The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea

by Yukio Mishima

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Critical Context

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In the West, Yukio Mishima is probably the most widely read modern Japanese writer. In the judgment of Donald Keene, the prominent Western scholar of Japanese literature, “Mishima was the most gifted and achieved the most of all the [Japanese] writers who appeared after the war.” The range of Mishima’s work (much of which has not been translated) is all the more remarkable given that he was only forty-five years old at the time of his widely publicized ritual suicide.

The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea, which Keene describes as one of Mishima’s “most perfectly crafted works,” shares with many of Mishima’s novels the notion that youth is supremely valuable, and that to grow older is not to mature but to decay. This notion is central to Mishima’s tetralogy Hojo no umi (1969-1971; The Sea of Fertility: A Cycle of Four Novels, 1972-1974), where it is interwoven with Buddhist themes.

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Critical Evaluation