• The Temple of the Golden Pavillion

  • By: Yukio Mishima
  • Narrated by: Brian Nishii
  • Length: 9 hrs and 59 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (211 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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.

©1959 Copyright information US: Copyright 1959 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. This translation Copyright Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1959. Originally published in Japanese as Kinkakuji. (P)2010 Audible, Inc

Critic Reviews

"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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What listeners say about The Temple of the Golden Pavillion

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  • Overall
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    4 out of 5 stars

A difficult and disturbing paradox

Any additional comments?

This novel introduces a disturbing paradox: there are many people in this world who, at the very least deserve our empathy yet to actually understand them would actually cause us despise them because how disturbed they are.

I kept thinking of people who commit mass violence, such as school shooters while reading this book. Typically the range of emotion from learning such a tragedy has occurred is first outrage, "Who would do such a thing? Why did they do it? What has the world come to?". When we learn who the culprit was we can then put a face to the crime and we say the person is sick and evil and they should be put to death. We don't see them as human, we see them as monsters who are sick.

But are they monsters? What if we were truly empathetic and tried to get to know these people. What would we discover then?

Unfortunately, I don't think the answer is an easy one because while religious morality tells us to empathize with even the worst people, if we actually could know the minds of such disturbed people we would be even more disgusted and confused. All we might discover is this person who committed such a terrible act is, in fact, a terrible person.

And so how do you empathize for and with a person who is so totally far removed from the rest of humanity, who is so wrapped up in their own delusions, whose point of view on the world is so fractured that you just can't even force yourself to want to care about them?

That's the paradox I discovered because of this book and with the main character Mizoguchi. Mizoguchi is, putting aside his skewed interpretation of humanity, an otherwise rational person. Yet all of his otherwise normal thought processes stems totally from a decayed root that infects the entire tree. His actions, his motives, his opinions seem to make a sort of sense, but only in the context that he is basically a sick person. And everything he decides to do, all his planning and his final actions are because he is sick, because he doesn't care one shred for humanity.

Mizoguchi does not love or does't care about anyone. And so how do we empathize with him? That's a real problem here because it makes for a very difficult novel. On the one hand Yukio Mishima, the author, is giving us an insight into the mind of a person beyond redemption but because Mizoguchi is beyond redemption we have a hard time even liking the novel. This novel is basically a physical manifestation of the character Mizoguchi, or to broaden the scope, the novel is the manifestation of all such people who commit these terrible crimes. And so how can we ever hope to like the book if we hate what the book is showing us? The book shows us true ugliness and so how do we respond to that?

This is a very difficult novel but it is fascinating in that it confronts head on the reality of empathy for another human being and how difficult it really is, or if it's even possible with a person like Mizoguchi.

14 people found this helpful

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If you liked

Mishima's weirdly oedipal Sailor Who Fell From Grace, this novel will also appeal, although it is more filled with Japanese history and the narrative does not flow as smoothly

4 people found this helpful

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the Wacky (citation needed) Antics of a Loony Lad

Mishima delivers again with a protagonist who is as unsettling, as unfortunate, as he is fascinating. In the backdrop of the fall of the Japanese Empire during the Second World War, the voice talent of Brian Nishii effortlessly paints a beautiful picture of spirituality and introspection with the blood and ashes of his Japan's smoldering defeat, on the canvas hung lovingly in a tea room on the mount.

1 person found this helpful

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What an ending

Great audio book!! the performance was really well executed and complemented the poetic nature of the book.

1 person found this helpful

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A "nice guy" in early 20th century Japan

You know those "nice guys" with fedora hats, chain wallets and who call women "m'lady"? The ones who speak of dating as "courting" and who have an interest in Japanese culture and buy themselves a katana sword from Amazon? The type of guys who get angry because women choose the "bad boy Chad" instead of the "nice guy" with the fedora hat? And in the end, the "nice guy" thinks it's all women's fault - and turns his miserably low self esteem into a hatred for the opposite sex? Ok, this book is about that guy. Only it takes place in Japan around the end of World War 2 to the end of the 50s.

