A band of savage 13-year-old boys reject the adult world as illusory, hypocritical, and sentimental, and train themselves in a brutal callousness they call 'objectivity'. When the mother of one of them begins an affair with a ship's officer, he and his friends idealise the man at first; but it is not long before they conclude that he is in fact soft and romantic. They regard this disallusionment as an act of betrayal on his part - and the retribution is deliberate and horrifying.
©1965 Copyright 1965 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright renewed 1993 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Originally published in Japanese as Gogo No Eiko by Kodansha in 1963. (P)2010 Audible, Inc
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Critic reviews

"Mishima's greatest novel, and one of the greatest of the past century." ( The Times)
"Coolly exact with his characters and their honourable motives. His aim is to make the destruction of the sailor by his love seem as inevitable as the ocean." ( Guardian)
"Told with Mishima's fierce attention to naturalistic detail, the grisly tale becomes painfully convincing and yields a richness of psychological and mythic truth." ( Sunday Times)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
1 out of 5 stars
By FictionFan on 30-05-17


If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?

People who like dark, grubby little books with episodes of animal cruelty. And newspaper critics.

You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

Some of the language is quite good.

Any additional comments?

A nasty little book about nasty little boys being nasty. I tolerated the boy spying on his mother's naked body and then on her having sex. I put up with the pretentious, unrealistic conversation the boys have amongst themselves about the existential emptiness of life. But I abandoned it at the point when they were just about to kill a kitten for fun. Not for me.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Antti on 23-10-14

The Tragedy of Both Worlds

I have wandered through two long audiobooks, Dickens' "Bleak House" and Pynchon's "Against the Day", the latter in which I became lost so irretrievably that I needed a rescue team to get me out - I have no intentions to return in the foreseeable future, despite "Mason & Dixon" occupying the top spot in my books as my favourite piece of literature.

In short, I needed a change, preferably something modest in length. A Japanese friend of mine, a teacher of Japanese literature, recommended Mishima, and to my joy there are a few audiobooks available here on Audible.

I started with "The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea", and I was thoroughly impressed. Not only is there some utterly beautiful language, which also means that the English translation is commendable, but the sheer energy of the narrative is superb. Sure, this is a dark place to descend to, but Mishima really knows how to take us there: despite the short length of the novel, he takes his time, sets up the pieces, and not only alludes to a violent climax, he makes it the obvious outcome by the time of the ruby heart in the boys' hands. Yet still, when we get to the inevitable, he is able to transcend mere brutality, angst and anarchism. It's a masterful ending to a masterfully narrated story, and I hope I'm not spoiling too much by pointing out how wonderful it really is.

The book is a modern tale of alienation, and, as the Chief states towards the end, "the world is empty." I think Mishima is able to describe that emptiness evocatively enough to make it plausible, but also do the nigh-impossible, that is, not severe his ties with the other world, which in the novel is the world of the adults, and parents. And because of the fluidity of his writing, it feels like he's guiding us on a boat through the river, whence we can see both shores, and the tragedy of both worlds.

Next, I'm going to listen to the sound of waves.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Erez on 22-11-12

Unsettling writing, flawed reading

I can only agree with a previous reviewer. The novel itself is very moving and exquisitely done. It has a fluid, effortless flow, and at the same time is unrelentingly brutal (and really not for the faint of heart). In some aspects it reminded me of "The Lord of the Flies", of "Crime and Punishment" and Sartre's "The Nausea". In one of the strongest scenes in the book, a group of boys kill and "dissect" a stray kitten in order to train themselves in "perfect lack of feeling" -- I had a very hard time listening to this. But the most striking thing is the seeming ease with which the writing shifts between points of view, between past and present, between events and reminiscences. It could have been an outstanding audiobook.

But unfortunately it isn't, and that is due to the reader. It's a shame, because Brian Nishii reads very clearly and pronounces all the Japanese names correctly. But for some reason he almost always seems to emphasize the wrong part of the sentence. It's as if he reads every sentence separately, with no notion of context. In the end, it was possible to follow and enjoy the writing, but I had to overcome the flaws in the narration to do that. And that's the exact opposite of what an audiobook narrator should do.

Bottom line: recommended, but proceed with caution.

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10 of 12 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By anniemz on 15-04-18

The ending that sticks with you

I started reading this being fascinated and intrigued by the way the little boys think and look at the life , however the more i get into it more fascination turned into uncomfortable feeling of disgrace . What’s interesting is though , this little boys themselves talk about how adults see kids as innocent and do not except the unexpected from them this is the main reason i give it 4 stars and not 3 .
However disgusting their thoughts are it’s hard to disagree with them on many points .
As with “ the golden temple” this book leaves many points for discussions and debates

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