After the Banquet by Yukio Mishima is a novel about Kazu, a business owner of a restaurant in Japan, trying to get her husband, Noguchi, a retired politician, back into politics. Kazu meets Noguchi when one of Noguchi’s close friends collapses in her restaurant. The two seem unlikely, since Kazu is described as a more outgoing and talkative type, while Noguchi is a quiet older man. Kazu falls in love with Noguchi partially because of his demeanor and partially because she wants to be in a respectable grave like his family’s when she dies. Kazu, throughout Noguchi’s campaign, is seen as the mastermind and the one to sway people’s votes. Though, once the opposing party distributes pamphlets describing Kazu’s scandalous and predatory actions, Noguchi’s campaign loses. Arguments, and divorce ensue, with the final part of the novel ending where each character started: Kazu tending to her restaurant and Noguchi living in obscurity.
I loved how the novel worked to show the dynamic between not only Kazu and Noguchi, but also Kazu and her campaign partner, and finally Kazu and her old friend. As the novel went on, Kazu not only got more and more desperate, but also her endearing façade quickly crumbled. From the news of her early illegal campaigning to her past lovers, Kazu was always in a stew of controversy. Overall, the politics and the character dynamics were entertaining to watch unfold.
Final Rating: 4/5
Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima is a novel about a boy questioning his sexuality and coming to terms with being different. Set in Japan before and during WWII, the novel exists within the anxiety of a mind before tragedy. The narrator highlights different moments of his life where he realizes he is different through his encounters with Omi, Sonoko, and a prostitute. Throughout, the narrator hints and describes his desires for men, the way he fantasizes them being tortured, but can’t come fully to terms with his sexuality.
I think what holds this narrative back is the way it resides too long with Sonoko. The actions and motivations of the narrator around Sonoko are sometimes murky. And while, I understand Mishima wrote the book at a time in Japan where being gay was taboo, it felt like the book skirted way too far away from the subject. It tiptoes around how the narrator feels for Omi and Sonoko, and because of that, there isn’t a decisiveness to what the novel wants to be. Is it about Sonoko and the built friendship, or is it about the narrator’s sexuality? Overall, however, it gave a snapshot of Japan’s sentiments on being gay. It had some well-crafted metaphor, and the moments with Omi always felt special.
Final Rating: 3.5/5
Maxwell Suzuki is a writer, poet, and photographer based in Los Angeles.