Nichibunken Evening Seminar

The 248th Nichibunken Evening Seminar

* Depending on the future situation of the COVID-19 infection, this seminar may be changed. Thank you for your understanding. For the latest information, please refer to the Nichibunken website (This page).


The Serious and the Shallow: The Task of Translating MISHIMA Yukio's Life for Sale (“Inochi urimasu”)


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 The Japanese novelist, Yukio Mishima (1925-1970), is perhaps best known for his dramatic suicide. In 1970, with a group of fellow right-wing nationalists he raided a military base in Tokyo, and encouraged the soldiers to rise up in revolution in the name of the Emperor. When the coup d’état failed, Mishima committed ritual suicide by disembowelment (seppuku).

 Only two years before, he had written a popular novel, Life for Sale (Inochi urimasu, 1968), first serialized in the Japanese version of Playboy magazine. The novel depicts a man who, having failed to kill himself, puts his own life up for sale in a newspaper advertisement, and it traces his ensuing adventures with several clients. The novel may be described as bleak, trashy, kitsch, camp, shallow and sexy.

 However, I argue that Mishima employs these ‘frivolous’ qualities as a way of carrying out a perceptive critique of the breakdown in human relations following Japan’s wartime defeat. For example, sado-masochism appears in the novel as a means to resist what Mishima saw as the trivial and anodyne fantasies of post-war consumerist domestic life in Japan.

 This paper describes my experience of translating this novel into English, in particular as I tried to highlight both the sense of superficiality as well as deeper layers of meaning within the text.

Stephen DODD
Professor Emeritus,  SOAS, University of London
 /Visiting Research Scholar, International Research Center for Japanese Studies
Edward BOYLE
Associate Professor, International Research Center for Japanese Studies


Date: 2022.07.07 (Thu) 
Place:Seminar Room 1, International Research Center for Japanese Studies and ONLINE (Zoom)
Start time: 16:30 (JST)
End time: 18:00
Target audience: Open to researchers, including students
Participation:If you would like to take part in this seminar ONLINE, please email us with your name and affiliation by July 4. The URL for the Zoom meeting will be provided by the day before this seminar.
Email: kenkyo* (Please replace * with @.)
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