Yukio Mishima: The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea
Taking on The Sailor… is a very unsettling experience, not only because of its dark and twisted tone, but also given the fact that upon finishing it, Mishima took an end to his life by ritual disembowelment. One could only imagine what was running through his mind as he was writing this lyrical yet disturbing novel.
The story is centered around the lives of Noboru, a 13 year old kid pertaining to a group of adolescents who despise adults, his widowed mother, Fusako, who owns a western-style clothing shop, and her boyfriend Ryuuji, a sailor who is disenchanted with the sea and wants to start a new life on terra firma. In the beginning, Noboru seems to be in awe of his mother’s new love subject, regarding him as a hero of the sea, but when Ryuuji voices his desire to leave the sea, the adolescent starts developing an inexplicable grudge against the new father figure in his life. Not only does he vow an eternal hatred to Ryuuji, but he also starts seeing him as the enemy, peeking at him during those intimate moments with his mother. The story then escalates in a climax of vileness, leaving the reader quite uneasy.
The secret to Japanese writers is their way of conveying a story that seems simple on the surface, but that hides a deep-rooted sense of malaise. Mishima’s style is graceful without a doubt, getting the reader all comfy in the atmosphere, at least for me, until he subtly injects scenes of voyeurism, animal slaughter, cruelness, making it all seem very natural. What he also wants to show is the clear contrast between life on sea and on land. A sailor who spent most of his years seeking glory on a boat is unaware of the secret forces that rule the earth, and when he finally sets his mind on finding stability with his lover, little does he know about the destiny he will be facing. As for Noboru, he seems to have created his own rules and opinions on adults and society, unwilling to compromise on his beliefs when life asks him to. Finally, the mother, consumed with her new love life and work, finds herself helpless when it comes to her son’s mischievous plans, and is more than willing to leave the parenting to her beloved sailor.
Here we have simple ingredients for a deeply moving story.