A Review of “Life for Sale” by Yukio Mishima

I was interested to read “Life for Sale” as I am not familiar with Japanese writers – except for Kazuo Ishiguro who grew up, and lives, in Britain.

The protagonist, Hanio Yamada, fails to commit suicide and decides to put his life up for sale, hoping that someone else will do the job for him. There follows a series of adventures as different buyers turn up with a proposition but no situation works out as planned and he remains alive, becoming wealthy as each sale brings in a lot of money – and a few dead bodies.

The book is well paced and so quotable! (I had to choose among so many.) It is a surreal tale with impossible scenarios, including one with a vampire:

“There was a lustrous quality, for sure, but it was the lustre of a corpse. The faint boniness of her arms betrayed her extreme thinness. And yet her breasts were full and firm, while her stomach was soft and white like a vessel brimming with an abundance of rich milk.”

And I did laugh out loud a few times:

“A dead body reminds me a bit of a bottle of whisky. If you drop the bottle and it cracks, what’s inside pours out. It’s only natural.”

“Tall, and probably rather snooty, the steward had clearly just spent a lot of effort squeezing blackheads. “

Eventually Hanio has to re-think his life and his decisions.

“How fearless, utterly fearless he had felt when he first put his life up for sale! But now, a warm furry fear clung to his chest, digging its claws right in.”

I don’t think I’ll re-read this book but I did really enjoy it. It’s the sort of book where you jump in and see where it takes you. You immerse yourself in the strange world of Hanio and that way you get the best out of it. I will definitely try this author again.

A couple of haikus

Since I have been immersing myself in Japanese writers recently, I thought I’d have a go at a few haikus:


  1. Be still; half-close your                                                                       

eyes, and listen to the sound                            

of the universe.                                                

2. My hands kneading dough                               

become your hands in cloudy              

puffs of wheaten flour.

3. Fragile spider’s web –

its silken, silver threads a

charnel house of flies.

4. A slimy, silver

trail across my balcony –

well, snails must live too.

5. My face against the

grass, I smell the fecund earth,

watch the insects creep.

6. A homeless man called

out – today I did not eat –

a wail of anguish.

It’s fun to do actually; I enjoyed writing them!