27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea
Yukio Mishima's 'The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea' is a short novel but, due to its tight plot, brevity is not an issue. Published in 1963, seven years before he committed ritual suicide, the novel explores motivation and the factors that can cause someone to abandon their passions and resume their life embracing the dreams of another...
Published on 8 Jan 2006 by Stewart
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For cynics not sailors
This novel is slim and easy to read, the first novel i have read by this author, i have to confess i only picked it up to see what he was capable of writing considering he was capable of spilling his guts (literally). This tale of a boys admiration turning to disgust is as cold as sushi, but it is well written and interesting and i will probably seek out some of his other...
Published on 5 May 2012 by Max Renn
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea,
Yukio Mishima's 'The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea' is a short novel but, due to its tight plot, brevity is not an issue. Published in 1963, seven years before he committed ritual suicide, the novel explores motivation and the factors that can cause someone to abandon their passions and resume their life embracing the dreams of another.
Noboru Kuroda, a thirteen year old on the cusp of an adult world, is part of a savage gang whose members, despite their exemplary grades at school, have rebelled against the adult world they deem hypocritical. Under the tutelage of Noboru's friend, also thirteen, they condition themselves against sentimental feelings - a goal they call `objectivity' - by killing stray cats.
Ryuji Tsukazaki, a merchant seaman, has been granted two days' shore leave and has spent the time romancing Noboru's widowed mother, Fusako. Noboru likes the sailor at first, his commitment to the sea and all the manly stories he has to tell. But, as Ryuji falls for Fusako, Noboru feels betrayed by the man's burgeoning romanticism and, with the help of his gang, feels that action should be taken against the man who has replaced his father.
The first thing I noticed while reading this novel was that the characters are rich with life and history. Noboru, at thirteen, has strong feelings for his mother that manifest through voyeuristic sessions at night when, peeking into her room through a spy-hole, he watches her undress, entertain, and sleep. Ryuji, the sailor, knows he has some purpose at sea and continues his life off the land in the hope that one day he will learn his place in life. And Fusako, five years widowed, displays certain strength as she runs her own business, mixes with a richer class of citizen, while trying to raise he son as best she can.
The way the characters develop from this introduction is fast yet believable - the book, in fact, is split into two sections, 'Summer' and 'Winter', to show that enough time has passed to be plausible. Noboru's respect for Ryuji wanes as he becomes the worst thing, based on his gang's beliefs, a man can be in this world: a father. Ryuji's abandonment of his life's passion is, of course, the main thread of the novel and it is a tragic decision he makes to give up the destiny waiting for him at sea in order to embrace the world of Fusako and the new direction she has planned for him.
The best thing about this novel is the language. The translator, John Nathan, has done a wonderful job and not a page passes without hitting you with a warm wash of sea-spray. Metaphors and similes are drenched with watery goodness as they add to the novel's appeal. The prose is warm during the 'Summer' section but as the book turns to 'Winter' the turns of phrase become icier and tend to sting more. The dialogue is nice and realistic and doesn't smart of stereotypical Japanese honour; the way the characters interact completely plausible.
I hadn't heard of Mishima until I picked up this novel and, given that he had three Nobel nominations in his lifetime, I will certainly look out for more of his work. His concise prose, realistic characters, and the way his voice carries the sea makes him a rare find. If books were shells, I would hope to hear Mishima in every one.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A breathtaking read.,
Sometimes you comes across a book so beautifully written that it stands out from the rest in just the first few pages. This is one of those books. This is a simple story of a sailor (called Ryuji) who falls in love with a shop owner widower (Fusako) and who eventually get engaged to get married. The woman's son (Noburu) secretly watches the couple makes love and starts to hate the sailor for the softer side of his character that he sees, rather than the gruff adventurer hero he has built up in his mind. The son is also part of a gang that practises detached emotional responses to life and who inflict great cruelty on animals to test their detachment. Rather than being truly evil the son is more lead astray than anything else, but this leads the book to it's dark, yet compelling conclusion.
This is one of those books that is beautiful to read, with wonderful poetic descriptions, but it also has an element that leaves you feeling slightly disturbed as well. The early scenes between Ryuji and Fusako have an erotic feel to them, but at no point are they explicit or gratuitous. The sexual energy is explored through simple things like the parting of her mouth, the smell of her body or the eating of a cherry. All simple things, but when written as skilfully as this, very effective. Ryuji's fall from grace with Noboru is quite sad to read, especially as we are made aware of Ryuji's inner thoughts and intent that Noboru can't fathom. This makes the ending all the more chilling and powerful and I was worried how the author was going to deal with the ending, but he managed to finish this with huge impact and style and it is one that leaves you thinking about it long after you have placed the book back on your bookshelf.
