The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea

I borrowed four books from the library and brought home three more from my friend’s stash. As always, I had planned to spend some of my free time by burrowing my face in paper, ink, and ideas.

The first book I planned to read was Yukio Mishima’s The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea. I strategically planned to read it first because it was the thinnest book from the pile. I thought I was going to read through it in a day or two. Obviously, not.

You see, Japanese literature is almost always not an easy read. It always throws you off in the extremity of your mental threshold. If a Japanese author aims for the reader to understand loneliness, lonely is an understatement for where he or she will bring you (or leave you). Take for example, Yoko Ogawa’s Hotel Iris or Kenzaburo Oe’s Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids.

Yukio Mishima’s book has left me to cry for help as it had abandoned me into the cold sea of confusion. This book left me feeling afraid of all the violence I could not comprehend.

Apparently this book can be interpreted as an allegory to Yukio Mishima’s beliefs and his resistance to westernisation as he was an active nationalist. The major characters in his book represents each stand on the influences of the west. The novel in general shows Mishima’s dissatisfaction with Japan.


Understanding the novel in that light made everything about it seem to make more sense, like a jigsaw puzzle that solved itself.

Despite having been personally left in a temporary purgatorial state by this novel, I would still say that book is written beautifully as the words play with a reader’s senses and toy with one’s emotions. It was creepy when it had to be, long and laborious during ship voyages, and pervasive and guilt-ridden when… well when it had to.

“Still immersed in his dream, he drank down the tepid tea. It tasted bitter. Glory, as anyone knows, is bitter stuff.”



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