When made into a film in 1976, The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea was described by Punch as ‘an everyday tale of torture, scopophilia, copulation, masturbation, dismemberment and antique dealing’. All true, though the original title of Mishima’s 1963 novel was rather different. It was Gogo no Eiko, which hinges crucially on the homonym eiko, and can be rendered either ‘An Afternoon’s Glory’ or ‘An Afternoon’s Towing’. Mishima’s English translator, John Nathan, was stumped (all he could think of was Glory is a Drag) and went to the author for help. Mishima, who hungered after the Nobel Prize, decided he wanted ‘a long title in the manner of À la Recherche’ — perhaps to impress the committee — and chose The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea, in reference to the (extremely gruesome) downfall of the main character. But it did him little good: sales were disappointing, even in Japan.
Nathan, John: Mishima: A Biography (1975)
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