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Acts of Worship: Seven Stories Paperback – 1 Nov 2002

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Paperback, 1 Nov 2002
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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha Europe (1 Nov 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 4770028938
  • ISBN-13: 978-4770028938
  • Product Dimensions: 18.8 x 1.5 x 13.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,170,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


"Beautifully translated ... skillfully wrought." -- Washington Post Book World

"Each reveals his total control, his gift for striking imagery and psychological insight." -- Publishers Weekly

"Most of the elements in Mishima's novels--homoeroticism, worship of the body, death games...." -- International Herald Tribune

"Startling originality." -- Boston Globe

"Valuable glimpses of Mishima himself." -- Kirkus Review

About the Author

Yukio Mishima, one of the most spectacularly gifted writers in modern Japan, was born into a samurai family in 1925. He attended the Peers' School and Tokyo Imperial University, and for a time worked at the Ministry of Finance. His first full length novel, Confessions of a Mask, appeared in 1949, and since then he published over a dozen novels, almost all of which were translated into English and other languages during his.lifetime. They include: Thirst for Love; Forbidden Colors; Death in Midsummer; The Sound of Waves; The Temple of the Golden Pavilion; After the Banquet; The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea; and Spring Snow.

Mishima's reverence for the Japanese martial arts led him to take up Kendo (a type of fencing, with wooden swords) and Karate, as well as body-building, and by 1968 he had become a Kendo master of the fifth dan. He also organized a "private army" called the Shield Society, and in November 1970 he and his group forced their way into a Self-Defense Force headquarters in Tokyo, where Mishima, after reading out a proclamation, committed ritual suicide with a young follower in the commanding officer's room. On the morning of his death, the last volume of Mishima's tetralogy, The Sea of Fertility ( The Spring Snow, Runaway Horses, The Temple of Dawn, The Decay of the Angel) was delivered to his publisher.

The Translator: John Bester, born and educated in England, is one of the foremost translators of Japanese fiction. Among his translations are Masuji Ibuse's Black Rain, Kenzaburo Oe's The Silent Cry, Fumiko Enchi's The Waiting Years, Junnosuke Yoshiyuki's The Dark Room, and Mishima's autobiographical Sun and Steel. He received the 1990 Noma Award for the Translation of Japanese Literature (for Acts of Worship).

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The boy was tired of walking in the rain dragging the girl, heavy as a sandbag and weeping continually, around with him. Read the first page
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By Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 29 July 2010
Format: Hardcover
Mishima the human alchemist distills, boils and then vaporises until the micro essence of alienated human psychology lies transparent and naked stripped of social pretension.

These stories deal with elucidation or various rituals of game playing. Deep emotionally frozen human beings interact within ice cold glares with the human hope of an eternal thaw. A series of vignettes of young people inhabiting bodies, all suspended in roles.

The commonality is the capture of brief emotional moments when reality pervades for seconds, only for these humanity shards to slither away into the sub strata of their beings. Barren bleak and without feeling, Masumura captured the same essence in cinemantic sterility. 1960's Japan, a time of economic every day is Xmas consumer overkill compensated for war defeat. Inside the being echoed the hollow walls of emptiness.

Underneath trapped in fight or flight the Japanese psyche chose frozen. Beaten by the Emperor and smashed by the American war machine the population remained trapped in a psychological double bind. The essence of war trauma.

Mishima captures the zeitgeist in the stories but the appeal speaks louder to a world audience. Alienation and frozen feelings were not just the province of the vanquished. In the land of heroes the same emotional mechanisms unfolded.

Reappraisal of the man needs to be undertaken beyond his final act and the constant wrestling with sexual identity. The existential questions he asked and tried to answer lie far beyond the banal.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Stories by a master of repression & madness 31 Mar 2009
By T. Burrows - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a group of Mishima's stories, written between 1946 and 1965, and collected in 1989. He primarily wrote novels, but these stories demonstrate that he could write great short pieces too. I once loved his writing, but I now find a lot of it disturbing. Perhaps this is due to me finding his life and death disturbing - his intense narcissism, his political extremism, and his closeted bi or homosexuality. In his writing he seemed to be after some sort of purity and beauty, but he associated these things with violence and suicide. He lived a life of great success and achievement, but was never satisfied, and began to come unglued toward the end of his life. Still, there is no denying his power as a writer. He could write lines of perfect, radiant prose. He portrayed the subtle inner lives of repressed characters with great power and feeling.

