The temple of the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji)

The story of a troubled young man who finds love and beauty in a 15th century temple and resolves to destroy it – a story filled with references to Japanese literature and to the Buddhist philosophies and Zen parables (Nansen kills a kitten) which guide the hero’s life. And which I can’t even pretend to have understood.

It’s a very short book, but I found it difficult because with Japanese writers (Haruki Murakami is an exception) I can’t go deeper than the surface. I don’t understand their philosophy – I don’t know anything about it – and it’s very likely I will never know. It’s a very closed world for a European mind, you have to go more than that extra mile to crack it – and you have to be willing and commited to doing so. I see the poetic quality of Mishima’s prose, I get a bit of the “When you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha” idea….but this is the first and last book by Mr. Mishima I will read.

What’s actually more interesting than the book is Mr. Mishima’s own life: he cheated his way out of being drafted in WWII, he wrote behind his father’s back (this is why he chose a pen name, his real name was Kimitake Hiraoka), he was married yet it was widely speculated that he was gay and he kidnapped a man, made a public speech that was supposed to entice a revolt and then he committed sepukku. He became famous at 24, he was nominated for the Nobel prize 3 times and in 21 years he wrote novels, short stories, essays and kabuki plays. All that and more makes for a very interesting and full life – and for a very interesting movie probably 😉

Also The temple… is inspired – more than inspired actually – it follows closely a real case: a young Buddhist burned the Reliquary in Kyoto in 1950 and Mishima even visited him in prison, before he was released on account of his schizophrenia.  Which obviously got me thinking of Truman Capote’s In cold blood, published 10 years later – the subject and the manner in which it’s treated really have nothing in common, but the idea of a non-fiction novel at least – that’s something they share.


This is a  picture of the actual Temple taken from – where they give more details on its story, structure and what-not. In case you wanted to know 😀


~ by ameer on July 21, 2008.

4 Responses to “The temple of the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji)”

  1. I know it’s totally lame to be the first to comment on my own post, but it just hit me: this is what we should have been learning in highschool: not how to dissect the same 20-30 novels or poems that have been studied for years and years (or not only that), but general characteristics of modern literature, how to read authors of different enthicities, main influences, main themes, placing an author in a literary current or period, comparing him with his contemporaries – basic things, but more…well rounded. I had a “universal lit” class one year, and my teacher tried to do that, but we got stuck at the classics and never went past them 😛

  2. Imi pare rau ca nu mai citesti nimic de Mishima, eu de-abia la o doua lectura am descoperit frumusetea Templului… Daca l-ai citit in engleza, te intelleg, dar traducerea din japoneza a Angelei Hondru e excelenta. Mishima e un spirit intereant, poetic, dar foarte profund, cuo mentalitate adanc japoneza dar usor occidentalizata. Personajul acestui roman este foarte complex, si e uimitor cum Mishima a putut sa exprime poetic – in stil japonez – sentimente atat de contradictorii… Ma tem ca scriu banalitati, dar mie mi-a placut mult romanul, si fata de Murakami care e la moda, Mishima e ceva fin…

  3. L’am citit in romana, actually. Si la cartile pe care le citesc in romana pun titlul in engleza – symmetry thing 😉
    Problema mea cu Mishima e ca e prea japonez, prea traditional. Murakami, prin comparatie, e la moda pentru ca e mult mai usor de inteles, personajele lui sunt mai occidentalizate si easier to relate to. Intr’un fel, nu vreau sa mai citesc Mishima (sau nu acum) pentru ca imi pare rau ca nu prea pot sa’l inteleg…dar as vrea sa citesc o biografie a lui. Dup’aia poate m’as intoarce la roman, poate ar avea alt gust…

  4. @ameer: cred c-as fi de acord cu tine, nu stiu de ce; adica stiu; am citit numai o carte a lui mishima si nu mai am nici cea mai vaga idee macar cum se numeste, necum ce trateaza…:)

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