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IN PRAISE OF SHADOWS BY TANIZAKI JUNICHIRO

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Introduction

"IN PRAISE OF SHADOWS" BY TANIZAKI JUNICHIRO Tanizaki Junichiro is one of the most known and famous writers in the modern Japanese literary tradition. The Japan he wrote about was Japan he created. The subject of his texts is a "desire", he explores it in many aspects: intellectual, artistic, emotional and sexual. His stories are filled with obsessions, fetishes, emotional abuse, lyrical nostalgia, and reverence for the elegance of tradition. Also Tanizaki is known both for the characters whom he gave some perversity images as well as his appreciation for the beauty of tradition. The essay "In Praise of Shadows" is the example that represents his aesthetic values, where he convinces the readers to understand and share the beauty of old-fashioned life of ancestors. Throughout his long-lasting career he created a lot of long and short fiction stories, cultural commentary, plays, film scripts and poetry. Tanizaki was the first Japanese writer who was considered for Nobel Prize. ...read more.

Middle

From the beginning the author determines his preferences to the Japanese architecture, and then he turns our attention to home decoration, gastronomy, discusses human beauty. He reviews harmonic coexistence of Japanese material world with Japanese mentality and values. His first vivid example of such a harmony is Japanese toilet. He found that a diming light in the toilet makes it "the most aesthetic" part in the Japanese homes. He assumes, "Anyone with a taste for traditional architecture must agree that Japanese toilet is perfection". He found that Japanese toilet combines it's utility with it being a place of "spiritual response". As for him it is a place for meditation, where "haiku poets over the ages have come by a great many of their ideas". The Westerners, he declares, have absolutely different perception of this place, consider "the toilet as utterly unclean and avoid even the mention of it in polite conversation". The shade is the part of whole Japanese culture that distinguish the whole nation from the Westerners. ...read more.

Conclusion

"From candle to oil lamp, oil lamp to gaslight, gaslight to electric light - his quest for a brighter light never ceased, he spares no pains to eradicate even the minutest shadow." Reviewing the western and oriental cultures Tanizaki concludes that there is nothing common in those two patterns of life, they have two different concepts how to develop the world, two different perceptions of comfort of living. The western life is aggressive and straightforward. The oriental life is conservative and passive. To his regret he predicts the soon end of these ancient tradition that his forefathers kept for generations. The invasion of the West with new rules and aesthetic forms is inevitable. He admits that Japan has lost this war with the West and must bravely follow ahead and "leave us old ones behind". But as for him, he didn't betray the "shadows" and remained the defender of the old tradition. "I do not ask that this be done everywhere, but perhaps we may be allowed at least one mansion where we can turn off the electric lights and see what it is like without them." ...read more.

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