Gathering for the first time all of Claude Lévi-Strauss’s writings on Japanese civilization, The Other Face of the Moon forms a sustained meditation into the French anthropologist’s dictum that to understand one’s own culture, one must regard it from the point of view of another.
Exposure to Japanese art was influential in Lévi-Strauss’s early intellectual growth, and between 1977 and 1988 he visited the country five times. The essays, lectures, and interviews of this volume, written between 1979 and 2001, are the product of these journeys. They investigate an astonishing range of subjects—among them Japan’s founding myths, Noh and Kabuki theater, the distinctiveness of the Japanese musical scale, the artisanship of Jomon pottery, and the relationship between Japanese graphic arts and cuisine. For Lévi-Strauss, Japan occupied a unique place among world cultures. Molded in the ancient past by Chinese influences, it had more recently incorporated much from Europe and the United States. But the substance of these borrowings was so carefully assimilated that Japanese culture never lost its specificity. As though viewed from the hidden side of the moon, Asia, Europe, and America all find, in Japan, images of themselves profoundly transformed.
As in Lévi-Strauss’s classic ethnography Tristes Tropiques, this new English translation presents the voice of one of France’s most public intellectuals at its most personal.
Lévi-Strauss was certainly not the only French intellectual to develop a fascination for Japan. Indeed, Japan's sculptured landscapes, highly stylized rituals and philosophies of self-denial struck a particular chord with his structuralist contemporaries, Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault. But the impressions gathered here are distinctively his, and indeed sometimes read as if they were lifted straight from the Mythologiques... There is much to admire [here]... Still fizzing with ideas as he approached eighty, Claude Lévi-Strauss never relented on his increasingly lonely structuralist quest. His fascination for Japanese traditions, similar to his lifelong obsession with ethnography in general, stemmed in part from his feeling of alienation from modernity.
This new slim compendium of eminent anthropologist Lévi-Strauss's lectures, interviews, and musings reflect his adoration and intellectual curiosity about all things Japanese. Interweaving moments of personal and professional significance, Lévi-Strauss recounts the trajectory of an intrigue generated by a childhood fascination with Japanese prints given to him by his father that later evolved into his love of Japanese literature, food, and practices... This collection illuminates the zeal that motivates Lévi-Strauss's anthropological work and is therefore a pleasant read for anyone with an interest in Japan, cultural difference, or anthropological studies.
- 192 pages
- 4-3/8 x 7-1/8 inches
- Belknap Press
- Foreword by Junzo Kawada
From this author
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