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The sailor who fell from grace with the sea…
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The sailor who fell from grace with the sea (edition 1976)

by Yukio Mishima

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1,624314,462 (3.83)1 / 84
Member:thorold
Title:The sailor who fell from grace with the sea
Authors:Yukio Mishima
Info:Penguin (1976), Unknown Binding
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:fiction, Japan, merchant navy, adolescents, menswear, dead cat

Work details

The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima

Recently added byrr001, RachDan, parasolofdoom, Possebon, BayardUS, Xickie, martin1400, private library, Jane.Elinor
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In Lolita, Nabokov pulls a neat literary trick when he makes the main character a well-spoken scumbag. Despite his ostensible role as the protagonist, and his ability to manipulate the story as its narrator, Humbert Humbert is a villain through and through, and a reader who pays attention can't help but be disgusted by him. There are readers who come out of Lolita thinking Humbert Humbert a sympathetic man, or even the hero of the story, but those are the readers who can't think critically, who the book was obviously wasted on. Though I didn't love that book, Nabokov's manipulation of the reader (combined with his impressive prose) makes Lolita an interesting read.

The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea likewise gives us a pair of characters portrayed at various points as sympathetic protagonists, but who the discerning reader will identify as emotionally stunted with a warped worldview and thought process. Ryuji and Noboru are a sailor and a young boy who, despite their lack of accomplishments, see themselves as apart from society and superior to it. The rest of the human race are mostly just unthinking sheep, but Ryuji and Noboru know that their ambition places them on a higher level. This unjustified and unhealthy perspective ends badly for both of them.

Here's the difference between Mishima and Nabokov: it's far from clear to me whether Mishima is intentionally trying to manipulate his readers in to sympathizing with ultimately disgusting characters, or if he genuinely thinks that the mindsets of Ryuji and Noboru are sympathetic. Mishima, after all, had a pretty strange view of the world, one that ultimately culminated in his theatrical suicide (his call for ultranationalism seemingly a pretext by which to achieve the type of death he craved). The character of Fusako, for instance, is given little depth and does little to refute the views of Noboru and Ryuji that most people are uncritical and without grand thoughts or lofty ambitions. If Mishima wrote this book as a criticism or warning against these feelings of aloofness and superiority that Ryuji and Noboru hold, then that's good, although I didn't think the rest of the work elevated the book beyond that. If, alternatively, Mishima presented these two characters with those thoughts because they mirrored his own thinking, or because he thought those attitudes worth sympathizing with... well, let's just say it's always a good idea to be critical of not only the text itself but of the author's work as a whole as well. I'll have to read something else by Mishima to see if this thread recurs elsewhere in his work. ( )
  BayardUS | Dec 10, 2014 |
This book scared me and gave me nightmares. Also, it confused me because part of it sounded like bad erotica and parts of it sounded like good dark writing. It was all pretty predictable but in that awful-car-wreck sort of way, you can't look away even though it disgusts you. I'm glad he didn't spell out the last scene. It's enough to imagine it. ( )
  JimmyChanga | Sep 11, 2013 |
This book scared me and gave me nightmares. Also, it confused me because part of it sounded like bad erotica and parts of it sounded like good dark writing. It was all pretty predictable but in that awful-car-wreck sort of way, you can't look away even though it disgusts you. I'm glad he didn't spell out the last scene. It's enough to imagine it. ( )
  JimmyChanga | Sep 11, 2013 |
Six-word review: Disturbing things happen in beautiful prose.

Six by six:

Noboru and his droogs administer retribution.

Wayward boy punishes his mother's lover.

Beauty and horror fondle each other.

Adolescent's fallen hero meets cold-blooded Zen.

Young gods callously abjure conventional morality.

Death goes whoring in child's guise.

 
  ( )
4 vote Meredy | Jun 3, 2013 |
I had a slightly different review in mind until I read a little bit about Mishima's life. In light of what Mishima did to himself, I am not really sure what to make of The Sailor Who.... While it is dark, reading it I knew it was only a story. But knowing that this darkness could have emanated from Mishima's personal thoughts makes it extremely unnerving.

