Review: Renaissance in Japan.

“…it is, indeed, the art of ellipsis, or of suggestion,–the incredible technique of impressing the inexpressible by non-expression of an impression.”

Renaissance in Japan: A Cultural Survey of the Seventeenth Century, Japan’s Literary Giants: Basho, Saikaku, Chikamatsu” by Kenneth P. Kirkwood

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a bibliophile. I can’t borrow books, because I only want to keep them and never give them back. And I’m a huge fan of finding random old books in thrift stores or book carts and taking them home with me. Renaissance in Japan is one of those books, a “cultural survey” did back in 1970 that I found in some random old shop for just two bucks. More than likely, I was probably in my big Nipponophile phase, which never has completely gone away, but has easily been trumped by Chinese history and adoration of all things late Nineteenth Century. Either way, I definitely wanted this book, and I finally got around to reading about it.

It was great to read about art movements in the world that, really, I knew very little about. What I found to be the most fascinating aspect of Kirkwood’s look at Japanese literature in the 17th century were the parallels he drew between what was going on in Europe at the same time. It’s something I’ve never given much thought, especially since, while Europe was exploring and creating empires, Japan was closing in on itself and wanting nothing to do with all of that business. Yet, trends in poetry and novels and the theater seemed to surface in both places at relatively the same time. Very interesting, something I’d love to try to dissect if I should ever have enough time. I was also really interested in the fact that, this is an older book, and it’s always interesting to get a perspective from a different time, as well. I found Kirkwood’s approach to be pleasantly unbiased and professional.

Either way, Renaissance in Japan is a great look at three very powerful and influential writers who influenced a great deal of Japan’s culture as they moved toward modernity. Definitely check it out if you’re feeling particularly scholarly.

Books read: 007/100.


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