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Book Review: Forbidden Colors by Yukio Mishima

Yukio Mishima was one of Japan's most prolific writers in the past century and is well known for his The Sound of Waves amongst other works. I've just finished reading Forbidden Colors in a translation by Alfred H. Marks.

Forbidden Colors is the story of Yuichi Minami, a young Japanese student whose beauty overpowers everyone who sees him, irrespective of their sexual leanings. Yuichi is gay and harbors a deep hatred for the strictly heterosexual culture he finds himself in. With the encouragement and guidance of Shunsuke Hinoki, a retired novelist, he marries Yasuko, a young beautiful woman Shunsuke was involved with before she met Yuichi. Yuichi's beauty allows him to carry on simultaneous (asexual) affairs with several different women while also enjoying the indulgence of practically every gay man he meets at Rudon's, an underground gay bar.

Shunsuke's relationship with Yuichi and the young man's overall personality is reminscent of Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray, and like his victorian counterpart Yuichi is a difficult character to feel any sympathy for. Even though Yuichi feels frustrated about the constraints he finds himself in he never exhibits any tenderness or love for anyone at all. Throughout the length of the book he continues to exploit everyone around him, from Shunsuke, who believes he's using Yuichi to avenge the affronts handed over to him by younger women, to Yuichi's silently suffering wife Yasuko.

If you've enjoyed The Picture of Dorian Gray then you'll probably enjoy Forbidden Colors. I certainly did. Recommended.

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