“Life for Sale” by Yukio Mishima— Amor and Noir

Mishima, Yuko. “Life for Sale” (translated by Stephen Dodd) Vintage International, 2020.

Humor and Noir

Amos Lassen

After messing up a suicide attempt, Hanio Yamada decides to put his life up for sale in the classifieds section of a Tokyo newspaper. It did not take long before people come calling with bizarre requests. What ensues is a  comedy of errors, involving a jealous husband, a drug-addicted heiress, poisoned carrots and a vampire. For someone who just wants to die, Hanio can’t get a break and he finds himself part of an Asian-wide conspiracy that puts him in the sites of his government and a powerful organized-crime syndicate. In “Life for Sale” Yukio Mishima uses satire to explore dark themes, those with which he has been preoccupied throughout his lifetime. This was his last book and was originally published in 1968.

Hanio Yamada, the young copywriter at the center of “the novel attempts suicide for less ideological reasons than Mishima. Hanio manages to do everything but the dying and he soon finds that he is better compensated by the respondents to his ad than he had been even in his steady job.

The nature of Mishima’s own death casts a significant shadow over any reading of his work, and even if “Life for Sale” was written without his deepest attention and intentions, its look at the willingness to die is complicated.

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