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In Praise of Shadows

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  3,226 ratings  ·  241 reviews
An essay on aesthetics by the Japanese novelist, this book explores architecture, jade, food, and even toilets, combining an acute sense of the use of space in buildings. The book also includes descriptions of laquerware under candlelight and women in the darkness of the house of pleasure.
Paperback, 48 pages
Published December 1st 1977 by Leete'S Island Books (first published 1933)
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“We find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates.”

** Kage-e illustrations - Japanese shadow art from the Edo period (woodblock print)

Have you ever stomped on your shadow, trying to hold its torso with your feet? The subtle chase between you and the devious shadow; toughening with every stomp on the dried grey asphalt while queries of whether you have lost your marbles looming in the humid air. Deer pranc

The quality that we call beauty ... must always grow from the realities of life.

In Praise of Shadows,
written by the well known Japanese novelist Tanizaki Jun'ichirō (1886-1965) in 1933, is a particularly charming and discursive rumination on the differences between Japanese (indeed, East Asian) and occidental aesthetics (among other matters). It is also an illustration of the differences between the Japanese tradition of zuihitsu ("to follow the brush"), of which In Praise of Shadows is a most
In Praise of Shadows is an essay on beauty. It is less of a meditation but more of an unfocused sequence of thoughts. Tanizaki talks about wooden furniture, subdued lighting, lacquer-work, Noh plays, and the pleasure of taking good shits.

Tanizaki prefers obscure and hidden things to those directly revealed. He likes rural things, shadowy things, dirty things. He's not exactly a crusty reactionary here, but someone who wants to return something lost, obscure and concealed.

Tanizaki, a product of
Mar 27, 2009 Brian rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Micha and Desi
Shelves: read-2009, asian
In the west people tend to emphasize light in their environment... big windows, skylights. Shiny, gleaming surfaces are important and appear clean and fresh. Tanizaki wrote this short book to explain the importance of shadow and darkness in oriental culture... shadows that have been chased away with the welcomed technology of the west.

This is an essay on the aesthetics of shadows, on some of the differences between the west and the east. Tanizaki's text flows from one topic to another almost dre
مروان البلوشي

لعل هاروكي موراكامي، وياسوناري كاواباتا، ويوكيو ميشيما هم أشهر أدباء اليابان في العالم العربي. ولكن الفرصة لم تسنح للقارئ العربي للتعرف على جانيتشيرو تانيزاكي وهو روائي ياباني لا يقل في مكانته أو مستواه عن الآخرين. بل إن الكثيرين من عشاق وخبراء الأدب الياباني يختارون روايته "الأخوات ماكيوكا" كأفضل رواية يابانية في القرن العشرين.

أما الكتاب الذي بين ايدينا والمعنون بـ"مديح الظل" فهو عبارة عن مقال مطول (48 صفحة) كتبه تانيزاكي عن موضوع أثار اهتمامه لفترة طويلة وهو: الفارق بين مفهوم الجمال عند اليابا
Mamdouh Abdullah

بعد الحرب العالمية الثانية، حين تغيرت طبيعة نظام الأعمال في اليابان وحدث تغير حقيقي في مجالات عديدة من مجالات الحياة، حدث نوع من الفقد لا يمكن تعويضه. على الرغم من أن الأشياء التي فقدت بسبب التطور الحضاري، حل محلها أشياء أفضل منها وأكثر كفاءة في العمل والحركة والنقل إلا أن الآثار البسيطة، أو التفاصيل البسيطة التي كانت تحمل غنى روحي وثقافي، بل وجمالي لا يمكن أن تعوض. في مقالة مديح الظل للروائي الياباني جونيتشيرو تانازاكي يتساءل الكاتب حول الانتاج الحضاري لكل دولة من الدول، أو الشرق والغرب. إذا ان
The quality that we call beauty must always grow from the realities of life, and our ancestors, forced to live in dark rooms, presently came to discover beauty in shadows, ultimately to guide shadows towards beauty's ends

