This is an essay on aesthetics by one of the greatest Japanese novelists. The text ranges over architecture, jade, food, toilets, and combines an acute sense of the use of space in buildings, as well as perfect descriptions of lacquerware under candlelight and women in the darkness of the house of pleasure. The essay forms a classic description of the collision between the shadows of traditional Japanese interiors and the dazzling light of the modern age.
About the Author
Junichiro Tanizaki was born in 1886 in Tokyo, where his family owned a printing establishment. He studied Japanese literature at Tokyo Imperial University, and his first published work, a one-act play, appeared in 1910 in a literary magazine he helped to found.Tanizaki lived in the cosmopolitan Tokyo area until the earthquake of 1923, when he moved to the gentler and more cultivated Kyoto-Osaka region, the scene of The Makioka Sisters. There he became absorbed in the Japanese past and abandoned his superficial Westernisation. All his most important works were written after 1923, among them Naomi (1924), Some Prefer Nettles (1929), Arrowroot (1931), Ashikari (1932), A Portrait of Shunkin (1932), The Secret History Of The Lord Of Musashi (1935), several modern versions of The Tale of Genji (1941, 1954 and 1965), The Makioka Sisters, Captain Shigemoto's Mother (1949), The Key (1956) and Diary Of A Mad Old Man(1961). By 1930 he had gained such renown that an edition of his complete works was published, and he was awarded an Imperial Award for Cultural Merit in 1949. In 1965 he was elected an honorary member of the American Academy and the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the first Japanese to receive this honour. Tanizaki died in 1965.
In Praise of Shadows laments the fading of traditional Japanese culture in the electric glare of Westernization. Tanizaki is at times funny (he celebrates outdoor toilets), aggravating (he meanders) and overwhelmingly lyrical (his descriptions of lacquerware in candlelight are feted). This remains relevant and important, making us re-evaluate ourselves. review by JOSIE BARNARD. Editor's note: Josie Barnard's is the author of Poker Face. (Kirkus UK)
Series: Vintage classics
Number Of Pages: 80
Published: 3rd May 2001
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 19.9 x 13.0 x 0.7
Weight (kg): 0.06
Edition Number: 1