The narrator clearly knows Japanese, for all the Japanese places, terms and names are properly pronounced. For all I know, I don't speak Japanese.

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5 Stars

I without hesitation give this novel 5 stars across the board. Love Brian Nishii the narrator (have listened to 2 other titles and really liked him).

I have wanted to read or listen to Mishima for quite a while now and finally took the chance with Golden Pavillion. WOW! Utterly loved the entire story. I can imagine some listeners not liking this title as much as I did, but there will be some who will absolutely love it.

I really identified with the machinations of the main character's mind and appreciated a couple of the supporting characters.

Loved The Temple of the Golden Pavillion!

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Simply Amazing...

Mishima has once again show me how much of a great and complex writer he was, with this book.
The form of his narrative is beautiful and thrilling at the same time! A new eye to the actual real life story of the Burning of the Golden Temple, was greatly put into perspective. Although the book might seem to focus on things that might not be relevant to the Temple, but rather the character alone, it always tied back everything very nicely!

If you want to read Japanese Literature and are considering Yukio Mishima, this title is a great place to start with! Then move on to The Sailor who fell from Grace with the sea.

The narrator also did a great job! He knew what the book truly meant to showcase, and read it nicely!

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The fictionalization of a tragedy

On July 2, 1950 a young student set fire to a historic and symbolic temple. His subsequent trial and psychiatric examination becomes part of this novel. The story is one imbued with questions of what beauty is and the reconciliation between it and the imperfect world we live in. Taken another way we can ask what this meant to the author especially in light of Mishima eventual fate.

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  • mz
  • 01-02-19

Criminal Psychology

An exposition of the fine inner thoughts of the main character and the subtle feelings each event leaves him with to build upon the larger impression of people, objects, surroundings, and perspective to life.

The author walks us through the gradual development of the increasingly twisted logic of the main character, who ends up committing actions illogical and opposite to his initial values.

As another reviewer had said, because the main character is hardly likable, it is difficult to like the book. It's quite dark; the characters, high and low, male and female, do things that are unacceptable to society and usually hidden away.

It's also "quiet," like other Japanese classics, in which seemingly nothing ever happens. If Yukio Mishima's Spring Snow and Natsume Soseki's Kokoro have parts that are difficult to get through, this book is even more difficult, and not really worth the time, whereas the other two are worth reading. I don't think I will listen to this book a second time, unless I'm looking to be subtly depressed and listen to nothingness for 10 hours. I did not realize what the cover picture is until a few hours in... wow. If I had realized it was going to be a weird book, I would have skipped it.

Brian Nishii has done other narrations that I like, and I followed his name to this book. However, it would have been better narrated by someone with a deeper voice. Nishii's thinner voice is in contrast to the deep and dark atmosphere of the book.

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Tragedies of a stutterer

Quite a story! That was a geat performance by the narrator. Kudos. The main character is so intolerable yet somewhat fascinating... Worth a listen.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Antti
  • 11-17-14

Rewarding Yet Demanding

”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.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Doyle
  • 10-23-18

Must Read!!!

highly recommend this book. complex, riveting and full of literary vitamins. feel like you grow an inch taller after reading it

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-05-22

Powerful, subtle and beautiful Japanese prose

Kinkaku-ji, or The Temple of the Golden Pavilion is a magnificent example of XXth century Japanese literature, a must for anyone interested in the mysterious country that is Japan, in its history and culture.
I do not want to disclose any spoilers, so I’ll just say that The Temple of the Golden Pavilion is primarily a study of the meaning and power of Beauty. Mishima’s masterpiece is a marvelous example of a first-person confessional narrative. I highly recommend that you listen to this book before taking a trip to Japan, and especially to Kyoto.
The audiobook is very well performed, too.

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  • DDD
  • 04-14-21

Inside the head of a nut job

This is the first Mishima book over read after hearing a lot about him in the past. This book reads like an insight into the mind of a killer. With every next step a dark feeling that something will go wrong. I enjoyed the story thinking back on it, but I remember not liking the narrative style. I felt the autobiographical nature of the book was a bit clunky at times and boring. I loved finding out it was based on a real story though.