(If you don't have time to read the whole of my review, go ahead and skip the next two paragraphs)

There is a practice essay prompt in the US College Board's guide to the SAT book that goes something like "Do changes that make our lives easier always make them better?". This is o
If Tanizaki had written this book from a Westerner's perspective, the essay would be regarded as retrograde and pessimistically nostalgic. To be sure, only a highly-evolved culture is capable of a reciprocal relationship between production and appreciation. A wholesale dismissal of progress, however, is no way to get there. Tanizaki's rejectionist attitude is a perfect one to adopt if you're interested in sabotaging your potentially sensitive, agreeable, harmonic future.
I always like a book that changes the way I see the world. As a Westerner who likes LIGHT more LIGHT, this praise of shadows, the dusky atmosphere of the past and architecture which protects and conceals, where mystery is held, reborn, is a peripheral vision of existence I'd never imagined. It's been a year or so since I read it--but I still recall his image of enamelwork which is garish and awful in broad daylight, but has incredible beauty and charm in low light--which is not a defect, as we w ...more
A beautiful little essay that I certainly enjoyed more than I thought I would. I tend to shy away from non-fiction works as a result of their normally dryness in nature, although I found this to be intriguing and of sufficient length that I can feel that I took something from it without having to rummage through hundreds of pages.

Pretty much Tanizaki outlays the differences in culture between the East and West on darkness, with a focus on shadows. From the designs of temples and how the architec
This book sensitized me to light how different cultures use light. In Japanese architecture, natural light is always filtered, indirect and moody. In western architecture, sunlight is highly valued; light is usually more direct. Shadows are chased away.

I always think of this book when I eat miso soup. Miso soup is very unappetizing in bright light. It is meant to be served in a dark bowl and eaten in low light; then one can appreciate its cloudy substance.

Mar 19, 2014 Andrew added it
Shelves: arts-nonfiction
For those of you who haven't read Tanizaki's novels, you're missing out. They're absolute revelations, and perfect for anyone trying to understand the divide between the "modern" and the "traditional." Despite their very Japanese contexts, the stories they tell are as close to universal as can possibly be.

And this slender text falls very much within their vein. It's not only intriguing and persuasive, but beautifully written. Even for someone who thinks a lot about how things look and why they l

''Un amante de la arquitectura que quiera construirse en la actualidad una casa en el más puro estilo japonés tendrá que prepararse a sufrir numerosos sinsabores con la instalación de la electricidad, el gas y el agua...''

De esta curiosa forma comienza El elogio de la sombra (1933), un pequeño pero importante ensayo clásico sobre estética en el que Tanizaki sirve de vocero de la identidad artística japonesa y, reivindicándola, se desmarca de Occidente. Si
Emeraldia Ayakashi
A cocktail of sleeping beauties , sighs metaphysical and pristine landscapes. A writer haunted by female beauty , by the whiteness of the body but also the dark impulses that habit them.

A culture which, in the eyes of Tanizaki , is not that clarity - too dazzling , so misleading - but the shadow of dusk, the lamps go out, the impalpable lightness. With secret codes that you can read that through the dance of a reed in the wind , the rustling of tea in china, shake the brush that paints a ideogra
In Praise of Shadows is an essay written in 1933-4 by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki. He covers quite a few topics, almost all comparing Oriental values with those of the Westerners. I think the main point he tries to convey is that while Westerners favor sunlight, brightness, cleanliness, and shine, in his own words, people from Japan and China “prefer a pensive luster to a shallow brilliance, a murky light that, whether in a stone or an artifact, bespeaks a sheen of antiquity.”

The most enjoyable topic Ta
This little book discusses the beauty of darkness, and I don't know if I enjoyed it or not. I mean, it wasn't the parts where he described the darkness eloquently and beautifully that annoyed me, it was everything else. 97 % of the book was made up of western criticism and phrases like "white people piss me off because they always wanna use white walls and white lights to annihilate the shadows." I found many parts of the book to be unnecessary and boring.

