love” only flourishes through the sole act of a viable reproduction, then what right do we have for pompous declarations of ‘man being the most evolved species’? Why demean the animals when we bestow the same courtesy to our fellow members? Why do we designate homosexuality as a ‘criminal with a death sentence?’ The red lacquer is meticulously spread over a snowy visage amid the cries of a featherless parrot chastised for flying with the robins. Death being the only rescue.

“It was in death that I discovered my real ‘life’s aim’….”

The gory images of mutilation and blood filled hallucinations had always ravaged Kochan’s mind. Right from his childhood, Kochan had an affinity to grief with death being the ultimate seducer of his sensualities. It was as if fate had made him fond of the sinister dwellings of death; a sort of an admonition of his burdensome future. Death plays a dual role in Kochan’s clandestine existences. At times, death becomes the ultimate escapism; a respite to his chaotic predicaments and then there are moments when the thought of death compels him (Kochan) to ponder on the possibilities of an honorable life. Similar to the face of a Kabuki actor that metamorphoses with each dab of paint into a supernatural being, the snippets of death from Kochan’s empathetic soul transcends death to be the pinnacle of eroticism.

The salient features of the ongoing Japanese war further enhance the foundation of death. Death becomes a coveted symbol of equality, demolishing societal discrepancies and at the same time a harbinger with a prejudicial mask.

“With the beginning of the war a wave of hypocritical stoicism swept the entire country”…. “The condition they has faced and fought against there — that of a life for a life had probably been the most universal and elemental that mankind ever encounters…..”

“Life for a life”; the Hammurabian ethics that rule the entire system of a war, exemplifies the sadistic hypocrisy that thrives in the human society. In order to validate the significance of our own lives and its choices, we condemned the lives of others and curse their preferences. Mishima compares the absurdities of the war with Kochan’s dissolute commotions. In a peculiar way, the onset of the war brings a solace to Kochan with the hope of an annihilation of his secret life. Whereas, the restitution of a peaceful aftermath evokes a personal conflict that Kochan would have to face in on a daily basis. Mishima gives an enlightening inference of how assorted masquerades of life are vanished when humanity dwells at the gates of death.

“In the fire, these miserable ones had witnessed the total destruction of every evidence that they existed as human beings. Before their eyes they has seen human relationships, love and hatreds,, reason, property, all go up in flame….”

Although war might bring the annihilation of human prejudices with life then becoming the utmost valuable thing, yet, the very origin of war lies in festering prejudices and sadistic verdicts.

“And at times it had not been the flames against which they fought, but against human relationships, against love and hatreds, against reason, against property. At the time, like the crew of a wrecked ship, they have found themselves in a situation where it was permissible to kill one person in order that another might live….”

War had become an identical apologetic entity of auto-hypnosis and self-deceit that Kochan himself had metamorphosed into. In order to save a life it was permissible to kill another. In order to keep a façade of “normality” it became permissible to obliterate the true-self.

It is not surprising to spot the element of death taking the centre stage at many instances. Being, Kawabata’s protégé, Mishima employs similar philosophies seen in Kawabata’s prestigious works – Beauty in death and its opulence lost in its own excessiveness. War, being the perfect example of fading allure of death. The seducer being deceived by it own seduction. In Seppuku, a suicide ritual also exercised by the author himself; the samurais embellished their faces with subtle make-up before succumbing to the self-inserted sword. The samurais ached that their death would restore the very same honor and beauty that life had stolen from them. Given that, this book is also perceived as a semi-autobiographical sketch of Mishima , one can notice glimpses of Kabuki ; a theatrical art that Mishima often viewed as a child along with his grandmother. The decorated mask-like visage being a significant representation of this ancient Japanese art.

“Everyone says life is a stage….”

The freshly sculpted mask stares ardently into the mirror. It viciously smiles in nostalgic moments of twelve year boy masturbating to the standing picture of St. Sebastian and the nascent obsession of an eight year old girl. It howls as it hypnotizes the soul into a mass of self-deceit in a machine of falsehood. Similarly, as the ownership of a travel is lost with its commencement, the journey of mask becomes a reckless place for riots and revolutions.

“Why is it wrong for me to stay just the way I am now? I was fed up with myself and all for my chastity was ruining my body. I had thought that with earnestness”…… “I was feeling the urge to begin living my true life. Even if it was to be pure masquerade and not my life at all, still the time had come when I must make a start , must drag my heavy feet forward…..”…Be Strong!!”

At the end of the day, the mask had cursed the face.

4/5****

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