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 hanamiweb.com – where they give more details on its story, structure and what-not. In case you wanted to know 😀