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For those of you who haven't heard this shtick yet, I'll repeat, in broad generalities, the basic concepts that inform my Unified Theory of Human Existence.  Essentially, it holds that there are really just two competing impulses and ideas that govern all of humanity, there's the, generally female, predilection for Security and the, largely male, desire for Freedom. Take any issue or epoch and you will find that battle lines drew up along these lines.  Now, while I, of course, favor the forces of Freedom in this drama, I respect those who favor Security and understand the natural impulses that lead folks to yearn for it.

But, these are only the healthy impulses, there are a couple of other omnipresent ideas and desires that animate human affairs--to dominate and to be dominated--and I do not respect them; they are malignant pathologies afflicting the human body politic.  These malevolent motivations arise at both ends of the political spectrum and are best illustrated in the theories of Fascism, on the right, and Communism, on the Left.  Despite the perceived antipathy between the two systems, both are in fact based on the desire of some members in society to dominate their neighbors.  In the case of Communism, the desire stems from the fear of the naturally unequal distribution of talent and capabilities to humans.  Communism seeks to dominate the gifted in order to favor the weak.  Fascism, on the other hand, presupposes that a certain group in society has special merit, typically a racial group, and then seeks to dominate that group or even opposing nation, for the benefit of the chosen group.

All of which brings us to Yukio Mishima's novel, The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea, which along with Robert Musil's Young Torless (see Orrin's review), is perhaps the best fictional effort to depict the rise of Fascist tendencies in the individual.  Mishima was an extraordinarily troubled fellow.  Raised by his domineering grandmother, he determined at an early age that he was a homosexual.  He became obsessed with sadomasochism, the body, martial arts, bodybuilding and the fascist militarism of Japan's past.  In 1968 he founded the Shield Society, a kind of private Bushido-based army.  On November 25, 1970, he tried to inspire a national uprising by taking over a military complex.  When this failed miserably, he committed ritual suicide, seppuku.

In Sailor, he tells the story of Noboru, a teenage boy who spends his days roaming around with a gang of vicious boys and his nights hiding in a wardrobe in order to spy on his widowed mother as she has sex with her lover, the sailor Ryuji.  As he and the gang become more psychotic (at one point they kill and skin a cat) and his mother and Ryuji announce their plans to marry, Noboru draws up a list of charges against Ryuji.    When Noboru is discovered spying and Ryuji decides not to punish him, the boys decide to execute him because he has become "a father."

What precisely is the nature of this crime--being a father--as the boys see it?:

    There is no such thing as a good father because the role itself is bad.  Strict fathers, soft fathers,
    nice moderate fathers--one's as bad as another.  They stand in the way of our progress while they
    try to burden us with their inferiority complexes, and their unrealized aspirations, and their
    resentments, and their ideals, and the weaknesses they've never told anyone about, and their sins,
    and their sweeter-than-honey dreams, and the maxims they've never had the courage to live
    by--they's like to unload all that silly crap on us, all of it!

Now, I don't know how much of this Mishima intended and how much of it his subconscious spewed forth, but this father hatred is central to understanding his pathologies.  In a fundamental sense, morality is a male construct; just as laws and regulations are fundamentally expressions of the female.  Legalism presupposes a willingness to yield freedom.  Each law and regulation represents another chip struck from the tree of liberty.  But when the entire skein of regulation is put in place, those whose central concern is for security can rest easy.  Permissible behaviors are strictly delineated and a powerful security state necessarily exists to enforce them.  Thus, the boys in Noboru's gang, determine that they must commit a murder now, before they are adults, because the law will essentially allow them to get away with it.

Freedom, on the other hand, requires a rigid personal moral system in order to function.  For only if we can be confident that others will be restrained by an internalized understanding of right and wrong will we be willing to grant each other the freedom that we ourselves desire.  Fear is the enemy of freedom, morality its ally.  The father figure, representing as he does the imposition of internalized moral inhibitions, is a threat to the boys.  Ryuji, in refusing to punish the boy, is confident that the lesson can be learned and internalized without external punishment.  But it is this very attempt to transmute the boy's values that guarantees the gang's enmity and results in his death sentence.

This is an extremely creepy story.  It offers a pretty disturbing glance into the psyche of a troubled genius and seems likely to remain the pinnacle of gay, fascist, Japanese literature.


