Books: A Crush on Death



by JOHN NATHAN 300 pages. Little, Brown. $8.95.

At 45, Yukio Mishima had written 40 novels, 18 plays, 20 volumes of short stories and as many books of essays. He was Japan's literary exotic, sometimes mentioned for the Nobel Prize—a slick self-promoter and deliberately flashy vulgarian who redeemed his excesses with a gift that sometimes approached genius. In November 1970 he committed his famous ritual suicide (seppuku) after attempting to incite the Japanese army to a ridiculous uprising in behalf of the country's imperialistic traditions.

That spectacular exit dictated forever the...

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