Even before 三島由紀夫 (Mishima Yukio, Yukio Mishima) committed 切腹 (seppuku), a ritual samurai suicide rite that involved disemboweling himself with a katana before being beheaded by his co-conspirators, on Nov. 25, 1970, he had already secured his place in infamy.

Earlier that day, Mishima and his organization, 楯の会 (Tatenokai, “Shield Society”), had commandeered an office of the Japan Self-Defense Forces with the intention of rousing the soldiers and inspiring a coup d’etat to restore power to the emperor.

Mishima’s right-wing politics are controversial to the extreme, but his writing is not — at least in terms of his brilliant prose. By the age of 45, when he died, he had written masterworks that included “金閣寺” (Kinkaku-ji, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion) and the tetralogy “豊穣の海” (Hōjō no Umi, The Sea of Fertility). His novels scrutinize the theme of 美 (bi, beauty), and his characters drive themselves beyond the point of madness in their pursuit of beauty, love and glory alike. His politics, his prose, his aesthetics — everything collides for an immersive and at-times overwhelming reading experience. His books are not meant for everyone.