Monday, March 30, 2009

Bunraku


I realized that on this blog, my fascination for Russia and Iran has overshadowed another culture I am in love with, Japan's...
When I was living in Hong-Kong as a teenager, my mum traveled to Japan and brought back in her luggage many Japanese treasures; even the simplest things were exquisite, and even the most precious items, such as lacquer trays, were simple yet refined. She also brought back many Japanese novels, and I delved with delight into the works of of Kawabata, Kenzaburo Oe, Kobo Abe (a genius!), Ibuse, Inue, Soseki Natsume, Tanizaki and more. Years later, when I was 21, I spent a summer in Japan that I remember as a dazzling and intense experience.
Last week an article in The New Yorker made me want to read more about Bunraku - an ancient type of puppetry.
I got this book by the great Japanese scholar Donald Keene...

New to Japanese literature? Start with a novel with Kawabata, before graduating to Tanizaki's weighty Makioka Sisters, preferably in the translation by Edward G. Seidensticker.
Another wonderful way to delve into Japanese history and culture is Kimono: Fashioning Culture, by Liza Crihfield Dalby.

24 comments:

A World in a PAN said...

Good morning! Your blog is my morning delight when I wake up early here in Paris.
We share a fascination for Japanese culture, don't we?
I am also glad to have introduced you to Japanese literature - as I had done earlier with Russian literature putting in your hands Ana Karenina when you were 12 years old!

J Elaine said...

Always fascinating to glimpse into your world. Thank you for sharing, dear Marie-Laure.

Anonymous said...

yes i too have an absolute fascination for japan!!

unfortuntely have not read any japanese authors...but do love japanese cinema..especially these three directors:

Kitano Takeshi
Kurosawa Akira
Ozu Yasujiro

but i will take your advice about what authors and books to begin with....

merci encore! always a sense of wealth with you!
nancyxx

Roxana said...

I am delighted to share this fascination with you! if anybody is interested, I can recommend these two wonderful films based on bunraku tradition, and containing bunraku elements (that is, bunraku puppets appear in the film and people are ambiguously portrayed as puppets): Double Suicide by Masahiro Shinoda and Dolls by Takeshi Kitano. both stunning, have you seen them?

Mary-Laure said...

WORLD.... - oh but you also introduced me to SO MUCH more, like the music of Shostakovitch and Debussy etc.

NANCY - I love those directors too, and saw several films by Kitano, always so original and crazy.

ROXANA - I heard a lot about Dolls, but haven't seen it. I'd love to discover both movies you mention, thank you so much for the tips!

Diana said...

i would love to go to japan as well! i love your recommendations and i will check them out. happy birthday to your mom :)

Hadley Gets Crafty said...

I loved Japan so very much, especially Tokyo. I very much want to experience the rural areas, too. I'm glad for your little starter kit! I'm ashamed to say that I went to the country knowing next to nothing, aside from what I'd learned in my East Asian Religions classes.

Oh, the gardens! Yes? I was lucky enough to see the tail end of a gorgeous Shinto wedding in one of the public parks. It was one of the most beautiful man-made sights I've ever been privy to.

Mary-Laure said...

DIANA - wow, how do you know it's my mum's birthday!?

HADLEY - I agree with you, the gardens were just breathtaking, especially in Kyoto. Such perfect and peaceful beauty.

Les Cotrions said...

Thank you for your nice comment! Your blog is very fashinating! I like the mix of cultures and interests I can breath on it!
I'd like to visit Japan too!
Ciao
Vale

Debra said...

I travel vicariously through you to some of these spots.
Thank you for your sweet comment.

Anonymous said...

"Bunraku," is another world you are introducing me to. It looks so gorgeous and I will be noticing more because of you.

Mary-Laure said...

LES COTRIONS - I agree with you; for me, discovering other cultures is a wonderful process, endlessly fascinating.

DEBRA - blogs are great to travel vicariously, aren't they?

ANONYMOUS - yes, it's a beautiful word. I wish I could have posted it in Japanese writing.

Mervat said...

Your post reminds me of a memorable novel I read a couple of years ago: Memoires of a Geisha. I loved the book so much I dare not watch the movie for fear it will dissapoint me.

jane said...

Hi! Thanks for visiting! Your blog is amazing- so much info. I´ll be back often. Cheers!

mothersvea said...

thanks for the tips,I find Japan a very fascinating country and I hope to go there in the near future!

Bonbon Oiseau said...

ooo-it's been too long since I've been here and am so glad I came when i did! very interesting--i am looking for some new inspiration from Japan!

Mary-Laure said...

MERVAT - I haven't read the book, but I know what you mean... I'm always afraid movies will disappoint me when they're adapted from books I like.

BONBON - I am sure Japan could be a great inspiration for your wonderful jewelry!

Windy Days said...

I love Japan too, it seems a place of endless fascinations!
I've only read contemporary writers such as Murakami and Banana Yoshitomo though I'll certainly check out some of these writers!

Winnie said...

I too am a huge fan of Japan. For me it comes from growing up with Japanese anime and also later on, the language. The BBC had some pretty good documentaries on Japan very recently though it did make me wonder what it would be like to have a Japanese view rather than a 'western view'

Author wise, I am a huge Haruki Murakami fan.

Mary-Laure said...

WINDY and WINNIE - I'd like to read Murakami too - any suggestions?

As for Yoshimoto Banana, I am VERY proud that I read one of her books in Japanese!!

karina Manghi said...

My son recommended me a book by Kawabata last summer,I had never read any Japanese author and now I want to read and know more and more.

michiko said...

I've really been interested in Bunraku and Noh play lately, and wanting to know more about them. I always felt it's a shame Japanese people these days do not take any interest in traditional japanese things, when I tell my friends that I'm interested in japanese art, crafts, bunraku, noh play and other, they usually get very impressed lol Isn't this strange? lol

Mary-Laure said...

MICHIKO - actually, at the end of the book, the author says he is worried about the future of Bunraku because of its declining popularity.
Japan MUST keep its wonderful arts alive. Fortunately, many foreigners have also taken an interest in many Japanese arts and crafts, like ikebana, so hopefully the Japanese will catch on.
Whenever there's a Kabuki performance in Paris, I know it just sells out and is a great success.

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