A hopeless stutterer, taunted by his schoolmates, Mizoguchi feels utterly alone until he becomes an acolyte at a famous temple in Kyoto. But he quickly becomes obsessed with the temple's beauty, and cannot live in peace as long as it exists.
"An amazing literary feat in its minute delineation of a neurotic personality." (Chicago Tribune) "Beautifully translated... Mishima re-erects Kyoto, plain and mountain, monastery, temple, town, as Victor Hugo made Paris out of Notre Dame." (The Nation)
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”My nature, which already tended to be dreamy, became all the more so, and thanks to the war, ordinary life receded even farther from me. For us boys, war was a dreamlike sort of experience lacking any real substance, something like an isolation ward in which one is cut off from the meaning of life.”
”The Temple of the Golden Pavillion” is many things, but above all I was surprised how deeply and, as becomes Mishima, succinctly it described the war, not through presence but absence: for our narrator, Mizoguchi, the war is about staying behind, being pushed into a kind of surreal state of alternate existence.
Naturally, this sense of otherness and not belonging pervades the whole narrative on all levels, and it most certainly is Mishima's forte, something Murakami has, as well. The anxiety of existential meaninglessness, the strong feeling of guilt, freedom through an act of violence, either literal or metaphorical, and life, ultimately, a never-ending, alternating movement of these dark themes.
I have now embarked on a journey through the French invasion of Russia with Leo, so it might take a while, but I'm somewhat glad to keep "Spring Snow" in the queue for the time being. Not that "The Golden Pavillion" isn't good, it's like Mishima, in general: rewarding yet demanding, making one poor before making one abundantly rich. I did like the previous two works a bit more, though, perhaps thanks to their modest length. Here Mishima can be a tad too daunting when he’s in the mood, or when I’m in the mood, or… not in the mood?
Brian Nishii is perfect again. I think it’s a great service for us listening to Mishima and Kawabata that he’s the one doing the narration.