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The Temple of the Golden Pavilion
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Archive: Other Books > The temple of the golden pavilion | Yukio Mishima | 4-5 stars

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Idit | 1028 comments A bit of modern Japan history: In 1950, a young buddhist monk burnt the golden pavilion temple in Kyoto. He stated his hatred for everything beautiful as the cause for his action.
This seems even more dramatic when you think that US refrained from bombing Kyoto because of all those ancient temples (I think)

Yukio Mishima wrote a beautiful book, that very plausibly invites us to the mind of that monk, exploring his actions, but mainly his thoughts and feelings. Not a lot happens, but for me it felt quite busy. Maybe because I have zero knowledge of zen buddhism, and am not used to very philosophical literature - a lot of thinking was involved. Or maybe because his mind is not a serene place.

The main motifs of this book are beauty, alienation, temporary vs eternal, weakness vs strength, and using an act of violence to bring back balance, and a beautiful and detailed descriptions of inner turmoil

According to him beauty is in the temporary and changing, and the temple has been standing for hundreds of years, and its existence disrupts beauty

It is a very aesthetic novel. Both the visuals in the scenes described and the prose itself

He revisits few points and develops on themes in a way that I enjoyed.
A zen story that the temple superior tells the night after japan lost wwii is then explored from a different angles by Mizoguchi’s friend. A scene of farewell and an exposed breast keeps coming in an almost rashomon way. A red coat in the snow. A woman that died.

It is a very beautiful book.
At some point it reminded me of Catcher in the Rye - with the unbending ways of a teenager that sees the world in very black and white ways. The way he looks at the adult world and is disappointed.

The author, Yukio Mishima was such an extreme character. He was very attracted to western culture, but felt japan lost its way after WWII and became too soft (He bemoaned the fact that origami and flower arranging which are feminine activities are representing japan. And dreamed of a return to Samurai values. He ended his life doing seppuku (warrior suicide) after a failed coup

This is the first book of his that I read. but I think after a bit of a rest I will read others of his happily


message 2: by Amy N. (new)

Amy N. | 256 comments Fascinating, I don't think I've ever heard of that story. I believe I saw the Golden Pavilion when I went to Japan in high school, but either they didn't mention it had been burnt or I wasn't paying attention haha.


message 3: by annapi (new)

annapi | 5156 comments I've never heard about this either. Is this non-fiction or historical fiction?


message 4: by Tracy (new)

Tracy (tstan) | 1237 comments I’ve read a few of his, and have this one on the shelf. I like his writing- his characters are as enigmatic as he was. His settings are characters, too. Great review- I’m going to have to read this one soon!


Idit | 1028 comments I was there 8 years ago, and haven’t heard about it as well.

The funny (embarrassing?) thing, is that while reading the book, I totally didn’t realise it’s based on a true story. I knew it was popular in Japan and was amazed that a book fantasising about distraction of such a special place would be popular instead of banned - if nothing else, for fear or copycats.
But after I finished reading, I googled a bit and realised it actually happened. (Which explains why it was a popular read)

I loved how there was no obvious and didactic judgement in the book


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