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The Temple of the Golden Pavilion…

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (Everyman's Library Classics &… (edition 1995)

by Yukio Mishima, Ivan Morris (Translator)

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1,703306,155 (3.85)1 / 91
Title:The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (Everyman's Library Classics & Contemporary Classics)
Authors:Yukio Mishima
Other authors:Ivan Morris (Translator)
Info:Everyman's Library (1995), Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima

  1. 00
    After the Banquet by Yukio Mishima (GYKM)
    GYKM: Another Mishima novel that he based on a real event.
  2. 00
    Silk and Insight by Yukio Mishima (GYKM)
    GYKM: Another Mishima novel based on a real event.
  3. 00
    The Age of Blue by Yukio Mishima (GYKM)
    GYKM: Written in the same decade, but was based around a different real-life crime.
  4. 00
    In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (GYKM)
    GYKM: Like Truman Capote ten years later, Mishima not only conducted research into the crime that he would base his psychological novel on, but he also interviewed the arsonist.

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English (23)  Spanish (2)  Portuguese (1)  French (1)  Catalan (1)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (30)
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
Dark, but well worth a read. ( )
  rastamandj | Jun 14, 2017 |
It seemed fitting to read this post-war classic near the date of a US President's first visit to Japan, 70 years after the atrocity. However, the atrocity of A-Bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are conspicuously absent from the narrative, even while the war and its end looms large--instead we are confronted with the destruction of the Golden Temple, not by Allied Forces, but by a stuttering, novice Buddhist priest in 1950.

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion is a fictionalized account of the actual burning of the Golden Temple, but it may as well serve as an extended meditation on the catechetic Zen problem called "Nansen Kills a Kitten," with the kitten (on the novelists' interpretation) serving as fleeting, beauty that is pursued to its utter annihilation. The problem derives from the following (paraphrased) story: A kitten happened onto the temple, was eventually caught by monks, and became the object of dispute between the East and West Halls, which both wanted the kitten for their own. Father Nansen interrupted the dispute, grabbing the kitten: "If anyone can say a word the kitten shall be spared; if you cannot, it shall be killed." No one answered, and Nansen butchered the kitten. Upon the evening, the disciple Joshu returned to the temple and Father Nansen informed him of the event. In response, Joshu removed his shoes, put them on top of his head and left. Nansen lamented: "If only you had been here today, the kitten's life could have been saved." (61)
The destruction of the Temple is described by Mishima as the logical consequence of the koan from the perspective of the perpetrating novice in love with the object.

This is an extraordinary book, rife with symbolism, political commentary, and troubling metaphysical (Buddhist) accounts of beauty, evil, and impermanence in the immediate years following WWII. Even knowing quite little about Zen Buddhism (or of Japanese culture during the relevant time period), it is clear that this is a literary masterpiece that explores the rippling rupture of tradition in post-war Japan, as well as the gnawing tension at the heart of the detached life of the Zen Buddhist generally.

I am too ill-informed to speculate on what form of nationalism drove the author of this novel to eventually commit seppuku (harakiri) in 1970, after a failed coup d'etat to restore the power of the emperor. It seems to me that he was equally (perversely?) rapt as the protagonist of The Temple of the Golden Pavilion with beauty, and equally determined to preserve it through destruction. ( )
  reganrule | Jun 3, 2016 |
Reading 'The Temple of the Golden Pavilion' felt something like swimming under water - a world full of meaning and wonder down in the water but having to reach the surface for new breathe every now and then - or sometimes simply floating to the surface without meaning to. What I'm trying to say is that this is a pretty difficult novel to read - it's dense, it takes a long time to digest because it's so philosophical in nature, but that's not to say it's bad. Far from it - although I sometimes felt slightly lost, and at times felt a certain barrier between me and the core of the novel, I did like it. The language is beautiful, it's probably one of the most beautifully written books I've read in a long while, I've tabbed several sections that were especially mesmerizing. I actually enjoyed the philosophy even if it made the book a slower read, and I liked how it made me think. Some parts of it I could also relate to, which I didn't expect of this. I am quite sure that I didn't understand everything that Mishima was trying to say or do but I hope to revisit this book in the future, to go one layer deeper. It's not for everyone, certainly, as I said - it's slow. At least for me, it was. But it was also very beautiful and sometimes really clear and how should I put it, truthful? I'm not even going to try to summarise the "plot", it basically just follows Mizoguchi - a young man who lives in the Golden Temple training to become a monk. The rest is for you to figure out, should you decide to pick it up. ( )
  zombiehero | Mar 25, 2016 |
Another one of Mishima's journeys into obsession. We a see a character torn between self-imposed isolation and the desire to break out. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
The narrator and central character of this book doesn't see the world as I do. To him the world is replete with symbols, the importance of which often eclipse the material things that surround him. Whether it be his childhood crush Uiko, the stammering that he speaks with, or the titular temple which he obsesses over, the symbols in Mizoguchi's life are what consume much of his thoughts and dictate his actions much more so than any logical analysis of what he wants out of life. Perhaps that's how everyone really is, and they just make up a story to explain to themselves why they've done what they've done. Mizoguchi doesn't invent a story, however, he provides few explanations for his actions that stem from real life instead of the symbols that swarm through his head. It's a completely foreign way to think compared to my experience.

