Elizabeth Schambelan at Bookforum:
HALF A CENTURY AGO, when Yukio Mishima’s Sun and Steel was published, reasonable people the world over were entertaining the possibility that a global Marxist revolution really was at hand. Naturally, not everyone was enthused about the prospect. In Japan, where the upheaval was massive, campus demonstrators were regularly attacked by gangs of right-wing phys-ed majors wielding sports equipment. Administrators at Tokyo’s Nihon University at one point publicly requested the help of these reactionary jocks in quelling student unrest. Mishima (1925–70), a reactionary jock himself, was appalled by the demonstrations and by the New Left in general, but bashing people on the head with golf clubs was not his style. Sun and Steel—billed by the author as a “personal history,” but really more of a philosophical tract—has the unhurried cadences of the long game. Mishima was dreaming of imperial restoration, a rewinding not only of the 1960s but also of Bretton Woods, the whole postwar geopolitical order, and, possibly, political modernity tout court. Many contemporary readers of Sun and Steel harbor analogous ambitions. A minor work in the context of world literature, it is a major one in the bizarro universe of white-supremacist arts and letters.