Troppo occidentale per l’enigma-Giappone: it is with these words (meaning “Too Western for the Japan-enigma”) that Goffredo Parise, in the Italian newspaper “Corriere della Sera” of 16th April 1984, titled his bitter review of L'Empire des signes by Roland Barthes, written more than ten years earlier but published in Italy by Einaudi only then, four years after its author’s death. Parise loved Japan, where he had stayed for over a month in 1980, and from that experience had drawn his last, great reportage: L’Eleganza è frigida. It was this Japan-enthusiast part of him who accused Barthes and his obsessive semiologic analysis of distorting the essence of Japanese culture, imbued with Zen thought and intolerant to any structural reading. Starting from a suggestive posthumous criticism, this book proposes an unprecedented comparative journey through two twentieth-century readings which are apparently irreconcilable, yet curiously converging in the collection and re-invention of the exotic literary topos of Japan, seen as poetic and existential utopia.
Harvard University, United States