On Yukio Mishima’s Sun and Steel

Brain Patrick Eha at The Point:

He poses on the cover of my old Grove Press edition in the aspect of a warrior, stripped to the waist, forehead bound in a hachimaki, looking out from under heavy brows. His shadowed gaze is intent, unnerving. His left cheekbone and the strong bridge of his nose catch the light. (A humanizing touch: his ears stick out slightly too far.) In a suit he might seem ordinary, at best of average build, but shirtless he is a panther ready to spring. His forearms are unusually furry for a Japanese man, his concave stomach bifurcated by a line of black hair. His triceps resemble warm marble. Superimposed on this fierce portrait are the concentric rings of a red target, as though Mishima were about to be feathered with arrows like St. Sebastian—a picture of whose “white and matchless nudity” moves the frail narrator of Mishima’s novel Confessions of a Mask to his first ejaculation. In the center of this target, his grim mouth forms the bull’s-eye; the outer rings drape his shoulders and pectoral muscles like a mantle of blood. His right hand is drawing out of its sheath, upward into the frame, the naked blade of a samurai sword.

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