David Haws's Reviews > The Temple of the Golden Pavilion

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima
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's review
Nov 10, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: japanese-fiction
Read from November 02 to 10, 2011

I remember reading an East/West comparison of monumental architecture focused on the notion of permanence: the Greek temples were all built of stone, while Buddhist temples are built of wood that has to be replaced every few centuries (even in the absence of a holocaust). The beauty of eastern monumental architecture is in the formal cause (spirit) while western beauty is seen in the material cause (body).

Material beauty dies quickly (桜、蛍、楓の葉). Since everything dies, dying quickly is not necessarily a bad thing. But there is a subtle difference between killing and letting-die. Mizoguchi “kills” the Golden Pavilion. This seems the act of a psychotic (Hayashi) not the act of a neurotic (Mizoguchi). Still, it’s an interesting book, and well-written.

I’ve only read a handful of Japanese novels, but it seems that most male, Japanese authors develop their female characters as docile, amorphous receptacles—given concrete form only by their points of contact with a man—which contact contaminates them and degrades their beauty (when it doesn’t kill them outright). These andro-genic characters (e.g., “the beautiful girl with the cool, high-bridged nose”) only exist for a fleeting encounter where beauty blushes and dies—even Sumire (スプートニクの恋人) whose encounter is with another woman, evaporates under the Mediterranean sun. Sumire, at least, is not a flat character.

Anthropogenic values (docility, beauty, more “white meat”) can be bred and reinforced in animals. Clearly, an author can do the same with his female characters. Maybe an andro-centric society can do the same with its women—turn them all into axolotl tanks—but why would it want to?

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