Forbidden Colours, Paperback
4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Written when Mishima was only twentysix, "Forbidden Colors" is a depiction of a male homosexual relationship, in which a rich older man buys the love of a young man who is stunningly handsome but who lacks the ability to love.

As in "Mann's Death in Venice", the older man's longing for the beauty of youth is associated with aestheticism and death.




Free Home Delivery

on all orders

Pick up orders

from local bookshops


Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

"Even in that moment I could not believe that my interior beauty was consonant with Yuichi's exterior beauty. Socrates' prayer to the various gods of the place on that summer morning when he lay under the plane tree on the bank of the Ilissus River, chatting to the beautiful boy Phaedrus until the day cooled, seems to me the highest teaching on earth: "Pan, first, and all the gods that dwell in this place, grant that I may become fair within, and that such outward things as I have may be at peace with the spirit within me."The Greeks had the rare power to look at internal beauty as if it were hewn from marble. Spirit was badly corrupted in later times, exalted through the action of lustless loathing. Beautiful young Alcibiades, drawn by the internal, love-lust wisdom of Socrates, was so aroused by the prospect of being passionately loved by that man as ugly as Silenus that he crept in with him and slept under the same mantle. When I read the beautiful words of Alcibiades in "The Drinking Party" dialogue, they almost bowled me over: "It would be embarrassing to tell men of intelligence that I did not give my body to someone like you--even more embarrassing that to admit to the uncultured multitude that I had surrendered to you. Much more!" (299-300).This long citation comes from the Japanese novel Forbidden colours by Yukio Mishima. It shows that the key to understanding this complex novel lies in the understanding of Mishima's ideas about Greek philosophy.In Forbidden colours an old novelist, Shunsuke Hinoki, wants to take revenge on women, as he feels women have scorned him throughout his life. To effectuate his revenge, Shunsuke has devised a plan in which he will use an irresistibly beautiful young man, Yuichi Minami, to drive women mad with love, and lust, and jealousy. He encourages the young Yuichi to marry Yasuko, and thus destroy her life. He later carefully plots to set other women up against each other, and foment jealousy. Partially successful, the novel develops to explore myriad other human relationships of lovers and friendship. Choosing Yuichi, Shunsuke did not know that Yuichi is gay. Regardless of his sexual orientation, Yuichi is a able to develop true love for his wife Yasuko, while this relation is not governed by lust. For lust, Yuichi turns to anonymous lovers whom he picks up cruising; he does not develop relationships with these young men; in the gay scene of Tokyo, under the eyes of his gay acquaintances, Yuichi appears a very restraint and chaste young man, never giving in to flirts of foreigners or other Japanese men. However, when he meets Count Kaburagi in this scene he develops an extended, sexual relationship with him, despite the fact that he is not attracted to the old man. With Shunsuke, the other old man in his life, he develops a long-term, asexual friendship. The clearly heterosexual Shunsuke's is oriented towards women in his lust, but ultimately decides that his true friend must have been the Narcissistic Yuichi.Thus, in Forbidden colours Mishima paints all possible human sexual and friendship relations. Shunsuke would obviously stand for Socrates, while Yuichi, takes the role of a young Japanese Phaedrus. In as much as Mishima was fascinated by Greek ideals of love, he must have been shaped by, or have tried to reconcile these Greek ideals with Japanese cultural patterns. The famous chariot parable from Plato's Phaedrus in which the soul is described as a chariot drawn by complementary forces, a good horse and a bad horse, would be very well compatible with Japanese Zen Buddhist views of Yin and Yang, which could help explain the balance achieved between lust and restraint.It is surprising to see how a young Japanese novelist could be influenced so profoundly by classical Greek literature, at an age just about 70 years into the opening up of the Japanese mind to Western culture.Forbidden colours is a very long novel, and sometimes plot lines are vague, or even nearly forgotten. It is a very poetic novel, with often many beautiful descriptions. The novel is of special interest to gay readers attempting to understand the complex and hidden gay relations in Asian societies, and it beautifully explains how gay Asian man may truly find fulfillment in marriage, and starting a family.

Review by

A book at turns both scorning and beautiful. The collision of the ideals of beauty and the ugliness of life.

Also in the Penguin Modern Classics series   |  View all