Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Yukio Mishima—an essayist, poet, dramatist, and novelist—was a prolific writer. Although at times he purposely geared his writing for popular rather than critical success, his serious novels reflect such a range and expertise that he is generally considered the best Japanese novelist of his generation. Throughout his career, strong and original works indicate his importance: Kamen no kokuhaku (1949; Confessions of a Mask, 1958) brought critical attention to the young writer; The Temple of the Golden Pavilion secured his reputation abroad as well as in Japan; Hojo no umi (1969-1971; The Sea of Fertility: A Cycle of Four Novels, 1972-1974) demonstrated that Mishima died with his artistic abilities strong.

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion was both a popular and a critical success: Enormously popular, it was later adapted to film; critics often cite this work as Mishima’s best single novel. Although his novels vary greatly in style, a number of themes found in The Temple of the Golden Pavilion surface repeatedly in Mishima’s fiction. Several of his works are based on historic incidents. For example, both this novel and Mishima’s “Yukoku” (“Patriotism”) present an imaginative re-creation of an event prominent in the minds of his Japanese contemporaries. Whether dealing with the burning of a temple or an attempted coup in the military, both the novel and the short story reflect...

(The entire section is 444 words.)