Grade: (C)


See also:

Yukio Mishima (3 books reviewed)
Asian Literature
Yukio Mishima Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Yukio Mishima
    -ENTRY: Yukio Mishima (1925-1970) - Pseudonym for Hiraoka Kimitake (Books & Writers)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Yukio Mishima (IMDB)
    -ENTRY: Mishima Yukio: Japanese author (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
    -ENTRY: Yukio Mishima (Japan Visitor)
    -ENTRY: Mishima Yukio (New World Encyclopedia)
    -Featured Author: Yukio Mishima (With News and Reviews From the Archives of The New York Times)
    -EXCERPT: from Life for Sale by Yukio Mishima
    -EXCERPT: from Star: Yukio Mishima on the Beautiful Death of James Dean (Yukio Mishima)
    -BOOK SITE: The Sound of Waves (Penguin Random House)
    -WIKIPEDIA: The Sound of Waves
    -STUDY GUIDE: The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima (Grade Saver)
    -STUDY GUIDE: Sound of Waves (Lit Charts)
    -STUDY GUIDE: Sound of Waves (IB English)
    -STUDY GUIDE: Sound of Waves (eNotes)
    -STUDY GUIDE: Sound of Waves (
    -ESSAY: The men who worship Yukio Mishima: Bodybuilders are in love with an unattainable goal (OLIVER BATEMAN, 12/16/22, UnHerd)
    -ESSAY: Kamikaze of Beauty: On Yukio Mishima’s Sun and Steel (Brian Patrick Eha, tHE pOINT)
    -VIDEO: Legendary Japanese Author Yukio Mishima Muses About the Samurai Code (Which Inspired His Hapless 1970 Coup Attempt) (Open Culture)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Yukio Mishima: Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima discusses his thirteenth novel The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea, first published in English in 1966, with host Warren Bower. Mishima also shares his thoughts about Japanese literature and the high readership of American literature in his home country. (The NYPR Archive Collections, Oct 25, 1965, WNYC)
    -VIDEO INTERVIEW: Yukio Mishima....Rare 1969 Interview In English: In a rare interview in colour that he gave to Canadian television in 1969, Mishima discusses the subject of Japanese nationalism and gives us his views on the prospect of the re-militarisation of the country.
    -PODCAST: Grappling with Yukio Mishima’s Murderous Children (Lit Century, June 15, 2021)
    -ESSAY: Japan’s most famous writer committed suicide after a failed coup attempt – now, new photos add more layers to the haunting act (Kirsten Cather, January 11, 2021, The Conversation)
    -ESSAY: Yukio Mishima: The strange tale of Japan’s infamous novelist (Thomas Graham, 24th November 2020, BBC)
    -ESSAY: A fanatic heart: On the 50th anniversary of his public suicide, Nigel Jones reflects on the strange life and bizarre death of the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima (Nigel Jones, 11/25/20, The Critic)
    -ESSAY: Yukio Mishima: The Turbulent Life Of A Conflicted Martyr (Beryl Belsky, 29 September 2016, Culture Trip)
    -ESSAY: Yukio Mishima – 'The Lost Samurai' (Japan Today, Jan. 12, 2014)
    -ESSAY: Yukio Mishima's enduring, unexpected influence: As the country marks the 45th anniversary of the prolific postwar novelist’s death this week, we take a step back (DAMIAN FLANAGAN, 11/21/15, THE JAPAN TIMES)
    -VIDEO INTERVIEW: Paul Schrader Discusses Yukio Mishima (The Dick Cavett Show, 11/25/1985)
    -VIDEO: The Strange Case of Yukio Mishima (BBC - Arena, 1985)
    -ESSAY: Blood and guts: Yukio Mishima's very public suicide fixed his image as a fascist fanatic. There was much more to the writer (Hywel Williams, Sun 24 Jun 2001, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY: Dead writer's knife is in Japan's heart Jonathan Watts, 24 Nov 2000, The Guardian)
-ESSAY: The Importance of Being Mishima Yukio (Damian Flanagan, Nov 24, 2017,
    -ESSAY: The Resurgence of a Japanese Literary Master: Fifty years after his death, Yukio Mishima is reemerging in translation (ERIC MARGOLIS, 7/31/20, Metropolis)
    -ESSAY: Yukio Mishima: Japan’s Cultural Martyr (Andrew Rankin, December 11, 2019, Quillette)
    -ESSAY: The life and death of Yukio Mishima: A tale of astonishing elegance and emotional brutality: A novel by one of Japan’s most revered writers is to be published in English for the first time. But the facts surrounding Yukio Mishima are almost stranger than fiction (David Barnett, 7/25/19, Independent)
    -ESSAY: Yukio Mishima in Ichigaya (Anna Sherman, August 20, 2019, Paris Review)
    -ARTICLE: Restored Footage at Centre of ‘Mishima’ Documentary on Controversial Literary Figure (Patrick Frater, Jan 8, 2020, Variety)
    -ESSAY: A Thing for Men in Uniforms: If fascism has had an allure for some gay men, it is anti-egalitarianism that provides the connective tissue—the belief that homosexuality belongs to an elite caste, an exclusive fraternity existing above the heterosexual masses and destined for greatness (James Kirchick, May 14, 2018, NY Review of Books)
    -ESSAY: Comment (E. J. Kahn and Frank Conroy, December 5, 1970, The New Yorker)
    -ESSAY: Yukio Mishima: Dialectics of Mind and Body (Dick Wagenaar and Yoshio Iwamoto, Winter 1975, Contemporary Literature)
    -ESSAY: Why we should read Yukio Mishima (Xi Chen, Feb 19, 2018·, Medium)
