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The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  23,585 ratings  ·  2,005 reviews
This is an alternate cover edition of ISBN 9780679750154

The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea tells the tale 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 "objectivity." When the mother of one of them begins an affair with a ship's officer, he and
Paperback, 181 pages
Published May 31st 1994 by Vintage (first published 1963)
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George I was a professional copy editor. In any collection of text as long as a novel, I knew to expect that despite our best efforts there would be at least…moreI was a professional copy editor. In any collection of text as long as a novel, I knew to expect that despite our best efforts there would be at least one typo not caught before publication, and usually more.

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May 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews
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. R
Jim Fonseca
Jul 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: japanese-authors
I’m in the process of reading Mishima’s four-book cycle, The Sea of Fertility. (I’ve read the first two.) Sailor is not one of the cycle and I found it disappointing – a bit of implausibility but maybe it’s intended to be more of a fantasy.


A thirteen-year old boy discovers a peephole into his widowed mother’s bedroom and watches her have sex with a sailor. His mother, 33, and the sailor, about the same age, fall in love. The sailor leaves the sea and they intend to get married.

The boy is a memb
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a disturbing yet compelling read.
This book features a cold band of psychopathic children, but isn't "about psychopaths". Just like Lord of the Flies isn't about psychopaths. It's a philosophical allegory about human nature.

There are miniature monsters in this book. One of them likes to secretly watch his mother in her bedroom through a hole in the wall. When she brings home a lover, he watches them have sex. Later, he performs unspeakable acts of cruelty to an animal (in practice for something larger).

I'm telling you though, si
Manuel Antão
Dec 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1981
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Performing in Silence: “The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea” by Yukio Mishima

(Original Review, 1981-04-24)

“They performed in silence. He trembled a little out of vanity, as when he had first scaled the mast. The woman’s lower body, like a hibernating animal half asleep, moved lethargically under the quilts; he sensed the stars of night tilting dangerously at the top of the mast. The stars slanted into the south, swung to the no
Dec 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, recs
A sinister tale about dread, desire, and death, The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea reflects on the adolescent longing to abandon society and pursue solitary greatness. The novel follows Noboru, a fatherless thirteen-year-old, and his gang of nihilistic friends as they wax philosophic about the corruption of men and obsess over his wealthy mother Fusako’s new love interest, a reticent sailor named Ryuji, whom they alternately idealize and demonize. While the story centers on Noboru, Mish ...more
Parthiban Sekar

Glory, as anyone knows, is bitter stuff. What glory is there for any sailor whose life is besieged by the vast and open sea? Vast but not open, as there are occasional traces of clouds shrouding the openness he longed for. Open but not vast, as the storm often come encroaching on his territory and posing a threat on his-otherwise-serene life. His Life and sea have become inseparable. Thinking of life beyond her seems abysmal to him. Impelled by his desire for glory, he
Jan 08, 2012 rated it really liked it

The title The Sailor Who Fell from Grace With the Sea is a poetic rendering of the Japanese, 午後の曳航, literally "Afternoon's Towing". The English translation is done much in the spirit of Remembrance of Things Past ( A la recherche du temps perdu = "In Search of Lost Time"). It's evident (in the titles at least) that something is gained in translation as well as lost.

We know then, at any rate, that we are going to have a very imperfect understanding of this book. And even if we know Japanese h
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Nov 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013

It is a generally accepted fact that teenagers are weird, all over the world, and all over the ages. Somehow, Japanese teenagers manage to be ten time weirder than the norm, and 13 years old Noboru is a prime example:

He never cried, not even in his dreams, for hard-heartedness was a point of pride. A large iron anchor withstanding the corrosion of the sea and scornful of the barnacles and oysters that harass the hulls of ships, sinking polished and indifferent through heaps of broken glas
It must be me, not him. Had the author been anyone other than Mishima, I would have abandoned this novel immediately after (view spoiler). But instead I continued and finished it and wish I could recover my time. Heresy, I understand.

