Sunday, July 8, 2007

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

Having recently travelled to Japan, I wanted to understand their history and culture a bit more. Before coming back to the US, I picked up an English translation of this book. Mishima is one of Japan's most famous authors, though he died (by his own hand) in 1970, at the age of 45. (He led a most interesting life, and the circumstances of his death are also intriguing - you may want to read more about it here:

If I had to give a one-sentence summary of the book, I'd call it the Japanese Lord of the Flies. Like that book, it deals with the cruel and animalistic nature of adolescent boys. If anything, Mishima's book is even more disturbing. (I do wonder if the reason I think this is the very different ages at which I read these - LOTF I read in high school, or even junior high. TSWFFGWTS I read at the ripe old age of 50. I should probably re-read LOTF to see if my impression still holds.)

At any rate, the book is hauntingly written, and tells a very bleak and often disturbing story. The protagonist of the story is 13 year old Noboru, who lives with his widowed mother. They meet a sailor, who had alwasy dreamed he would do something grand and heroic in his life. He falls in love with Noboru's mother, which is the turning point of the story. Noboru is in a 'gang' of other boys - all brilliant, but all completely disgusted by "normal" society, and through a philosophy called "objectivity" they feel destined to rule the world. They see the sailor's "abandonment" of the sea and his dream as betraying mankind, and another example of a "typical" no-good father. (I will have to read more about Mishima's relationship with his father - and his mother!)

I was riveted by the story, yet at the same time I was repulsed by what was happening. I will probably read another of Mishima's books, because this one was so well written and the theme, while disturbing, it seemed to me that it revealed some truths about human nature.

No comments: