‘In Praise of Shadows’ by Junichiro Tanizaki, trans. Gregory Starr

Admittedly, including Tanizaki’s nostalgic essay stretches beyond breaking point any definition of a short story, but the line between memoir and fiction is no longer viable. We don’t need these distinctions in literature, which is ultimately just different ways of exposing the ‘I’. Tanizaki argues that the East is yielding to the West’s obsession with illumination, that we should learn to understand and appreciate shadows rather than seeking their destruction. He equates shadow with mystery and the feminine, and the quest to eradicate shadows with masculine domination. What Tanizaki’s essay shares with the best of fictional narrative is to offer access of a kind to the reality of time.

First published in Japanese in 1933. First English publication, 1977. In Praise of Shadows, Sora Books, 2017

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