See my GR friend, Algernon's, review at this link. He captures my thoughts precisely.
May 28, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book was, simply put, horrible. I struggled to finish it. I was creeped out reading how Noboru, the thirteen year old boy of the story, watches his mother through a "peep hole" getting dressed and having sex with her boyfriend. If that wasn't creepy enough, now I had to endure the graphic details of how he and his friends, who cheer him on, disgustingly mutilate and kill a cat. At that point I was truly done, but I did read on realizing that the ending was exactly what I thought it would be ...more
Dannii Elle
This eerie yet mesmerising little novel recounts, on the surface level, a sailor's relationship through the eyes of his new beloved's teen son, Noboru. In reality, this novel betrays so much more about a nation's way of thinking about and viewing the world, and the disruption of this when increasingly westernised modes of living interfere.

The sailor, to teen Noboru, represents glory, valiance, and the independence of spirit. Noboru belongs to a band of peers with extremely traditional opinions o
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea is a very short novel, but it does not feel hurried. It is deeply sensitive, immersive and introspective. The writing is disturbing, filled with subtle metaphors of hidden significance. The novel is an exploration of masculinity, and a coming-to-terms with the varied and often contradictory expectations of manhood. It makes no assertions: the implications of the story and its powerful ending are left for the reader to ponder.

I am intrigued by Mishima's
Michael Finocchiaro
This is one of Mishima's shorter stories but it is so beautifully and heartbreakingly written that you almost wish it would be longer. My no-spoiler rule prevents me from giving you any details but if you loved The Old Man and the Sea and want to read a Japanese variation on the sea tragedy that is also a psychological study, you will love this one. The Mishima universe is a wonderful one to explore and this is a great place to start. ...more
Dec 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Knowing the story of Yukuio Mishima's life, and its tragic end, leads the reader of this novel into some dark parts of the author's mind. The characters in this novel are thinly veiled allegorical figures of Mishima's world view: his distaste for Western influences on Japan, his need for rigorous fastidiousness in his personal life, his desire to see Japan return to its ultra-conservative glory of yesteryear. Mishima was so consumed with this vision that he staged a failed coup attempt in 1970 a
Steven Godin
Mar 17, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, japan

Of all the Japanese writers that I've read, Mishama is the one I've struggled with the most. Not because he isn't a good writer, he most certainly is, and I really like his prose, it's just it's difficult to get inside the heads of some of his cold minded protagonists, leaving me questioning some of their actions (similar to that of Temple of the Golden Pavilion). Noboru here is another one, even though he is just a thirteen-year-old kid. There is a scene roughly halfway through the novel when a

"If I were an amoeba, he thought, with an infinitesimal body, I could defeat ugliness. A man isn't tiny or giant enough to defeat anything."

Ryuji, the "emasculated" sailor in Mishima's great novel, thinks such thoughts on long sea voyages, standing watch on deck; his only friends being the stars. His vague notions of glory -- that something great awaits him at the next port -- allow him to avoid his sense of powerlessness and the reality of his aimlessness. His idea of rom
Nate D
Apr 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: boyhood hinterlands at the edge of the empty world
Recommended to Nate D by: a procession of doomed kittens
Like some baroque poisoned confection, a massive slice of dense chocolate cake, rich to the border of nausea, decked out with delicately overwrought sugar flowers and decorative drips and curlicues of livid icing laced with arsenic. That's the style here: enjoyably, beautifully overwritten in chokingly heavy prose, but riddled with dark portents and pockets of caustic nihilism. It'd be ridiculous if it weren't so serious, laughable if not so compelling. It's good. I'm having a hard time judging ...more
The problem with expressing a lack of appreciation for "transgressive" material is the underlying assumption that such an expression is evidence of weakness. Weak stomach, weak nerves, a weak anything that explains why a tolerance for violence is not ready and willing. No one calls someone "weak" for proclaiming a dislike for the romance genre, so prominent in society is the disdain for the potential creation of bonds of empathy between strangers. I find the contrast interesting enough to keep i ...more
Jan 29, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japanese
This was my first Mishima book. Within a single chapter, I could feel an energy coursing through the pages that I had not experienced with many other Japanese books. There was an undercurrent of angst, matched with astute psychological observations. Needless to say, I am intrigued and impressed. Who knows what my reaction would have been to Mishima had I read him when I was 14 or 15.

To me, the main conflict in the book arises out of the concept of masculinity – specifically, this is a conflict
Feb 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: voyagers willing to brave the risk of seasickness
Recommended to Jessica by: jane smiley; tosh, kimley
Shelves: leetle-boys
Argh. Okay, so I've been agonizing since finishing this book about how many stars to grant it. What should the stars mean? Do they stand for how good I think a book is? Or do they signify how much I enjoyed reading it? I think this is a three-point-fiver for me, really. Argh! It's so tough to say....

