When at college, I had a friendly book-rivalry with another student. I’d been an insatiable bookworm through my school years, and he was the first person I met who had read as widely as me. But we hailed from different backgrounds: he was a polyglot Canadian who had studied in Russia, while I was a working-class British girl who had barely travelled outside the UK. And so we had very different areas of “expertise,” in which we educated the other by swapping books.
My friend introduced me to novels I remember vividly even now: Andrei Bely’s Petersburg, Ivo Andrić’s The Bridge on the Drina (memorable for its excruciating scene of impalement), and Bruno Schulz’s The Street of Crocodiles. These books all rocked my world—but one would change my life.
Forbidden Colors, by Yukio Mishima, is both dazzling and cruel—as I later discovered all Mishima’s works are.