Title: The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea.
Author: Yukio Mishima.
Genre: Literature, philosophical fiction, romance, Bildungsroman.
Publication Date: 1963.
Summary: Thirteen-year-old Noboru is a member of a gang of highly philosophical teenage boys who reject the tenets of the adult world — to them, adult life is illusory, hypocritical, and sentimental. When Noboru’s widowed mother is romanced by Ryuji, a sailor, Noboru is thrilled. He idolizes this rugged man of the sea as a hero. But his admiration soon turns to hatred, as Ryuji forsakes life onboard the ship for marriage, rejecting everything Noboru holds sacred. Upset and appalled, he and his friends respond to this apparent betrayal with a terrible ferocity.
My rating: 8.5/10
♥ 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 glass, toothless combs, bottle caps, and prophylactics into the mud at harbour bottom – that was how he liked to imagine his heart. Someday he would have an anchor tattooed on his chest.
♥ It was like being part of a miracle: in that instance everything packed away inside Noboru’s breast since the first day of his life was released and consummated. Until the horn sounded, it was only a tentative sketch. The finest materials had been prepared and all was in readiness, verging on the unearthly moment. But one element was lacking: the power needed to transfigure those motley sheds of reality into a gorgeous palace. Then, at a signal from the horn, the parts merged into a perfect whole.
Assembled there were the moon and a feverish wind, the incited, naked flesh of a man and a woman, sweat, perfume, the scars of a life at sea, the dim memory of ports around the world, a cramped breathless peephole, a young boy’s iron heart – but these cards from a gypsy deck were scattered, prophesying nothing. The universal order at last achieved, thanks to the sudden, screaming horn, had revealed an ineluctable circle of life – the cards had paired: Noboru and mother – mother and man – man and sea – sea and Noboru. ...
♥ He had never been good at gabbing, never enjoyed the scuttlebutt supposed to be a sailor’s only source of pleasure. Tales of women, anecdotes from shore, the endless boasting... he hated the lowbrow chatter meant to sweeten loneliness, the ritual of affirming ties with the brotherhood of men.
♥ 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 north, wheeled, whirled into the east, and seemed finally to be impaled on the tip of the mast. By the time he realized this was a woman, it was done...
♥ What he had wanted to say was: “All the other officers have two or three children by now and they read letters from home over and over again, and look at pictures their kids have drawn of houses and the sun and flowers. Those men have thrown opportunity away – there’s no hope for them any more. I’ve never done much, but I’ve lived my whole life thinking of myself as the only real man. And if I’m right, then a limpid, lonely horn is going to trumpet through the dawn someday, and a turgid cloud laced with light will sweep down, and the poignant voice of glory will call for me from the distance – and I’ll have to jump out of bed and set out alone. That’s why I’ve never married. I’ve waited, and waited, and here I am past thirty.”
♥ “It was the sea that made me begin thinking secretly about love more than anything else; you know, a love worth dying for, or a love that consumes you. To a man locked up in a steel ship all the time, the sea is too much like a woman. Things like her lulls and storms, or her caprice, or the beauty of her breast reflecting the setting sun, are all obvious. More than that, you’re in a ship that mounts the sea and rides her and yet is constantly denied her. It’s the old saw about miles and miles of lovely water and you can’t quench your thirst. Nature surrounds a sailor with all these elements so like a woman and yet he is kept as far as a man can be from her warm, living body. That’s where the problem begins, right there – I’m sure of it.”
♥ And what voluptuous shoulders! Like the shoreline, they began with no real beginning, to slope gently downward from the cape of her neck; gracious, dignified shoulder fashioned so that silk might slip and fall away. When I hold her breasts they’ll nestle against my palms with a marvelous, sweaty heaviness. I feel responsible for all this woman’s flesh because it teases me softly like other things that are mine. I’m trembling with the sweetness of her being here, and when she feels me treble she’ll tilt up like a head in a wind-tossed tree and show the white backs of those eyes of hers.
♥ “They don’t even know the definition of danger. They think danger means something physical, getting scratched and a little blood running and the newspapers making a big fuss. Well, that hasn’t got anything to do with it. Read danger is nothing more than just living. Of course, living is merely the chaos of existence, but more than that it’s a crazy missed-up business of dismantling existence instant by instant to the point where the original chaos is restored, and taking strength from the uncertainty and the fear that chaos brings to re-create existence itself, or any uncertainty, but living creates it. And society is basically meaningless, a Roman mixed bath. And school, school is just society in miniature: that’s why we’re always being ordered around. A bunch of blind mean tell us what to do, tear our unlimited ability to shreds.”
♥ Noboru had withstood the ordeal from beginning to end. Now his half-dazed brain envisioned the warmth of the scattered viscera and the pools of blood in the gutted belly finding wholeness and perfection in the rapture of the dead kitten’s large languid soul. The liver, limp beside the corpse, became a soft peninsula, the squashed heart a little sun, the reeled-out bowels a white atoll, and the blood in the belly the tepid waters of a tropical sea. Death had transfigured the kitten into a perfect, autonomous world.
♥ Since dark antiquity the words have been spoken by women of every caste to sailors in every port; words of docile acceptance of the horizon’s authority, of reckless homage to that mysterious azure boundary; words never failing to bestow on even the haughtiest woman the sadness, the hollow hopes, and the freedom of the whore: “You’ll be leaving in the morning, won’t you? ...”
♥ The long kiss plunged them into private pools of sensation. Fusako was aware only of the next day’s parting. Stroking Ryuji’s cheek, touching the hot, lacquered surfaces where he had shaved, smelling the odor of flesh rising from his agitated chest, she sensed every nerve in his body screaming goodbye. His tight, furious embrace told her how desperately he wanted to affirm that she was real and really with him.
For Ryuji the kiss was death, the very death in love he always dreamed of. The softness of her lips, her mouth so crimson in the darkness he could see it with closed eyes, so infinitely moist, a tepid coral sea, her restless tongue quivering like sea grass ... in the dark rapture of all this was something directly linked to death. He was perfectly aware that he would leave her in a day, yet he was ready to die happily for her sake. Death roused inside him, stirred.
♥ Finally, rocking the whole harbour and carrying to every city window; besetting kitchens with dinner on the stove, and shoddy hotel bedrooms where sheets are never changed and desks waiting for children to come home, and schools and tennis courts and graveyards, plunging everything into a moment of grief and ruthlessly tearing even the hearts of the uninvolved, the Rakuyo’s horn screamed one last enormous farewell. Trailing white smoke, she sailed straight out to sea.
♥ What he wanted, though, was not that knowledge but the green drop the sailor would leave behind when someday, in the very middle of a story, he started up in agitation and soared out to sea again.
The phantoms of the sea and ships and ocean voyages existed only in that glistening green drop. But with each new day, another of the fulsome odors of shore routine adhered to the sailor: the odor of home, the odor of neighbours, the odor of peace, odors of fish frying and pleasantries and furniture that never budged, the odor of household budget books and weekend excursions... all the putrid reek of, the stench of death.
♥ “...I’ll read it again as loud as I can: ‘Acts of juveniles less than fourteen years of age are not punishable by law.’”
The chief had the others pass the book around while he continued: “You might say that our fathers and the fictitious society they believe in passed this law for our benefit. And I think we should be grateful to them. This law is the adults’ way of expressing the high hopes they have for us. But it also represents all the dreams they’ve never been able to make come true. They’ve assumed just because they’ve roped themselves so tight they can’t even budge that we must be helpless too. They’ve been careless enough to allow us here, and only here, a glimpse of blue sky and absolute freedom.”