I suppose it's not my cup of tea. I lov
ضيف فهد
هناك أفكار تخطف في هذا الكتاب .. أفكار لا يتم الحديث عنها بشكل مطول .. لكنك تتوقف أمامها مطولا .. و تستمر معك لأيام .. كتاب لا يمكن أن( تتلفه ) من خلال الإنتهاء منه في جلسة قرائية واحدة .. رغم حجمه الصغير و المحرض على مثل هذا الفعل المشين : ) ... هنا مثال على ما أقصده بتلك الأفكار الخاطفة ( خاطفة من السرعة .. و النهب أيضا ) .. : إلى أي حد يمكن أن تكون مختلفة مجتمعاتنا اليوم لو أبدع الشرق و الغرب ، كل على حدة ، و بشكل مستقل حضارات علمية مختلفة .. لو سلكنا بخصوص الاكتشافات العلمية اتجاهات أصيلة لك ...more
Wonderfully written essay or rather stream of consciousness from Tanizaki. I particularly love his insight here: "The quality that we call beauty, however, must always grow from the realities of life, and our ancestors, forced to live in dark rooms, presently came to discover beauty in shadows, ultimately to guide shadow's to beauty's end". This essay was written about 80 years ago and our idea of beauty, now, is so far removed from the reality of what we actually look like and how we live. We c ...more
"Western paper turns away the light, while our paper seems to take it in".
I dislike steel. I dislike concrete. I hate loud and frigid architecture. I love minimalism, but most archtitects today seem to relate minimalism in architecture with frigidity and numbness, even though the two should not be associated. I prefer the beautiful crispness of paper over glass, the liveliness of wood over the chilliness of concrete, subdued lighting over harsh, white light...and so on...

this is the first book on architecture I read, which is funny because I major in architecture. It'
على مدى 55 صفحة، يأخذنا هذا الكاتب الياباني الذي توفي عام 1965، إلى ما يبدو فعلاً أشبه بقصيدة مديح للظل ـ كما هو عنوان الكتاب ـ تسيطر عليه فكرة استهجان تقليد اليابان للغرب في وسائل التكنولوجيا التي كانت تتمثل في ملمحها الأبرز ـ في الزمن المعاصر لهذا الكتاب ـ في الانتشار الواسع للتيار الكهربائي ومظهره الأكثر تجلياً الذي هو الإضاءة. يناقش جونيشيرو تانيزاكي موضوعات المقابلة بين النور الزائد والظل الذي يبرز جماليات الأشياء، في كل من العمارة الخارجية ومواد البناء، والديكور الداخلي المتلازم مع وظيفة ا ...more
"I have written all this because I have thought that there might still be somewhere, possibly in literature or the arts, where something could be saved. I would call back at least for literature this world of shadows we are losing."
Ya dice Rudyard Kipling, en su libro de viajes, que al partir de Japón había tenido la sensación de haber conocido la civilización. Salvo en el trato a la mujer; digo yo.
Phát Lạc
đôi khi tôi tự thấy thật là may mắn khi phương Tây đã đi đầu trong công nghệ. Chẳng hạn khi họ thiết kế hàng ghế economy class trên máy bay theo chuẩn người Âu 100 năm trước, người lùn châu Á chúng ta hưởng lợi biết bao nhiêu. Tôi ko dám tưởng tượng cái chỗ ngồi máy bay sẽ như thế nào nếu như người Việt thống trị kỹ nghệ hàng không.

Tự nguyện nhiệt thành như Nhật hay bị ép buộc chẳng đặng đừng như phần còn lại, Đông phương đã đi theo Tây phương. Ngoài những lợi ích hiển nhiên, chúng ta cũng mất r
Gertrude & Victoria
Adherents of the Japanese tradition, especially those with a special interest in the arts, will praise In Praise of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizaki, a leading figure and exponent of Japanese literature.

