Chrysanthemum and the Fish

Chrysanthemum and the Fish

by Howard Hibbett
     
 
Arthur Koestler claimed that the sense of humor of the Japanese was like "weak, mint-flavoured tea." Was he right? Are funny bones not part of their anatomy? Is laughter something preferably hidden behind one's hand?

In this eloquent and often deliciously amusing book, Howard Hibbett sets out to prove that, in its own way, Japanese humor is just as robust and

Overview

Arthur Koestler claimed that the sense of humor of the Japanese was like "weak, mint-flavoured tea." Was he right? Are funny bones not part of their anatomy? Is laughter something preferably hidden behind one's hand?

In this eloquent and often deliciously amusing book, Howard Hibbett sets out to prove that, in its own way, Japanese humor is just as robust and varied as other people's. Jokes themselves are notoriously resistant to translation, but in the hands of a subtle interpreter such as Hibbett, funny stories and even puns clear the language barrier in great style. If anything, as E. B. White said of his own works in translation, they may at times "lose something in the original."

Hibbett's study begins in the mists of legend, when the Sun Goddess, sulking in a cave, is supposed to have been lured out by the laughter of lesser gods, assembled to watch a "striptease" performed by another goddess. Echoes of that bawdy laughter, we learn, can still be heard through the ensuing centuries, under the accumulation of more sophisticated wit. This, he shows us, is true not only of the age of frivolity that flowered in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the pleasure quarters of the great cities, but of later periods when a stricter public moral code was imposed from above and laughter was thought unseemly, with people resorting to the private consolation of dirty or irreverent jokes. For a while, in the first half of the twentieth century, it appeared that the Japanese were in danger of losing their sense of humor altogether, especially in literature. But not even war and Westernized intellectuals could entirely suppress the sense of fun that reemerged, alive and well, in postwar vaudeville and films and comic books. And there Hibbett's narrative ends, as it began -- with a comic strip. Any number of solemn books have been written about "the Japanese character," which ultimately is the subject of his book as well.

Editorial Reviews

Donald Richie
... a more earthy but just as worthy successor [to 'The Floating World in Japanese Fiction'].—The Japan Times

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9784770028532
Publisher:
Kodansha International
Publication date:
07/28/2002
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.93(d)

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