Title: In Praise of Shadows Author: Jun’ichirō Tanizaki
Translated from the Japanese by Thomas J. Harper and Edward G. Seidensticker Publisher: Vintage Classics
Genre: Nonfiction, Design
Source: Personal Copy
I have always wanted to read this book, and #JanuaryinJapan made me get to it sooner than later. I must say though that I loved it through and through, no matter how outdated some of the ideas may seem in today’s time and age.
Tanizaki’s book is about shadows and light when it comes to Japanese architecture or the layout of a home, but it is so much more than that as well. It is about how we approach darkness and the significance we give to light. Tanizaki appreciates shadows and the role they play not only in aesthetically but also in our lives and what they say about us as people.
It is about how shadows are all-pervasive in our ordinary lives and thereby then extending to the ordinariness of living and what encompasses it. When Tanizaki speaks of woodwork, sliding doors, walls and the projection of shadows on them, Japanese houses, the traditional restaurants, candle lights, and Japanese toilets, it all fits beautifully and merges with the reality of living, where harshness of light is preferred to the understated beauty of darkness.
Japanese aesthetic got me then thinking of how we also live our lives – more tuned to Western aesthetics than the Oriental and perhaps that leads to more restlessness and anxiety. Like I said, the book does seem outdated when it comes to some concepts of space and light and shadow but overall, it is a wonderful primer on not just design but also on how to live in the modern age.
Books and Authors mentioned in In Praise of Shadows:
- Natsume Sōseki
- Saito Ryoku
- Takebayashi Musôan
- Pillow of Grass by Nastume Sōseki
- Some Prefer Nettles
- The Makioka Sisters
- The Key
- Diary of a Mad Old Man
- The Mother of Captain Shigemoto
- Seven Japanese Tales by Howard and Hibbett
- The Tale of Genji
- Susan Sontag