The Temple of the Golden Pavillion, along with Forbidden Colours is one of the best known books by Yukio Mishima. The two things strangely that led me to Mishima's books were the Sakamoto/Sylvian single Forbidden Colours and Paul Schrader's film Mishima (1985). The latter includes a brilliant episode from the book, which shows us the impotent, stuttering student loner at the heart of this novel.
This was the first book of his I read, based on a true story that occurred in Kyoto in the 1950's it feels somewhere between Dostoyevsky's Crime & Punishment, Genet's A Thief's Journal or a more twisted Hemingway. These are only pointers, Mishima's voice is one that is deeply original- more so to the reader who is not that well versed in Japanese literature. Mishima takes the true story and crafts it around an existential-zen notion and explores the character of the Japanese male following the end of World War II. This book lays out many of the themes prevalent in the rest of Mishima's oeuvre- repressed homosexuality, violence, cruelty, tradition, honour, destruction etc. This book feels like part of a character that Mishima longed for and which may have been behind the semi-fascist actions committed before his own suicide. The best works to read of Mishima's after this are Confessions of a Mask, Forbidden Colours, Temple of Dawn and The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea.Despite many people objecting to Mishima, who is perceived as a fascist nutcase, his books are rich with some of the finest prose written in the 20th century. The reissue of The Temple of the Golden Pavillion is a welcome one.