Beautiful Star by Yukio Mishima, against a slate background.

When spring arrived six months later, Jūichirō had an abrupt change of mind. He began to say that, if they wanted to carry out their mission effectively, they ought to make every effort to find kindred souls rather than waste time worrying about secrecy. The world was in imminent danger, Jūichirō mused, yet here he was, a slave to old-fashioned family sentiment, with his thoughts too hemmed in by timidity.

He racked his brains before coming up with the idea of placing an advertisement in the ‘Common Interests’ column of a tabloid magazine: ‘If you are interested in ⦿, we would like to hear from you. Let’s work together as members of the Universal Friendship Association in the pursuit of world peace.’

⦿ was the symbol that Jūichirō had devised to stand for a flying saucer, and responses were eerily spot on. Eighty per cent of letters arriving from every corner of the country surmised that the sign referred to a flying saucer.

Jūichirō produced pamphlets, copies of which the whole family helped to print, and he began to correspond frequently with members nationwide. Early that summer, Jūichirō had liquidated all the  stocks bequeathed by his father and transferred the cash into a bank deposit to help with future activities. To everyone’s surprise the stocks had appreciated enormously, increasing five-fold. And then, later that summer, there was a major financial slump. The family was now firmly convinced it was in the hands of someone watching over them from above.

However, until that moment, the flying saucers had always chosen to reveal themselves to one family member at a time. Of course, they all trusted each other when they asserted that they had seen one, but they had never had the opportunity to witness one as a group. As head of the family, Jūichirō had been gradually honing his extraterrestrial communication skills since the summer, and he yearned for the chance for them to make contact en masse.

It was early on the previous morning that Jūichirō had finally received advance notice.

‘There’s no time to waste. Khrushchev and Kennedy should meet and sit down together for a simple breakfast. Nothing special. Fancy food dulls the mind.’ Jūichirō was talking to himself. Maybe he was tired and losing patience as he searched the sky. He vigorously rubbed his hands together, numb from the cold. ‘All they have to do is pick up the phone on the desk and say one word: Washington. They should throw away their pathetic pride and all the trouble they’ve got themselves into, and get down to some serious talk about the future of humans. And as for all their half-baked plans! They’re so far from everyday concrete reality that they’ve brought disaster down on the world. My father used to be like that. And that’s precisely why I can see right through them. Father’s life was so distanced from everyday objects like scissors, umbrellas, garden trees and vegetable salad that these things simply passed him by. Just  like the stars have fled from humans.

‘Halting nuclear weapons testing, disarmament and the Berlin question should be up for discussion just as much as soft-boiled eggs, baked apples and raisin bread. If you look at things from the commanding heights of the Universe, they all have equal worth. We’ve got to get earthlings to understand that. People commit murder precisely because they think it’s such a big deal and they can’t resist the temptation.

‘Khrushchev and Kennedy need to sweep up their breakfast breadcrumbs with their napkins, set the napkins back on the table and emerge from the room arm in arm. They could make an announcement to the waiting reporters basking in the morning sun: “We are of the same opinion. Humankind should live and prosper.”

‘No need to release pigeons, or for a military band. The moment they utter those words, a bright fresh day will burst into life. The whole Universe will recognize that, from that moment on, Earth has become a beautiful star. So, what do you think? How about we find the strength to make them embrace each other as quickly as possible?’ But he had barely finished speaking before adding, more darkly,‘. . . that is, if we have the strength. How sad that I’ve been assigned this temporary human body. But there again, it’s obviously all part of the Universe’s foresight and underlying plan.’

There was no reply from his wife and children. All had their eyes glued to the southern sky.  

Astronomy is still an unreliable science, but Jupiter’s surface temperature is said to be about 1mm degrees below zero. A native of that planet, Iyoko was huddled shivering inside her blanket, lamenting her own pitiful lack of resolve in the face of even this trifling cold. She was barely interested in politics. If the world was reformed and peace established in the way advocated by her husband, she would probably be assigned the domestic task of keeping the world neat and tidy. Iyoko loved the abundant cereals that were to be found on Earth. The sweet-smelling fragrance of wheatfields in the summer, and the golden heads of rice bowing in autumn. These were worth persevering for ever for the sake of earthlings. But whatever planet she found herself on, she would probably end up in charge of the kitchen. Despite that, she had no confidence she would be able to properly manage just the two different types of kitchen found on Jupiter and Earth.

 

  • Beautiful Star

    Penguin Modern Classics

  • 'Interplanetary, quite extraordinary... awash with dark humour and scenes of intense beauty' The Financial Times

    'One of the greatest avant-garde Japanese writers of the twentieth century' - New Yorker


    Beautiful Star
    is a 1962 tale of family, love, nuclear war and UFOs, and was considered by Mishima to be one of his very best books.

    Translated into English for the first time, this atmospheric black comedy tells the story of the Osugi family, who come to the sudden realization that each of them hails from a different planet: Father from Mars, mother from Jupiter, son from Mercury and daughter from Venus. This extra-terrestrial knowledge brings them closer together, and convinces them that they have a mission: to find others of their kind, and save humanity from the imminent threat of the atomic bomb...

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