Chris's Reviews > The Temple Of The Golden Pavilion

The Temple Of The Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima
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Jan 31, 2008

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bookshelves: japan
Read in May, 2006

Mishima is one of the most famous modern Japanese writers and, near as I can tell, a complete nutjob. Or was, anyway. He killed himself by seppuku back in 1970.

Kinkakuji is one of his most famous works, and I chose it as a first entry into Mishima because I love reading books set in Kyoto and, well, I've been to Kinkakuji a few times.

My reaction upon seeing it was a lot like the main character's - disappointment. In the book, a young Mizuguchi is told by his father that the Golden Temple is the most beautiful thing in the world, and so the child - who secretly despises beautiful things - has an idealized vision of it in his mind. And, as we all know, the idealized vision never quite holds up to the reality.

The real Kinkakuji is nice, yes, but not quite as nice as you thought it would be. Or at least, not as nice as I thought it would be. I rather prefer the Silver Pavillion - not quite as ostentatious.

Anyway, young Mizuguchi, a recluse, a stutterer, becomes as acolyte at Kinkakuji when his father dies. And thus begins a bizarre love-hate obsession with the temple that ends in flames....

There's a lot of philosophy in this book. Discussion of What Beauty Is and what we should do with it. Long talks about the transitory nature of human life and the eternity of structure and.... I'm not sure. I was reading a lot of this on the plane, and trying not to kill some small children with the power of my mind.

Mishima is one of those authors I want to know more about, though. He's thoughtful and creative, a very good example of post-war Japanese angst, and definitely had a lot of big ideas that he wanted to get out. He gathered a kind of cult following and shocked the nation with his suicide. This is a book that'll take a few re-reads, I think.
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