[It struck me that Mizoguchi, the main character of Yukio Mishima’s The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, is a sort of Japanese Holden Caulfield.  He is a classic example of the sociopath/narcissist.  The world evolves around him alone.  He’s not likable and he knows it.  He wants to destroy things before they can destroy him.  He wants to force his persona on the world rather than seek harmony with it.

***An aside:  Of course, if you think about it, the world does evolve around each of us.  Our existence is entirely filtered through our own lens, how can it not be?  When we cease to exist, doesn’t everything cease to exist?   Personally, I don’t think of my existence as being particularly important.  I don’t feel the need to force myself into circumstances.  I generally choose the middle, bending with the wind, responding to outer turmoil by seeking inner tranquility.  That’s the goal anyway***

I admit that I read this book because I found the author’s life to be fascinating. That said, this is no less an interesting book.  It is challenging because this character thinks way too much for his own good.  But Mishima is a masterful writer and he appears to have broken new ground with a character who is completely individualistic in a culture that was/is extremely societal.  jbm  8/6/2017]

“My outer appearance was poor, but in this way my inner world became richer than anyone else’s.”

“Pride must be a lighter thing, more cheerful, easier to see, more brilliant.  I wanted something visible.  I wanted my pride to be something that could be seen by anyone.  For instance, the sword that he wore hanging from his waist was clearly such a thing.”

“I was inferior.  In other words, I was too proud to be an artist.  My dream of being a tyrant or a great artist never went beyond the stage of being a dream, and I did not have the slightest feeling of wanting to accomplish something by actually putting my hands to it.”

“Something had bestowed reality on all this without waiting for my participation; and this great, meaningless, utterly dark reality was given to me, was pressed on me, with a weight that I had until then never witnessed.”

“Other people must all be destroyed.  In order that I might truly face the sun, the world itself must be destroyed…”

“If she had moved her eyes or her mouth even a little, the world, which she was striving to reject, would have taken this as a signal to come surging into her.”

“I could not help thinking that never again would there come a time either in Uiko’s life or in the life of myself, the onlooker, when her face would be as beautiful as it was at this instant.”

“Her treachery was the same as the stars and the moon and the pointed cedars.  In other words, she was living in the same world as we, the witnesses; and she was accepting the nature that surrounded us all.  She was walking up those steps as our representative. And I could not help thinking breathlessly:  “By her betrayal she has at last accepted me too.  Now she belongs to me!”

“From that point on, she no longer rejected the world in its entirety.  Nor did she entirely accept it.  She surrendered herself to the order of mere passion; she lowered herself to the rank of a woman who has given herself over to one man alone.”

“It is no exaggeration to say that the first real problem I faced in my life was that of beauty.”

“Although I was still so young, I was conscious, under my ugly, stubborn forehead, that the world of death which my father ruled and world of life occupied by young people were being brought together by the mediation of war.”

“Observing this perfect little image of the Golden Temple within the great temple itself, I was reminded of the endless series of correspondences that arise when a small universe is placed in a large universe and a smaller one in turn placed inside the small universe.”

“My life as an acolyte passed smoothly and, as I think back on it, I feel that this was the last absolute holiday in my life.  I can still vividly hear the cry of the cicada.”

“Please let me see the real Golden Temple more clearly than I see the image of you in my mind.  And furthermore, if you are indeed so beautiful that nothing in this world can compare with you, please tell me why you are so beautiful, why it is necessary for you to be beautiful.”

“The Golden Temple stood on this same edge, faced us, talked to us.  To this extent had the expectation of air raids brought us and the temple closer together.”

“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.”

“What I dreamed of was something like a huge heavenly compressor that would bring down disasters, cataclysms and superhuman tragedies, that would crush beneath it all human beings and all objects, irrespective of their ugliness or their beauty.”

“What I learned from this amazing process was that so far as feelings were concerned, there was no discrepancy between the very finest feeling in this world and the very worst; that their effect was the same; that no visible difference existed between murderous intent and feelings of deep compassion.”

“Why does there seem to be something inhuman about regarding human beings like roses and refusing to make any distinction between the inside of their bodies and the outside?”

