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August 07, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

THE SAILOR WHO FELL FROM GRACE WITH THE SEA by Yukio Mishima, translated from the Japanese by John Nathan (Vintage: $10; 181 pp.). Mishima's portrait of a nihilistic group of adolescents horrified readers when this novel appeared in America in 1965. Thirteen-year-old Noboru compares his heart to "a large iron anchor withstanding the corrosion of the sea and scornful of the barnacles and oysters that harass the hulls of ships, sinking polished and indifferent. . . ." His alienated gang fixes their loathing on the title character, who has given up the sea for a bourgeois existence as Noboru's stepfather. In an era of drive-by shootings, the icy cruelty of Mishima's characters seems alarmingly prescient.

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