6 April 2006
Last night I watched Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985). Does it make sense to talk about a national aesthetic? If so, there are perhaps strong currents of perfectionism in the Japanese national aesthetic. Rough edges and loose ends present a dilemma, culturally. When you combine this with a camp vainglory which dictates that to fail spectacularly is tragically beautiful, is poetry, exquisite - you might end up with something like Yukio Mishima's life. Only you'd have to throw in some fetishized fascism (uniforms, spectacle, nostalgic wholeness) and maybe a few helpings of forcible-incorporation-into-the-anodyne-world-of-modernity angst. Arguably, at one level the "I-novelists" (who wrote in the first person, largely autobiographically, and then typically killed themselves) represent a failure of the imagination. It's not tragic and it's not clever.