The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima ; Translated by Ivan Morris. Introduction by Nancy Wilson Ross. Drawings by Fumi Komatsu
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 1959. Second printing. Hardcover. 262 pages ; Illustrated ; 22 cm. $4.00 dust jacket. In very good condition with firm binding, clean and unmarked pages.
This novel probes deeply into the life of a young Buddhist priest who was so obsessed by the beauty of a temple and his own alienation from the world that he destroyed himself and all he loved. Deeply Buddhist in conception, the motivation is worked out in terms of ageless questions that tormented Dostoevsky, as Nancy Wilson Ross notes in her striking introduction.
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 lonely until he becomes an acolyte at a famous temple in Kyoto, where at first he hopes for the companionship of his fellow acolytes and for the affection of the Superior.
But soon the old doubts and rebelliousness set in. His mind is dominated by the beauty of the temple, but he cannot live in peace with it. His emotional relationship with the Superior, with his fellows, and later with various women, is a wonderfully sustained and powerful psychological drama in which the dream of beauty and the feeling of alienation become fused.
A tough-minded friend taunts him with perverted Zen sayings until Mizoguchi offends the Superior by following him around the geisha district, and in other ways. The friend also persuades him to join in some of his varied sexual adventures. But the inaccessibly beautiful image of the temple always comes between him and the girl. Sometimes his friend's taunts would echo in his ears even during an intimate caress.
In the end, in a soaring climax, he turns against the beautiful image: he attempts to destroy his obsession by setting fire to the temple. Thus this amazing and compelling novel opens up, in completely universal terms, a dark recess of the human soul.
YUKIO MISHIMA is the most spectacularly talented young writer in Japan. He was graduated from Tokyo Imperial University in 1947. At the age of thirty-three, he has published twelve novels, some of which have sold several hundred thousand copies, as well as many successful plays, short stories, essays, and a travel book. In 1954 his novel, The Sound of Waves, won the Shinchosha Literary Prize, and when it was published here in 1956, The New York Times called it "an enchantment, an altogether joyous and delightful thing." In 1957, when his Five Modern No Plays was published here, he spent six months in the United States. He is married and lives in Tokyo.
FROM THE INTRODUCTION BY NANCY WILSON ROSS
"The Temple of the Golden Pavilion has around it an aura of Dostoevsldan violence and passion. I found many reminders of Dostoevsky's involved and tortuous struggles with ageless questions. Yet ... it is a novel which could only have been written by a member of a race whose cultural heritage is essentially Buddhist. This is one of its great values to the Western reader....
"In 1950, to the distress and horror of all art-loving and patriotic Japanese, the ancient Zen Temple of the Golden Pavilion was deliberately burned to the ground. This is the incident from which Mishima has built his engrossing novel. But ... he has employed the factual record merely as a scaffolding on which to erect a disturbing and powerful story of a sick young man's obsession with a beauty he cannot attain. . . .
"The fact that the hero is a Zen acolyte as well as a psychopath, that its pages contain many telling examples of the use, and misuse, of Zen techniques—all this is bound to interest the growing body of Zen enthusiasts in America today.
"But more important, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion offers the Western reader pictures of a rare, paradoxical, and long-enduring civilization. The opportunity offered here by Yukio Mishima's special insight and fictional talent is one for which to feel properly grateful."
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