    -ESSAY: Portrait of the Author as a Historian: Yukio Mishima: Angered by his native country’s rush towards western-style modernisation, the acclaimed Japanese author committed a shocking act of protest. (Alexander Lee , 4/04/17, History Today)
    -ESSAY: When the Emperor Is a Void: Yukio Mishima and Fascism Today: Mishima’s Patriotism reveals the drives operating behind political movements and how ultranationalistic ideas become deeply entangled in the personal (Julia Shiota, the Margins)
    -ESSAY: The Essence of our Era: Yukio Mishima, Steve Bannon, and the Alt-Right (Europe Now)
    -ESSAY: Edging Toward Japan: Yukio Mishima's intriguing letters to a humble lighthouse worker (Damian Flanagan, April 21, 2020, Mainichi Japan)
    -ESSAY: Mishima Yukio: Everyone’s Favorite Homofascist (Vincent James Keith, 2013, Multitudes)
    -ESSAY: The Narcissism and Death of Yukio Mishima –From the Object Relational Point of View (Sadanobu Ushijima M.D, December 1987, Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences)
    -ESSAY: Primal Scene Derivatives in the Work of Yukio Mishima: The Primal Scene Fantasy (Ronald N. Turco, 2002, Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis)
    -ESSAY: Overcoming Modernity in Yukio Mishima (Joseph Verbovszky, DISCUSSIONS)
    -ESSAY: MISHIMA’S SUICIDE (JEFFREY MEYERS, Fall 2010, Michigan Quarterly Review)
    -ESSAY: In the Fascist Weight Room: 1968’s dangerous and grandiose fantasies (ELIZABETH SCHAMBELAN, Book Forum)
    -DISSERTATION: Craving for the absolute: The sublime and the tragic in Mishima Yukio's theatrical works (Yoshie Endo, University of Pennsylvania)
    -ESSAY: Yukio Mishima: Silk and Insight (Bill Lipsky, SF Bay City Times)
    -ESSAY: The Curious Case of Yukio Mishima (George Mullins, 9 April, 2018, The Bubble)
    -ARCHIVES: Mishima (Mainichi)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: Yukio Mishima (Publishers weekly)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: Yukio Mishima (Kirkus)
    -VIDEO ARCHIVES: Yukio Mishima (You Tube)
    -PODCAST REVIEW: #64- Transmitting Culture in Mishima's The Sound of Waves: This week, Scott and Karl read The Sound of Waves, a 1954 novel by the Japanese author Yukio Mishima (Great Books, Mar 27, 2020)
    -REVIEW: of The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima (edmund Fuller, August 19, 1956, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Sound of Waves (Iain Maloney, Japan Times)
    -REVIEW: of Sound of Waves (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Sound of Waves (Kevin Jae, Medium: Classic World Literature Book Reviews)
    -REVIEW: of Sound of Waves (Notes Taken)
    -REVIEW: of Sound of Waves (Tony's Reading List)
    -REVIEW: of Sound of Waves (50 Books Project)
    -PODCAST REVIEW: The Sound of Waves (Book Talk with Jordan Owen and Stefan Di Iorio)
    -REVIEW: of Sound of Waves (Vishy's Blog)
    -REVIEW: of Sound of Waves (Winstonsdad's Blog)
    -REVIEW: of Sound of Waves (Pikes Peak Library teens)
    -REVIEW: of Sound of Waves (Danny Yee, Danny's Book reviews)
    -REVIEW: of Sound of Waves (AQ'S Reviews)
    -REVIEW: of Sound of Waves (A Reader of Literature)
    -REVIEW: of Sound of Waves (Profesorbaker's Worldwide Bilingual Blog)
    -REVIEW: of The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima (Kevin Jae, Medium: Classic World Literature Book Reviews)
    -REVIEW: of Star by Yukio Mishima (Jan Wilm, LA Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Star (Daniel Felsenthal, Kenyon Review)
    -REVIEW: of Star (Jeff Heinzl, Spectrum Culture)
    -REVIEW: of Star (Hans Rollmann, Pop Matters)
    -REVIEW: of The Sea of Fertility tetralogy by Yukio Mishima (Richard T Kelly, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Sea of Fertility (80 Books blog)
    -REVIEW: of The Frolic of the Beasts by Yukio Mishima (John Nathan, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima (Andrew Brookins, Powells)
    -REVIEW: of Sun and Steel by Yukio Mishima (Gore Vidal, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Life for Sale by Yukio Mishima (Complete Review)
    -REVIEW: of Life for Sale by Yukio Mishima (James Smart, The guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Life for Sale (John Williams, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Life for Sale: Yukio Mishima’s dark fantasies of imperial Japan (John Gray, New Statesman)
    -REVIEW: of Life for Sale (NY Journal of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Life for Sale (Andrew Taylor, The Spectator)
    -REVIEW: of Life for Sale (Ian Thompson, Evening Standard)
    -REVIEW: of Life for Sale (Angus Brown, Oxford Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Life for Sale (Boyd Tonkin, Times uk)
    -REVIEW: of Mario Bellatin’s "Mishima’s Illustrated Biography" (Jeffrey Zuckerman, LA Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Mishima's Sword: Travels in Search of a Samurai Legend by Christopher Ross (Anthony Thwaite, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Mishima’s Sword (Victoria James, New Statesman)
    -REVIEW: ofPersona: A biography of Yukio Mishima by Naoki Inose (Paul McCarthy, Japan Times)
    -REVIEW: of Persona (Allan Massie, WSJ)
    -REVIEW: of Persona (Three Percent)


    -FILMOGRAPHY: Yukio Mishima (IMDB)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Shiosai (1985) (IMDB)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (IMDB)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Mishima: A Life in Four Chapers (Rotten Tomatoes)
    -FILM REVIEW: Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian)
    -FILM REVIEW: Mishima (Phillip French, The Observer)
    -FILM REVIEW: Mishima (Alex Lindstrom, Pop Matters)
    -FILM REVIEW: Mishima (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)
    -FILM REVIEW: Mishima (Ian Buruma, NY Review of Books)
    -FILM REVIEW: Mishima (Michael Sragow, The New Yorker)
    -FILM REVIEW: Mishima (Anthony Lane, The new Yorker)
    -FILM REVIEW: Mishima (Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality & Practice)
    -FILM REVIEW: Mishima (Tom Graham, Little White Lies)
    -FILM REVIEW: Mishima: The Last Debate (James Hadfield, Japan Times)
    -REVIEW: of Last Debate (Philip Brasor)

Book-related and General Links:
    -Yukio Mishima (1925-1970)(kijasto)
    -Mishima Gallery
    -The Yukio Mishima Cyber Museum
    -Yukio Mishima (Fringeware, Inc.)
    -Yukio Mishima: A 20th Century Warrior (New Dawn Magazine)
    -The Suicide of Yukio Mishima (Mimi Hanaoka)
    -MISHIMA, Yukio (Comptons encyclopedia)
    -ESSAY: Seppuku and Jisatsu in Modern Japanese Literature (Daniel Brown)
    -SPEECH: YUKIO MISHIMA: The Harmony of Pen and Sword  (Ceremony commemorating the 70. Birthday Anniversary January 14, 1995 - - Clarence, N.Y.  Address delivered by B. J. Zavrel)
    -REVIEW: of Acts of Worship Seven Stories By Yukio Mishima Translated by John Bester (Herbert Mitgang, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: SILK AND INSIGHT By Yukio Mishima. Edited by Frank Gibney. Translated by Hiroaki Sato (Mark Morris, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: D.J. Enright: Peasants and Poets, NY Review of Books
        Thirst for Love by Yukio Mishima and translated by Alfred H. Marks
        Sensei and His People by Yoshie Sugihara and David W. Plath
        Japanese Poetic Diaries selected and translated by Earl Miner
    -REVIEW: Gore Vidal: Mr. Japan, NY Review of Books
        Sun and Steel by Yukio Mishima
    -REVIEW: Hidé Ishiguro: Writer, Rightist or Freak?, NY Review of Books
        Mishima: A Biography by John Nathan
        The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima by Henry Scott Stokes
    -REVIEW: Ian Buruma: 'Rabu' Conquers All, NY Review of Books
        Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature in the Modern Era Vol. I: Fiction by Donald Keene
        Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature in the Modern Era Vol. II: Poetry, Drama, Criticism by Donald Keene
    -REVIEW: of MISHIMA A Vision of the Void. By Marguerite Yourcenar. Translated by Alberto     Manguel with the author (Michael Wood, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: Ian Buruma: Rambo-san, NY Review of Books
        Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters a film written by Paul Schrader, Leonard Schrader, and directed by Paul Schrader
        Barakei: Ordeal by Roses photographs of Yukio Mishima by Eikoh Hosoe
        Mishima ou la vision du vide by Marguerite Yourcenar