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Publisher's Summary

"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 unfavorably 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.

The popular translation by Thomas J. Harper and Edward G. Seidensticker is essential listening for anyone interested in Japan and Japanese culture.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©1977 Leete’s Island Books, Inc. (P)2017 Naxos AudioBooks

What listeners say about In Praise of Shadows

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Charming

A lovely listen, spoken well by the narrator. Really enjoyed the discussion around old and new and different cultures values on light amongst other things!

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  • Mary
  • 26-05-2018

An interesting pov

I was recommended this book by my Japanese teacher. He told me that it was a perfect example of how Japan (or the generality of it) saw the western world. I can say that I somewhat agree with the author. While it is not an analysis on the western world itself but on the USA specifically, it is a good in-depth pondering on how much damage does the USA inflict on all the societies it comes in contact with. Then again, I am tired and maybe I am rambling. Regardless, I do recommend it

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  • Anonymous User
  • 25-03-2018

How to listen

Listen to story at X75 to get the full effect of the story. Any faster you’ll miss the important key points.

3 people found this helpful

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  • T. Prizer
  • 07-11-2017

Powerful evocation of materiality and its aura

In Praise of Shadows is as powerful an evocation of materiality's mysterious aura as anything ever composed. In breathtaking prose, Junichiro Tanizaki articulates the vital role of shadows (or the lack of direct light) not only in Japan's traditionally austere architectural design, but indeed in the long history of the Orient itself. He beautifully unpacks the power of shadows to render even the most everyday utensils and objects enchanting. Running throughout his essay is a dialogue of West vs. East -- of the harsh luminescence of Western lighting versus the warm embrace of the East's sparse use of light. This is essential reading not simply for those interested in Japanese culture and history, but rather for all who wish to further explore the power and agency of the material world. Sheer brilliance.

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  • João Pedro Loes
  • 01-06-2021

nice enough

Very good descriptions but a certain arrogance in it's description of the west, as if it was one big homogeneous continent were everything was the same.

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  • Elmira Cancelada
  • 22-09-2018

Sophisticated intro into Japanese aesthetics

The Japanese art and design had and still has a huge influence on world. This short superbly written book explains where the Japanese aesthetics in architecture, music, theater, clothing, food has its roots. The answer might surprise you, but now I remember the dark lacquered Japanese bowls with subtle designs or golden flecks and their look makes sense.

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  • JJ
  • 10-09-2021

Exquisite meditation on traditional Japanese aesthetics

The opening paragraphs of this literary gem seem very pedestrian - a querulous old man complaining about the difficulty and expense of incorporating Western mod cons into a traditional Japanese house. Tanizaki laments the proliferation of American taste (bright electric lighting, tiled bathrooms, Western clothes) Complaints lead on to a meditation of what Tanizaki feels is at the root of traditional Japanese aesthetics - an appreciation of beauty created from (and dependent on) shadows and darkness. Tanizaki’s masterful prose makes accessible an aesthetic that seems impossibly distant from Western concerns. My favourite passage is his eulogy to traditional ideals of female beauty, dimly remembered from his own childhood. His description of a woman’s pale face, floating in the darkness, her teeth painted black and her lips a bright, elfin green, conjures an image of strange and yet profound beauty.

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  • Dylan E.
  • 26-11-2018

outdated, racist and sexist views and comments.

interesting insight into Japanese culture, but hard to listen to with the way the writer talks about race and objectifies women. particularly the innapropriate use of certain words and stereotyping black and Jewish people

3 people found this helpful

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