Additionally, Mizoguchi is more than a little bit crazy. He gets pleasure from causing pain, is constantly scheming against people and against nebulous ideas like "eternity," and he sees reality as he wants to see it, often as giving him signs encouraging him to indulge in his worst impulses. He snatches the idea of a mission of destruction out of thin air (we readers can invent reasons for it, but the text doesn't give enough to fully support any rationale we may conceive) and carries it out, to the detriment of himself perhaps more than anyone else. While the story ends with Mizoguchi claiming to have found a new will to live, there's nothing to suggest that this impulse is more than transitory, or that his life going forward will be any less destructive now that he's had a taste of it.

You would think that this main character, who has a bizarre worldview and is a few cards shy of a full deck, would be an intriguing character, but I wasn't that interested in Mizoguchi's machinations. I don't require a protagonist that thinks or acts like me, but Mizoguchi was so alien to me that his everyday experiences failed to resonate. The Temple of the Golden Pavilion recounts his entire childhood, but his childhood experiences were so laden with symbols and thoughts on beauty that there was nothing that I could see myself in, nothing that related to my childhood. Proust and Marilynne Robinson (Housekeeping) present characters growing up with thoughts and lives far different from my own, but that I can still respond to both emotionally and intellectually. Mishima fails to do this here. Unfortunately, outside of some well-written descriptive passages (especially concerning the temple itself), if you don't find Mizoguchi's life and thoughts interesting there's nothing here. I wouldn't call this a bad book, as someone with a different worldview might find that this book really speaks to them, but for me this book was silent, and so I can only rate it as I do all texts I end up largely indifferent to.

Something that I'm a bit quizzical about is that The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, much like Mishima's The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea, doesn't ever directly communicate that the narrator's mindset is harmful and not something to be admired. It's easy enough to draw the message out from the text, given the character's actions (just like it's possible to understand how destructive the feeling of being apart from society and an unearned sense of superiority can be by looking at the fates of the main characters in TSWFfGwtS) but I worry that most people won't think that deeply about the end result of what they've just read and leave this book thinking that Mizoguchi's ramblings on beauty, eternity, and freedom are a fine way to look at the world. A less sympathetic tone could have made the message clearer, but that wouldn't have fit with the main character serving as the narrator. Nor should Mishima have to dumb down his books so that readers can get the lesson. Nevertheless I worry that because of how it was presented here many readers will put down this book thinking exactly the opposite of what the actions of the main character, when looked at by a mentally stable person, justify. ( )
  BayardUS | Jan 10, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
"An amazing literary feat in its minute delineation of a neurotic personality."
added by GYKM | editChicago Tribune
"Beautifully translated... Mishima re-erects Kyoto, plain and mountain, monastery, temple, town, as Victor Hugo made Paris out of Notre Dame."
added by GYKM | editThe Nation
"One of the few genuinely surprising, subtle, complex and profound novels of ideas to have appeared since Man’s Fate" […] "Mishima has fashioned a wildly original, paradoxical series of clashing meditations and actions"
added by GYKM | editHudson Review, Sidney Monas
In July, 1950, art lovers were shocked to hear that the Kinkakuji--the Temple of the Golden Pavilion--in Kyoto had been deliberately burned by a crazed young monk. At his trial, this ugly, stammering priest said that his hatred of all beauty had driven him to destroy the six-century-old building. He expressed no regrets.

From this incident and other details of his life an engrossing novel has been written by Yukio Mishima.

» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mishima, Yukioprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Morris, IvanTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Komatsu, FumiIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ouwehand, C.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ouwehand, C.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ross, Nancy WilsonIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
Ever since my childhood, Father had often spoken to me about the Golden Temple.
When you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha.
I wanted to live.
What transforms this world is—knowledge.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
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Canonical DDC/MDS

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679752706, Paperback)

Because of the boyhood trauma of seeing his mother make love to another man in the presence of his dying father, Mizoguchi becomes a hopeless stutterer. Taunted by his schoolmates, he feels utterly alone until he becomes an acolyte at a famous temple in Kyoto. He quickly becomes obsessed with the beauty of the temple. Even when tempted by a friend into exploring the geisha district, he cannot escape its image. In the novel's soaring climax, he tries desperately to free himself from his fixation.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:00 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A young man, having suffered a childhood trauma, becomes an acolyte at a famous temple in Kyoto.

(summary from another edition)

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