A couple of these are early stories and not especially interesting, altho they do show the young writer beginning to exercise his talent. "Sword" is well written, and it showcases Mishima's fascination with kendo and youthful masculinity. "Sea and Sunset" is proof that Mishima had a great sense of humor, one that he did not show often enough. "Act of Worship" is the real masterpiece of the book, and shows Mishima at the height of his powers, doing what he does best - describing an uptight, repressed woman with the hots for a man who is out of her reach. In this case, an old maid becomes the housekeeper for a brilliant, wall-eyed old poetry professor, a man who commands great respect, but is deeply lonely. He describes their subtle communications and interactions brilliantly. This is worthwhile reading for fans, and a good place to start if you have never Mishima's stuff before.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Bespeak the author's rigid mentality 15 Nov 2002
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Acts Of Worship: Seven Stories is an anthology of short stories by the internationally famous Japanese author Yukio Mishima, who is perhaps most notorious for his dramatic ritual suicide in 1970. Flawlessly translated into English by John Bester, the short stories include: Fountains in the Rain; Raisin Bread; Sword; Sea and Sunset; Cigarette; Martyrdom; and the title piece, Act of Worship, and bespeak the rigid mentality of one born and rigorously raised in the traditions of the samurai caste, long after the era of the samurai. Written with biting insight, sharp ruthlessness and a keen eye for just how much (or how little) human life is worth, Acts Of Worship documents Yukio Mishima as having been an undeniably strong and articulate voice in Japan's modern literary tradition.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A Mixed Collection of Writing 2 Aug 2004
By RLS - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Contrary to what the translator claims in the introduction, based on this collection of short stories, Mishima Yukio's work as a novelist far exceeds in quality that of the short story writer. While some stories are quite good - "Acts of Worship," "Cigarette," and "Sword" come to mind - and demonstrate not only the thought but also the large amounts of research Mishima put into his writing, others only evince lukewarm sentiments or insights into the author's aesthetic tastes. While this in itself is certainly not enough to merit a "low rating," these same sentiments are more effectively conveyed in his novels.

Another complaint is that these stories are presented largely in an ahistorical way. That is, there is little reference to when Mishima wrote them, what he was experiencing at the time, and what the situation of Japan was like, socioeconomically. Understanding these concepts is crucial to understanding Mishima's motives and writing.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Seven acts, worth seven times that praise 10 Jan 2008
By animate ~ - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
When I first found Mishima, I wondered why I'd never heard of him before. I quickly fell in love with his style of writing tight, consistent, entertaining, and vexing novels. "The Temple of the Golden Pavilion" is one of my all time favorite novels, and with reading it I found Mishima to be my favorite author.

But I had never read a short story (or play) from him until I found this collection.

Now I feel even more strongly about Mishima, and even more solidly convinced that his detractors have no validity. These seven stories are all radically different; characters, time period, length--but they all hold something very poignant about them. Like the Professor recommending to his maid in "Act of Worship" the beautifully written prose of vast scenery and metaphoric imagery -- I too recommend this collection for those reasons.

"Fountains in the Rain" is a simple and short narrative between two lovers, with Mishima juxtaposing the female's tears' with the fountains they (the couple) stumble upon while in rain. Wonderful layering here, but this is the one "throw-away" story (if you could even call it that). The following, "Raisin Bread", is where the stories take an almost psychologically horrific turn; the subject matter is dark from here on out, but Mishima wields this territory like a blade.

"Sword" is next, one of this collection's two largest stories (the other one being the self-titled) concerning, yes, a kendo/swordplay training school. Characters are introduced quickly and tension is held high as we see guilt and honor flowing together until the final line reveals the story's conclusion. You can feel the sweat on the students' faces and can nearly see the golden hue of the dojo floor.

"Sea and Sunset" takes a very different story (which is itself told inside of another story) about a French farm hand sold into slavery, landing in a Buddhist shrine in Japan. The two items in the title seem to suggest a waning of life for the protagonist. Wonderful little story.

Now, the two most brilliant pieces come next. They express, alone, why I think Mishima is head and shoulders above most any Japanese literature -- and also why his detractors (who claim he falls from being able to create the metaphysical dreamscapes of Haruki Murakami) should reconsider his worth.

"Cigarette" is a personal diatribe from an adolescent that would otherwise be boring if not for being so acutely written. In a few pages, I felt that Mishima and I had had the same childhood. He crossed into territory that many do (think the typical "teen experience" movie) but the end result is something entirely believable and fascinating. The grinding of adolescence on culture; feeling the need to "fit in"; feeling unwelcomed anywhere -- Mishima captures it all with clarity that I have never seen anywhere else. I'll be re-reading this one many times.

When I first started "Martyrdom", I didn't expect it to hold much. Demon King? I wondered. But by the end, I was shocked. This piece holds such poetry and metaphor in every line, and crosses paths between Christian mythology and Japanese idealism. The tortured protagonist (making the last story's main character to look brave in comparison) and his story are probably predictable with the story's title, but there is more than expected, and when I finished this story I could only be reminded of what Murakami had said of Mishima, and I wondered if he had had a chance to read this! It truly moved me like not many of his novels have.

Mishima changed the landscape of Japanese literature. He wrote 40 novels, 18 plays and 20 volumes worth of short stories. He also, unlike many of his influences, was able to see many of them translated into English and made popular among his current generation (also a rare thing among Japanese authors).

His untimely death is what people most remember about him. Let them, then. In my own life, I'll only remember that he changed the way I felt about everything.
A brilliant title story, along with a few other gems 31 July 2013
By Cirrus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This collection of stories is a good broad sampling of Mishima's style. The title story 'Acts of Worship' is really a masterpiece and having read many of his novels, I think it is my favorite of all his writings - it also is perhaps the only story or writing of his that I can recall that is a sincere attempt at a "positive" outlook on life and not one where the only way to find transendence is via dark or often violent visions. The title story could actually be called "tender" a word not usually used to describe Mishima's writings - yet it is not laden with sentimentality - just a really beautiful story. The rest of the anthology one is given your typical mix of Mishima - the cleverness, the crystal images and metaphors, the somewhat esoteric subject matter and all that one might find in a Mishima novel. 'Sword' - the second longest of the stories - was full of brilliant descriptive passages - the plot is almost secondary to merely being there amidst the rich images he creates. I think those who have read him previously will find this a great revisiting of the author and those who have never read him will probably receive from this a good overview of his outlook and style.
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