Apparently Mishima was nominated for the Nobel Prize three times and with books like this I can see why. It is short, but expertly crafted and the prose is a true pleasure to read. I can't wait to read more by him and if you are considering reading this book then I can definitely say it is worth a try.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant,
Short this novel may be but don't think because of that there is no substance to it, you would be woefully wrong. Thirteen year old Noboru lives with his mum, his father having passed away some five years ago. When his mother starts dating a sailor it looks like Noboru may have someone to look up to and hero worship.
Spying on his mother, and now her lover, Noboru isn't exactly your normal thirteen year old boy. He belongs to a small gang led by a child who is psychotic, to put it nicely. In simple prose style that is crisp and clear you should easily find yourself drawn into this book. Taking in the relationship of his mother and Ryuji, the sailor, we can see how it develops and becomes something serious, as well as the uncertainties and worries that a long term relationship can lead to when first taking tentative steps. At the same time you read how Noboru feels about this and his emotions. Being a member of the sinister club, and feeling let down by his expectations of what Ryuji should be like a plan is decided upon.
This is absorbing as you follow this tale to the end and is well worth reading. As the boys show their callous feelings and feel superior to others around them this is illuminating and shows how destructive and ruthless people can be.
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book,
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This review is from: The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea (Vintage Classics) (Kindle Edition)
I only bought this because David Bowie is a big fan of Mishima's work - I read it straight through as it was that unusual combination of wonderful writing, beautifully drawn characters and a page turning plot.
5.0 out of 5 stars Grim but gripping,
I'd never heard of this famous Japanese writer before I picked this up from the library, but this book, written in 1963, is stunning. Ostensibly it's about a young widow and her son Noboru and how their life changes when mum falls in love with a sailor. It's also a debate about the need to follow your passion, which forces the reader to endure a terrible - Nietzschean style - conclusion. Mishima is a masterful writer and it turns out he has a huge cult following. My husband knew of him thanks to the Stranglers' Jean-Jacques Burnel's apparently off-quoted admiration for him. I was left in a state of shock by the book at just how unpleasant adults can write teenagers, and how vile groups can be. Researching his life story makes these positions seem barely surprising - his father was a dreadful man. But who cares if Mishima is bleak, he writes beautifully about ports, storms or a new kimono and is a master of suspense. What's more when he'd completed The Sea of Fertility, a tetraology of four novels in 1970 he committed ritual suicide (seppuku) - as he said he would (though i'm not sure he mentioned he would do this during a failed coup attempt). He was 45.
Readability: 10/10 (I was so gripped that two-thirds of the way through I had to read the ending in a bid to cope with what I feared was coming).
Should you read it? It's grim but yes
Worth finding more Yukio Mishima books? Definitely (he had Nobel nominations in his lifetime) and wrote 34 novels, 50 plays, 25 short stories and 35 books of essays.
5.0 out of 5 stars Prince of Ice,
Mishima is the Prince of Ice, a man of cold emotional detachment paradoxically consumed with the minutiae of burning emotions. Remaining detached he could inhabit the skin, blood and bone of his characters. He projected himself away from the real world into the imaginary where he could inhabit himself.
Within this book each person tries to connect across an emotional wasteland. The metaphors abound, the Chief's empty silent house; a boy left to himself who hates his parents. Ryuji losing first his mother, then his house, thn his sister to typhus and then lastly his father. He hates the land because of what it represents sickness and death. His connection to the sea is his escape from memory. His burgeoning love brings him back to the land.
Fusako, his soul mate has lost her husband and is in a form of bereavement. Norburo has lost his father and dotes on his mother, with a fear of losing her. This cements the mother son bond.
Mishima understands the power of bereavement, the impact of loss and neglect as it arose within his family. He lost his sister to typhus and suffered a form of deep emotional neglect being kidnapped by his grandmother. The key points were his abilities to articulate grief and an emotional coldness caused by death, a deep sense of permafrost that gradually thaws through time or remains icebound and suspended.
The descriptions of lust, the juxtaposed position of the young Chinese sex worker and his burning desire for Fusako convey a suppressed erotica slowly uncoiling throughout the story.
Bodies and sweat are also perceived as real anchor points of human corporeality, the essence of existence as the descriptions of muscle sweat and musk, perfume the story. Mishima was always aware of the odours and their effects described within his novels.
The characters try to break out of their bleak barren worlds through death, love and lust to find some meaning in the austere inhospitable worlds they exist within. Within this bleakness the boys emerge from adolescence with a nihilist rejection of all adult values.