Fuskao, Noboru's mother, represents westernization; which Mishima despised. Noboru, a 13 year old, is more in the favor of traditional Japan. Ryuji, the sailor, dreams of a heroic death and glory, which makes Noboru worship him. Ryuji's dreams represent Mishima's own political thoughts on achieving glory for his country. When Ryuji abandons all such thoughts of heroism, Noboru reacts violently. The question is, how much of Noboru's psychology reflects Mishima's own mind. That Noboru's vileness goes unchallenged and unpunished hints towards there being some parallels.

I know The Sailor Who... was written seven years before Mishima committed ritual suicide. Also I shouldn't be drawing any conclusions based on reading a short work of fiction and one wikipedia article. But I find it difficult to view the ideas in the book and Mishima's life separately.

The gracefulness of the writing stands very much in contrast with the ominous content. His writing is very lyrical. The scene descriptions are vivid, very much like painting with words. Sunlight dances on the pages giving everything a different kind of glow. He infuses some beauty even in cringe-worthy scenes.
In the second half of the book, when story begins to take a dark turn, there is a change in the tone of the writing as well. While poetic descriptions are not completely abandoned, there are fewer of those. On approaching the ending, the story, however, seems to drag for a bit, largely because I could see what was going to happen a long way ahead. I was expecting it to generate a sense of foreboding, but that was lost.

The biggest strength of the book, in my eyes, is the treatment of Noboru's psychology. Mishima provides some perspective on a character I can never hope to understand too well. Once I can digest how disturbed a child Noboru already is, the rest will perhaps be somewhat acceptable. After all, misguided beliefs and fanatsies are not that uncommon among teenagers. Noboru's disenchantment with his hero serves as a cue that makes him lash out, turning his beliefs into something more sinister and real.

Not only Noboru, the other characters are not very relatable either. This is more like a mere peek into a world completely alien to me. Also I can't really expect to be able to view anything with the same eyes as Mishima did. I am ok with that, I think.

While characters are not fully fleshed out, Ryuji and Noboru have enough going on to let us see who they are. Fuskao, the only major female character, on the other hand was completely dis-appointing. She is introduced to us as Noboru's mother and Ryuji's love-interest, and that's about it. Other than playing these assigned roles, anything like a personality is non-existent. She does run a business of her own, but the only role she seems to play there is to buy stuff and the intricacies of the business are handled by her male associate. There is just one chapter where, of these three main characters, only Fusako makes an appearance. And she uses this stage-time to discuss her prospective husband with another woman. Isn't that what chick-lit is for?! If you are drawing a female character who is a single mother running a business of her own, why not let her have at least one original, smart thought? Why can't she be feminine, and not be hollow at the same time?

Apart from a complaint or two, I do think highly of The Sailor Who... for the most part. It is written economically, but there is lot to chew upon. ( )
  HearTheWindSing | Mar 31, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
"Both novels have their brilliant moments, and both fall short of sustained brilliance."
 

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Yukio Mishimaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nathan, JohnTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
"Gogo no Eiko" was written in five-months, was researched in Yokohama, and was, in the words of Mishima's friend and the English version's translator, John Nathan, a "romantic" novel (190). The novel was published in the early-60s; a period of decline for Mishima that began with "Kyoko ni Ie." The novel sold a modest 50,000 copies, which was slightly better than the 40,000 sales "Utsukushii Hoshi" had garnered the previous year, but it was nowhere near the 200,000 copies Mishima was used to in the late-50s. The poor sales of and the indifferent critical reception towards "Gogo no Eiko" so disappointed Mishima that he went to Kodansha and apologized for failing to write a bestseller.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679750150, Paperback)

"The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea" tells of a band of savage thirteen-year-old boys who reject the adult world as illusory, hypocritical, and sentimental, and train themselves in a brutal callousness they call 'ojectivity'. When the mother of one of them begins an affair with a ship's officer, he and his friends idealize the man at first; but it is not long before they conclude that he is in fact soft and romantic. They regard their disappointment in him as an act of betrayal on his part and react violently.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:01:56 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Explores an adolescent's response to his mother's love affair with a handsome visitor to Yokohama.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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