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In Praise of Shadows (1933)

de Jun'ichirō Tanizaki

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2,032528,061 (3.94)49
'Were it not for shadows there would be no beauty.' In Praise of Shadows is an eloquent tribute to the austere beauty of traditional Japanese aesthetics. Through architecture, ceramics, theatre, food, women and even toilets, Tanizaki explains the essence of shadows and darkness, and how they are able to augment beauty. He laments the heavy electric lighting of the West and its introduction to Japan, and shows how the artificial, bright and polished aesthetic of the West contrasts unfavourably with the moody and natural light of the East. Dreamy, melancholic and mysterious, In Praise of Shadows is a haunting insight into a forgotten world.… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 52 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
I’m a sucker for rambling essays on obscure topics, so when I saw this book I knew I would like it. There’s something really appealing about “hanging out” with a gifted thinker while they flit from thought to thought, alighting on whatever catches their curiosity.
That’s what we have here in Tanizaki’s book. If you are reading this book for the right reasons, you’re here for the digressions, my favorite of which must be his breakdown of what makes a traditional Japanese bathroom superior to the Western style of sparking porcelain and white tile. Most striking was his quote of Soseki: “elegance is frigid” as support of why the bathroom should be cold and open to the outside- this in contrast to the warm dampness of the Western toilet. While not having given the issue much thought before, I must say I now see the toilets I’ve used my whole life for their over-lit, humid flaws.
As someone who has always considered himself a fan of Japanese aesthetics (despite what little I know) this book showed me that maybe I still have my western biases. Tanizaki’s descriptions of gloomy, paper walled rooms still dark at midday was not so appealing to me who values windows and sun, but I thought it an astute observation that “beauty necessarily must arise from the conditions of real life”. The Japanese people of yore had no better way of constructing their houses, so they had to adjust their design and aesthetics to suit the limitations of their everyday life. ( )
  hdeanfreemanjr | Jan 29, 2024 |
I'm currently reading The Power of Chowa, wherein Akemi mentions this book in passing.   When i read the name of the writer i was sure i had some of his books in my pile of books waiting to be read, and sure enough, one of those books was this one.

So i put aside The Power of Chowa for a while and gave this a read to fully understand the impression that Akemi was trying to give.

And wow, this is definitely one to put on the shelf next to The Book of Tea.   Both books have wonderful passages of ranting, but it's intelligent ranting fuelled by a genuine passion for something truly precious; and in between the passages of ranting one gets some wonderful, thought provoking passages of delightful, descriptive writing: this book is like a painting in words.

Written in the 1930's, concerning Japan's modernisation it's news to me to read how, even before WWII and the surrender to the USA, Japan's desire to ape American culture was already underway.   But, that aside, i do feel that Junichiro fails to appreciate that even in the west we have lost so many of our own shadows.   It seems that most of my life that here in Europe, we have been hell bent on illuminating everything to ridiculous levels, banishing all shadow wherever it may lurk.

The never ending pursuit of cleaning out the dirt and dust and any corners where it may lurk: banish the shadows for your own health's sake!   The continued insistence on ridiculous levels of cleanliness and sterility within and without our homes, which has lead to ever lower immune function and plenty of allergies along with it.

And it's not just the shadows, it's any semblance of quiet we will blast sound into.   Where now can we truly be quiet and stare into the night sky and see the stars as they truly are?   When was the last time you truly experienced the peaceful quite and shadows of the real world without modern technology to protect and coddle you?   Or are you one of the new people, ever terrified of what unknowns may be lurking there where you hear and see nothing but vague outlines and impressions?

I agree with Junichiro, we have lost something truly precious.

The only thing i would say about this book is that, for me at least, the "Afterword" would be better placed as a "Foreword".   I just feel that it would focus ones attention on certain things a lot more if they had been pointed out before hand instead of afterwards.   I will definitely be reading this again at some point before i die and when i do i will definitely read the "Afterword" first. ( )
  5t4n5 | Aug 9, 2023 |
Seems more like an essay about what it means to be Japanese in the face of Meiji-era Westernization, or even modernization in general. It's valuable, I think, to think about what "realities of life" led to the architectural or aesthetic choices in your culture, especially during a time of rapid change. It's a good snapshot of Japan in 1933, and it led me to consider what it's like to lose a world of deep cultural and historical import, years of "patina" on its surface that can be polished away without a second thought. Tanizaki seems to be looking to hold on to a past that's quickly becoming forgotten completely, like when he bemoans the excessive lighting that is now present everywhere that overheats rooms but no one seems to notice or care.

I liked the essay overall. At times it did ramble, but I don't fault it for that. It was a worthwhile read. ( )
  tarantula7 | Jul 12, 2023 |
No es que sea un mal libro, sino que mis expectativas no coincidieron con lo que está escrito. Lo que sí es que me hizo entender algunas apreciaciones estéticas de los japoneses que desconocía. ( )
  ESMP | Mar 7, 2023 |
Un breve ensayo que hará las delicias de todo aquel interesado en la cultura japonesa y en el arte en general. Tras la aparente sencillez de sus páginas, Tanizaki desgrana su pensamiento estético y desvela, en una brillante y continua línea de ejemplos, un mundo misterioso, quizá desaparecido, al cual podemos acceder como fuente de inspiración para crear un mundo estético propio. Es el mundo de la sombra, en el cual la experiencia más nimia o el acto más banal puede ser sublime.

El elogio de la sombra es un alegato a favor de un arte y una sociedad –la japonesa- que pone en valor la penumbra, el matiz, lo sutil, esos aspectos que enriquecen y dan interés a las cosas, frente a la obviedad occidental provocada por el exceso de luz, la modernización imparable y la practicidad, que al hacer las cosas tan obvias las convierte en estridentes.
  AFOM2023 | Feb 19, 2023 |
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» Adicionar outros autores (22 possíveis)

Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
Jun'ichirō Tanizakiautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Calvo Serraller, FranciscoPrefácioautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Calza, Gian Carloautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Dean, SuzanneDesigner da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Escobar, JúliaTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Gotoda, LeikoTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Harper, Thomas J.Tradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Harper, Thomas J.Posfácioautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Moore, Charles WillardPrefácioautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Nolla, AlbertTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Preljocaj, AngelinNarradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Ricca Suga, AtsukoTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Rintoul, DavidNarradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Seidensticker, Edward G.Tradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado

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Such is our way of thinking – we find beauty not in the thing itself, but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates.
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'Were it not for shadows there would be no beauty.' In Praise of Shadows is an eloquent tribute to the austere beauty of traditional Japanese aesthetics. Through architecture, ceramics, theatre, food, women and even toilets, Tanizaki explains the essence of shadows and darkness, and how they are able to augment beauty. He laments the heavy electric lighting of the West and its introduction to Japan, and shows how the artificial, bright and polished aesthetic of the West contrasts unfavourably with the moody and natural light of the East. Dreamy, melancholic and mysterious, In Praise of Shadows is a haunting insight into a forgotten world.

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