by Yukio Mishima
First published as スタア in 1961
Translated from the Japanese
by Sam Bett
Literary fiction / Novella
Star is a very interesting portrait of Rikio, a young movie star.
It gets even richer when you realize Yukio Mishima wrote this novella shortly after acting himself in “Afraid to Die”, where he played the role of a yakuza, just like Rikio in the movie he is working on. It makes for an interesting parallel with his own life – including its end.
I have read Haruki Murakami saying that Mishima is his favorite author, but in no other book by Mishima had I seen how much he could have influenced Murakami.
This is so striking in this one, with sometimes the same in-between zone between reality and un-reality – here seen in the world of cinema, with a special vision of time, different from time in real life; as for instance you can film scenes without following a chronological order when you prepare a movie.
Compared to this variety of time, the hours of ordinary life were no more than a worn and tattered obi unwinding from the waist.
The steady flow of real time –where there is no turning back – begins to feel boring and stale.
There’s also a striking passage when one day, a new world seems to appear to Richie as he is on the set:
I was no longer on a set, but in an undeniable reality, a layer within the strata of my memory…
I was convinced that I had slipped into another dimension.
Rikio also often needs the use of a mirror, to take care of his look, but also to observe his fans, as if he were incapable of facing reality.
If I hadn’t known who wrote this book, I may have said a very young Murakami – because the dialogs are less rich and flowing as in Murakami’s. Anyway, who else can write flowing dialogs like Murakami?
The character of Kayo, Rikio’s assistant/lover seems also to be coming out of a Murakami’s novel.
And there’s a discussion on suicide, plus an attempted suicide.
It’s a great analysis on human psychology, with the blown ego of a young star, the theme of identity and mask, of artificiality and reality.
Richie is terrified at the end of the novella, when he discovers what old age could do to his beautiful face.
If you read this book, I highly encourage you to watch this excellent documentary on Mishima: The Strange Case Of Yukio Mishima (1985) BBC Documentary. Star will make even more sense when you discover his views on life/death, the body and beauty.
A tormented genius, but what an author!
VERDICT: Excellent analysis on the psychology of an inflated ego.
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