Now it happens that in this country (Japan),' wrote Barthes, 'the empire of signifiers is so immense, so in excess of speech, that the exchange of signs remains of a fascinating richness mobility and subtlety.' It is not the voice that communicates, but the whole body - eyes, smiles, hair, gestures. The body is savoured, received and displays its own narrative, its own text. Barthes discusses bowing, the courtesy in which two bodies inscribe but do not prostrate themselves, and why in the West politeness is regarded with suspicion - why informal relations are though more desired than coded ones. He described the progressive Japanese spectacle and the demeanor worth regard to food: the essentially visual denotation of the coloured state of raw flesh or vegetable of Sukiyaki or tempura. The cook's purpose is 'to make us witness to the extreme purity of his cuisine; it is because his activity is literally graphic.' He explains the relation between ideographic writing and painting; the theatrical traditions of No, Kabuki and Bunraku; the pure designation (which abolishes finality) of the Zen literary expression, the haiku; the organization of space in the ideal Japanese house, in which propriety or ownership is never delineated - walls slide, partitions are fragile - and there is nothing to grasp. 'What will be in question,' wrote Barthes of this seminal, previously untranslated work, 'will be the city, the shop, the theatre; manners, gardens, violence; faces, eyes and the brushes with which it is all written but not painted.' Translated from the French by Richard Howard.
About Roland Barthes
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Published September 1, 1983
by Hill and Wang.
History, Travel, Literature & Fiction, Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference.