The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea

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The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea
1994 First Vintage International Edition paperback cover
Cover of the 1994 First Vintage International English Edition paperback
Author Yukio Mishima
Original title 午後の曳航 (Gogo no Eiko — Eng trans. Afternoon Shiptowing)
Translator John Nathan
Cover artist Susan Mitchell
Country Japan
Language Japanese
Genre Philosophical, Psychological
Publisher Kodansha
Alfred A. Knopf (U.S.)
Publication date
Published in English
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 181 pp (1994 First Vintage International Edition, paperback)
ISBN ISBN 0-679-75015-0 (1994 First Vintage International Edition, paperback)
OCLC 29389499
895.6/35 20
LC Class PL833.I7 G613 1994

The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea (Japanese: 午後の曳航, meaning The Afternoon Towing), is a novel written by Yukio Mishima, published in Japanese in 1963 and translated into English by John Nathan in 1965.


The novel chronicles the story of Ryuji, a sailor with vague notions of a special honor awaiting him at sea. He meets a woman called Fusako with whom he falls deeply in love, and he ultimately decides to marry her. Fusako's 13-year-old son, Noboru, is in a band of savage boys who believe in "objectivity," rejecting the adult world as illusory, hypocritical, and sentimental.

As Ryuji begins to draw close to Fusako, a woman of the shore, he is eventually torn away from the dreams he's pursued his entire life. Noboru, who shares an especially close bond with his mother through a voyeuristic ritual, hates the idea of losing his mother to a man who has let his hope and freedom die. This anger and fear of loneliness translates into terrible, savage acts performed by Noboru and the gang of which he is a part.


The novel was adapted into the film The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea starring Kris Kristofferson and Sarah Miles in 1976 by Lewis John Carlino. The setting was changed from Japan to England.

An opera by Hans Werner Henze, Das verratene Meer, is based on the novel; it was premiered in Berlin in 1990. The reception was not good, since a revised version, entitled Goko no Eiko written by Henze under the initiative of the maestro conductor Gerd Albrecht, was adapted to a Japanese libretto close to Mishima's original. The world premiere at Salzburger Festspiele 2005 is released on the label Orfeo, unfortunately without any libretto included.