Tanizaki expatiates on the beauty and uniqueness of "the Japanese way" with humor and intelligence. He compares Western notions and practices to his natives ones. He covers a wide and diverse range of topics, from lighting to toilets, from soups to skin color and texture, from precious stones to gho
Dec 21, 2008 Roshelle rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: designers and otherwise curious people
This book really sensitized me ways cultural values feed into our sense of space and how, in turn, we view these spaces and the products that come out of them. Tanizaki is mourning the loss of Japanese national sensibilities with regard to aesthetics; including the shadows embraced by their architectural and theatrical design.

He attributes the differences to a Japanese national character, being that ‘The quality that we call beauty…must always grow from the realities of life.’ He says the Japan
Juan Almonacid
"...desde que destapas un cuenco de laca hasta que te lo llevas a la boca, experimentas el placer de contemplar en sus profundidades oscuras un líquido cuyo color apenas se distingue del color del continente y que se estanca, silencioso, en el fondo. Imposible discernir la naturaleza de lo que hay en las tinieblas del cuenco pero tu mano percibe una lenta oscilación fluida, una ligera exudación que cubre los bordes del cuenco y que dice que hay un vapor y el perfume que exhala dicho vapor ofrece ...more
Barry Lancet
This short yet evocative essay—or perhaps better put, a collection of observations—on Japanese aesthetics by novelist Tanizaki (1886-1965) provides a wonderful introduction to the subject. Wandering, eccentric, loveable, observant, and full of small epiphanies—all of these and more are appropriate descriptions for the author's writings on the Japanese sense of beauty. Consider this short snippet:

"As a general matter we [the Japanese] find it hard to be really at home with things that shine and g
I used to enjoy sitting in a darkened room - sometimes with music playing, sometimes not - just thinking or even less just soaking up the darkness. If I'd have been reminded of this before reading Tanizaki's In Praise of Shadows, I would probably have said it was a teenage thing, either something hormonal or something my now-jaded experiential equipment could no longer appreciate. After reading Tanizaki I'm not so sure.

In Praise of Shadows is a eulogy for a fading way of life. A paean to things
Less an essay, and more a pensive consideration of the dying idiosyncrasies of Japanese aesthetics and culture. Tanizaki's style is reflective of the beauty, economy and poeticism of the culture he is so clearly in mourning for. Some of the authors views must be consumed according historical context, however it is to his credit that he tempers and quantifies his opinions. He professes his distaste for modern conveniences but acknowledges their necessity. He opines on matters of science but notes ...more
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Jun'ichiro Tanizaki (谷崎 潤一郎) was a Japanese author, one of the major writers of modern Japanese literature, and perhaps the most popular Japanese novelist after Natsume Sōseki.

Some of his works present a rather shocking world of sexuality and destructive erotic obsessions; others, less sensational, subtly portray the dynamics of family life in the context of the rapid changes in 20th-century Japa
More about Jun'ichirō Tanizaki...
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“Whenever I see the alcove of a tastefully built Japanese room, I marvel at our comprehension of the secrets of shadows, our sensitive use of shadow and light. For the beauty of the alcove is not the work of some clever device. An empty space is marked off with plain wood and plain walls, so that the light drawn into its forms dim shadows within emptiness. There is nothing more. And yet, when we gaze into the darkness that gathers behind the crossbeam, around the flower vase, beneath the shelves, though we know perfectly well it is mere shadow, we are overcome with the feeling that in this small corner of the atmosphere there reigns complete and utter silence; that here in the darkness immutable tranquility holds sway.” 25 likes
“With lacquerware there is an extra beauty in that moment between removing the lid and lifting the bowl to the mouth, when one gazes at the still, silent liquid in the dark depths of the bowl, its colour hardly differing from that of the bowl itself. What lies within the darkness one cannot distinguish, but the palm senses the gentle movements of the liquid, vapour rises from within, forming droplets on the rim, and the fragrance carried upon the vapour brings a delicate anticipation ... a moment of mystery, it might almost be called, a moment of trance.” 18 likes
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