“His future was so concealed that he was burning.  The wick of his future was floating in cool, clear oil.  Who in this world was obliged to foresee his own innocence and purity? That is, if only innocence and purity remained for him in the future.”

“But when I felt myself bathed in the snow as it descended mildly from the sky without any interruption, I forgot the kinks in my heart and seemed to return to some more gentle spiritual rhythm, as if I were being bathed in music.”

“For my deed had settled like gold dust within my memory and had begun to give off a glittering light that constantly pierced my eyes.  The glitter of evil.  Yes, that was it.  It may have been a very minor evil, but I was now endowed with the vivid consciousness that I had in fact committed evil.  This consciousness hung like some decoration on the inside of my breast.”

“His most striking characteristic was that he had two rather powerful-looking clubfeet…His walk was a sort of exaggerated dance, utterly lacking in anything commonplace…I was relieved at the sight of his deformity.  From the outset his clubfeet signified agreement with the condition in which I found myself.”

“Cripples and lovely women are both tired of being looked at, they are weary of an existence that involves constantly being observed, they feel hemmed in; and they return the gaze by means of that very existence itself.  The one who really looks is the one who wins.”

“He was a shadow that asserted itself, or rather, he was the existent shadow itself.  Certain it was that the sun could never penetrate that hard skin of his.”

“I realized that the two types of courage – the courage to judge reality exactly as it was, and the courage to fight that judgment – could very easily be reconciled with each other. Without stirring, I could easily get the feeling that I was fighting.”

“She couldn’t bear the idea of putting her own pride on the scales against the conceit of some self confident young man.  She had the chance of numerous so-called good matches, but the better they were, the more she disliked them.  In the end, she fastidiously rejected any love that involved some form of balance – on this point she was completely faithful – and set her eyes on me.”

“The special quality of hell is to see everything clearly down to the last detail.  And to see all that in the pitch darkness!”

“Missing class like this had a feel about it like a new shirt against one’s skin; the surrounding sunlight and the slight breeze impressed this feel on me.”

“The life that he had suggested to me was, in short, a dangerous burlesque with which one tried to smash the reality that had deceived one by means of an unknown disguise, and with which one cleaned the world so that it might never again contain anything unknown.”

“I had already long since recognized that I, who in my middle-school days had deliberately scratched the scabbard of my schoolmate’s sword, was not qualified to enter life through its bright surface.”

“I was there alone, and the Golden Temple – the absolute, positive Golden Temple – had enveloped me.  Did I possess the temple, or was I possessed by it?  Or would it not be more correct to say that a strange balance had come into being at that moment, a balance which would allow me to be the Golden Temple and the Golden Temple to be me?”

“Nothing is so similar to life as music…”

“Beauty arrives late for me.  Other people perceive beauty quickly, and discover beauty and sensual desire at the same moment; for me it always comes far later.”

“Then in a tone that was almost like a curse I addressed the Golden Temple roughly for the first time in my life:  “One day I shall surely rule you.  Yes, one day I shall bring you under my sway, so that never again will you be able to get in my way.”

“The third-class carriage was not very crowded.  There they sat – the people who were so hard to love – busily puffing away at their cigarettes or peeling tangerines.”

“Mortal things like human beings cannot be eradicated;  indestructible things like the Golden Temple can be destroyed.  Why had no one realized this?”

“It made me happy to think that these people were completely unaware that the young man who sat there next to them, warming his hands over the brazier with an unconcerned look, was a prospective criminal.”

“Anything can become excusable when seen from the standpoint of the result.”

“Knowledge alone is capable of transforming the world, while at the same time leaving it exactly as it is.”

“After I had taken off my clothes, many more layers were taken off me – my stuttering was taken off and also my ugliness and my poverty.”

“I knew that however much my spirit might be enlivened, my stomach and my intestines – those dull, stolid organs lodged within my body – would insist on having their own way and would start dreaming some banal dream of everyday life.”


copyright 1959 Alfred A. Knopf, renewed 1987
translated from the Japanese by Ivan Morris
author bio:  https://www.britannica.com/biography/Yukio-Mishima
photo:   Yukio Mishima in New York, 1964. Photograph: Carlo Bavagnoli/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image