Construction and Deconstruction of a Myth
The Vision of Komachi from Traditional Noh to the Contribution of Mishima Yukio and Enchi Fumiko
The figure of medieval Japanese poet Ono no Komachi has been one of the most controversial and inspiring of Japanese literary tradition and it is at the centre of a number of works and Noh plays. This essay analyzes how her image is interpreted in the modern Noh play by Mishima Yukio, and the novel Komachi hensō (transformations of Komachi) by Enchi Fumiko, while keeping the original Noh Sotoba Komachi (Komachi on the stupa) as reference. The two protagonists in Mishima’s play – old Komachi and the poet – are generally interpreted and explained by Mishima himself as allegories of dry and cynical realism versus dreamlike romanticism and self-deception. Nevertheless, making reference to the theory of lieux de mémoire by Pierre Nora, it is showed that the tendency to self-deception occurs in both protagonists. The visions that emerge in the two modern works are similar: indeed, the figure of Komachi becomes a metaphor for the idea of the impossibility of fixing an identity in regard to the passage of time, and shows the deception at the base of the idea of an abiding self, which is in line with many contemporary theories of the construction of identity.