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The Japanese Chronicles
     

The Japanese Chronicles

by Nicolas Bouvier
 

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Bouvier's lifelong quest for Japan, through his many travels, shows the country through all of the stages of his life with the serenity of an experienced writer.

Overview

Bouvier's lifelong quest for Japan, through his many travels, shows the country through all of the stages of his life with the serenity of an experienced writer.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A grab bag of little trinkets, diamond bracelets, popcorn and flashy toys constitutes this collection of sketches about things, people and places Japanese, with dollops of history and mythology. Bouvier, an itinerant French journalist and photographer, roamed around the country on and off for some six years between the '50s and the '70s, sometimes going hungry and sleeping wherever he could find room for his portable mat, on occasion living elegantly with wife and son in a ``Pavilion of the Auspicious Cloud'' on the grounds of a monastery. Fluent, curious, entranced, Bouvier touches on nearly every aspect of Japanese culture and history. How to listen to the music, what Zen really is, what one Ainu said to another, why peasants rarely want to visit Tokyo, what the emperor of Japan said to the emperor of China, the graffiti on the walls, modern geishas, creation myths: such tidbits present a picture of the country rarely found in more scholarly studies or in guidebooks. The random organization can be irritating, but the information and insights are wonderful. Photos not seen by PW. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
The "best travel books," Bouvier believes, "...are often written by people involved in commerce....Merchants' strict observations avoid the silly infatuations that will quickly take over the literature once poets start to travel." Happily, in this sensitive, acutely observed record of his stays in Japan, the author, a journalist who lives in Switzerland, disproves that statement with some of the most resonant and perceptive travel writing in recent years. Bouvier has spent varying lengths of time in Japan on three occasions: 1955-56, 1964-66, and 1970. With each stay, his appreciation of Japanese character and culture grew. He does not, however, allow his affection to blind him to some of the less appealing aspects of the Japanese temperament—the widespread drunkenness, the traditional xenophobia. The author has lived among the prostitutes and pachinko parlors of Tokyo's Shinjuku district, and on the pine-scented grounds of a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. He has traveled about the country, visiting such areas as scenic Matsushima, overrun with fume-belching tour buses and their fidgeting passengers, and icy Hokkaido, where the native Ainu slip into their traditional costumes from nine to five to be photographed by camera-happy tourists, then head home to don Western clothes. Bouvier's writing is imagistic, frequently as evocative as a haiku, as when he describes turnips shining like mother-of-pearl. He also displays a winning sense of understated humor. In discussing the aesthetic complexities of Noh drama, for example, he writes "...some `connoisseurs' and esoteric bores had spoiled my pleasure in advance by assuring me that, ignorant as I was, I would not get anything from thespectacle." Then he adds, "Have you ever drunk a good bottle of wine with a connoisseur? It is a form of torture." A superb guide, smoothly translated from the French, to the Japanese landscape and mind, and a delight for lovers of travel and fine writing. (Twelve photographs—most seen.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781906011048
Publisher:
Eland Publishing Ltd
Publication date:
05/13/2009
Pages:
205
Sales rank:
1,159,088
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

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