cover image Life for Sale

Life for Sale

Yukio Mishima, trans. from the Japanese by Stephen Dodd. Vintage, $16.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-0-525-56514-7

This 1968 pulp novel from Mishima (The Frolic of the Beasts) is a slapstick comedy with a complex moral underpinning, and an intriguing departure from his introspective work. Hanio Yamada, a young, handsome Tokyo copywriter, wakes up in a hospital bed after a botched suicide attempt. His plan was rash, hatched when he was reading the evening newspaper and the letters seemingly turned to cockroaches. After his release from the hospital, the nihilistic Hanio places an advertisement that puts his life up for sale: “use me as you wish.” A series of vignettes ensues—Hanio is asked to seduce a cheating wife so she will be killed by the mob; he has to resolve a diplomatic imbroglio involving poisoned carrots and murdered spies; he is hired to be nightly feed for a self-styled vampire. He finally lands in the home of a drug-addicted heiress, where he faces the greatest horror of all: domesticity. The novel handles its female characters poorly, using them in a disposable way that feels dated, but Mishima’s pungent insights into the challenges of postwar Japanese life are threaded brilliantly throughout. This dark, funny social satire feels like something only Mishima could’ve written. (Apr.)