This book contained a great deal of five-star material. While there were several words and phrases that really jarred, these could have been clunky translation glitches, and in general the language a
Eddie Watkins
Jul 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japanese-fiction
Simple and wicked. Wicked? How about violently inevitable. Like a ritual the outcome is preordained and known, but for those who fall under its spell there is no loss of power. A brutal vision wedded to a dreaminess; a clear-sightedness goggled by fantasy blurs; an adolescent sexual awakening derailed into murder. This is one sexy bludgeon of a book, like a geisha sporting top-of-the-line brass knuckles.
May 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-manhood
My 8th best read of 2020.

The no spoiler take-home is that this is a story of young male rage, as baffling as it was disturbing.

*Spoilers Below*

It's hard to write my reflections here concisely because I found it hard to empathize with Noboru.

This book should be banned or censored in America, because it has a more elaborated oedipal complex than chapter 6 of Fight Club and a more premeditated murder than Rage. The books are societal threats because the protagonist maladaptively resolves their rag
Jeevan Ramachandran
Jun 21, 2020 rated it liked it
"Glory, as anyone knows, is bitter stuff."

Strangely enough it reminds me of Joshikōsei konkurīto-zume satsujin-jiken of Junko Furata even though these book was published some two decades ago before the incident took place. The modernization of Japan through Western Culture seem to play pivotal roles throughout the book.The simplicity of the writing was excuted perfectly.
Oct 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
A very wicked book of sorts, but also a great book on children and how they think. Which is kind of devilish on my part to say - but Mishima captures the kids' view of something very grown-up. The book is very textural in that it is about a lonely woman's erotic impulses as well as her child picking that aspect of her personality or sensuality. Essential book in the Mishima world. ...more
Allie Riley
I didn't quite finish it, actually, I got to page 165. But I was so revolted by what was evidently going to happen next that I refused to read further.

Fusako Kuroda, a successful business woman, has been a widow for 5 years. By chance when visiting his ship with her 13 year-old son Noboru, she meets Ryuji Tsukazaki the Second Mate. She invites him to dinner, one thing leads to another (as it does), they fall in love and he decides to abandon his life on the sea in order to marry her. So far so n
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Four stars and a half.

I love patterns in literature—motifs that keep coming up from time immemorial. In this book, it's the boy who unconsciously wants to save mommy from daddy. Oedipus was guilty of that, hence, the Oedipus complex, the boy infinitely tied to the mother.

"He could no longer distinguish cause from effect; possibly this unreasonable yearning for his mother was due to a desire to wound her even if he had to share the pain."

The Story

Fusako Kuroda, 33, is a single mother
What a weird book.

The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea was perplexing, confusing, immersive, compelling, creepy, heart-warming, sometimes icky, sometimes downright scary. It contained cruelty, graphic violence, and a very romantic love story. It kept me wondering: "Where is this going? Is there a point to this?"

I haven't read any of Mishima's other books, and very few books by Japanese authors in general. But the impressions inspired by The Sailor Who Fell from Grace rang surprisingly fa
Poetic, yet unbearably misogynistic.

Mishima just couldn’t help himself, could he? Everything has to be an ode to “the brute power of his own manhood,” while women are just body parts, lamenting the absence of men. Ugh! And don’t tell me that such was the nature of those times, when the author goes out of his way to find new metaphors to describe said manhood. I’m having Spring Snow flashbacks!

I can’t help but imagine him and Freud having an afternoon tea, bonding over father figures and phallic
Jacob Overmark
Oooh that blasted father figure!

Either he is doing my mom or he is not doing it well enough - anyway I hate him because he does not comply with my new-found 13-year old nihilistic world view.

I have no previous experiences with the late Mr. Mishima and I´m seriously afraid this is going to be the only one.
The symbolism is to fat for my taste the Japanese equivalent to Coelho …

3 stars for being well written though.
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Yukio Mishima (三島 由紀夫) was born in Tokyo in 1925. He graduated from Tokyo Imperial University’s School of Jurisprudence in 1947. His first published book, The Forest in Full Bloom, appeared in 1944 and he established himself as a major author with Confessions of a Mask (1949). From then until his death he continued to publish novels, short stories, and plays each year. His crowning achievement, th ...more

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