The House of the Sleeping Beauties

I finished reading Yasunari Kawabata’s The House of the Sleeping Beauties on the subway to work this morning and, having read many novels and short stories by Kawabata and Yukio Mishima, I’m fairly certain now that Mishima did write it or at least most of it. Naoki Inose wrote as much in his biography of Mishima, Persona, where he stated that Kawabata was noted to employ ghostwriters, was briefly hospitalized during the serialization of the novella, and later reflected in an interview that he didn’t like the novella and didn’t understand it (Inose, 399–400).

Then again, did Mishima have the time to write and edit this novella from 1960 to 1961? From 1960 to 1961, Mishima was already busy serializing After the Banquet, Mademoiselle, and Beastly Entanglements. And at the same time, he wrote and produced “Tenth-Day Chrysanthemums,” “The Black Lizard,” and a Japanese translation of Oscar Wilde’s Salome. Arguably, not much.

Much has been written about the debt that Mishima felt he owed to Kawabata for starting his career, though he admitted that he wasn’t a fan of the senior writer’s work. When the politics of the Swedish Academy awarded Kawabata, not Mishima, with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968, Mishima was among the very first people to congratulate Kawabata and to wax poetically on the qualities of Kawabata’s work. That Mishima ghostwrote The House of the Sleeping Beauties, that won the Mainichi Publishing Culture Award, though his post 1960-work languished, would be consistent with Mishima’s anachronistic sense of obligation.

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