Review of “The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea” (1963)

Text

Mishima Yukio (writer).

Read in 2021.

Very Fyodor Dostoevsky. Like Dostoevsky, Mishima inserts youths—in this case a gang of 13-year-olds—who murder somebody over an implausible philosophical misapprehension. While it is ostensibly bad philosophy that drives the boys, Mishima is careful to show that their true motives are less high-minded, and yet, in all his beautiful literary prose, Mishima—like Dostoevsky—does not make their actions believable.

The plot only looks more curious given that Mishima, later in his own life, took a turn to the far right and died illegally entering a military base to “inspire” a coup d’état. He had some fans with him and thus, in 1970, took on the role of the “chief” in this novel, who also enters a military base: A fascist, in a cult of personality, who goes to an extreme length defending untenable ideals. Unfortunately, the novel doesn’t make more sense if you read it with that knowledge.

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