The Mishima critique becomes directed at the man who surrenders his physicality, his involvement with nature to become a Japanese westerner. Ryuji becomes the man who sells English tweed to a sanitised Japanese society. This is his life sentence.
Mishima like JD Salinger vents his spleen at parental double standards producing sterility and imprisoning their subjects. The boys have no sense of empathy to anchor them in the real world. They are a collection of isolated individuals who can skin a cat with the deft skill of an amateur scientist in his laboratory. They just want to see what exists inside the living. Skin, blood and bone is the response, the life form has evaporated. The empty carcass represents their vacuity.
It is a short book, but immensely powerful as Mishima communicates beyond time and culture to articulate a profound dread; the endless nihilism of nothing. All papered over by the pretence of stability in a forever rapidly changing world. Meanwhile the inability to conceptualise empathy sees these cat skinners moving onto bigger prey to revenge their childhood slights. They want to take the life of those adults who surrender their vision of an aesthetic Japan based upon the old values. This marked the tension within Mishima's real life.
The Chief who forever remains in the background hints at a darker malevolence in the adult world, "something worse". Perhaps he is attempting to articulate sexual violence which would destroy his ability to sustain empathy.
The book prods and probes the psychological and physical violence young boys endure within the growing up period and marks the conclusions drawn from trying to make sense of the adult world. Although it is a dark story it is revelatory in its illumination.
5.0 out of 5 stars Mishima's Masterpiece?,
This was really quite the surprise read for me, I didn't really know what I was getting with Yukio Mishima's `The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea' (mainly because I pilfered it from my mother's shelves when I went to stay) and as I sat down with it I wasn't really sure what I was in for, I certainly didn't expect a book as full and as dark as this slim unassuming book might suggest. All in one this book manages to be a tale of love, of coming of age, the darkness of the mind and a family saga.
Noboru Kuroda is a young boy of thirteen who has had five years of the world just being him and his widowed mother Fusako. In fact as the book opens and Noboru sits in his chest of drawers spying on his mother as she undresses you realise here is a boy filled with obsession and serious dependence though he fights against it. However one night his mother isn't alone in the room as she has brought a man home with her. The man in question is sailor Ryuji Tsukazaki a man who is somewhat distant from the world and those around him, until he meets Fusako that is. Initially Noboru is not particularly fazed by his mothers new relationship as Ryuji sails away again, however when he returns and things get more serious Noboru wants action and so turns to the delinquent gang he has joined and their troubled leader.
I can occasionally be guilty of wanting a book to instantly pull me; Mishima slowly teases you and builds everything up with this novel and it catches you unawares. You are initially made concerned by Noboru and his spying on his mother, then you become engrossed in the wonderfully tender and touching true love story of a rich widow and a penniless sailor before being further disturbed when Noboru and his gang meet up and commit a callous act that actually really upset me (it involves a kitten is all I will say) and Mishima starts to let the reader know this could have far from a happy ending. I thought this book was marvellous, a slow burning taught book which packs a weighty punch whilst incorporating a truly beautiful love story only making it all the more bittersweet.
11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars On the border between potency and preposterousness,
Essence of Mishima in one very artful, very imaginative short novel, published in 1963, about a boy who observes a handsome young sailor's relationship with his widowed mother as a betrayal of a vision of man's mystical connection with the infinite mystery of the sea. As a member of a group of nihilistic delinquents, young Noboru plots a terrible revenge when the sailor does something as banal and "unmanly" as settling down and getting married. Mishima's homo-erotic and convoluted philosophy about man's duty to the heroic absolute is at root amoral and anti-humanist, and at times not far from a kind of fascism (and let's face it, Mishima's kinky militarism had fascist overtones). Combined with some porno-standard purple prose, and unflinching sadism - notably the scene where the boys skin a kitten - it makes the book difficult to accept. Somehow, however it avoids being ridiculous, instead achieving an eccentric integrity. Mishima compels because of his sensitive observation of human relations, his ingenuity of design, and his sly and morbid humour, none of which are to be found in purely fascist art.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For cynics not sailors,
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This novel is slim and easy to read, the first novel i have read by this author, i have to confess i only picked it up to see what he was capable of writing considering he was capable of spilling his guts (literally). This tale of a boys admiration turning to disgust is as cold as sushi, but it is well written and interesting and i will probably seek out some of his other novels in the future.
6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mishima's Best,
A humble and much contested opinion - but to me this is Mishima's best. Delicately written, swimming in feeling and a hazy atmosphere of remembrance. The story is simple and consise and can be read by anyone. This book, along with Cofessions of a Mask will provide the perfect introduction to this writers work, arguably the most important modern Japanese writer, along with Endo and Soseki.
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