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Women of the Pleasure Quarters: The Secret History of the Geisha (edició 2002)
de Lesley Downer
Informació de l'obra
Geisha: The Secret History of a Vanishing World de Lesley Downer
No hi ha cap discussió a Converses sobre aquesta obra.
Inizierò col dire che il libro è stato "tirato" un po' troppo dall'autrice, soprattutto nella seconda parte che ho trovato abbastanza ripetitiva. In ogni caso m'è piaciuto, soprattutto per il fatto che l'autrice stessa si sia fatta strada in questo mondo così affascinante per avere la possibilità di trasmetterci tutto ciò che ha scoperto.. Concorderete se dico che è un libro decisamente interessante se, come me, amate il mondo delle geisha. Consigliato! ( )
A decent overview of geisha life from an outsider's POV, but I recommend [a: Liza Dalby|2920167|Liza Dalby|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1266598217p2/2920167.jpg]'s Geisha instead.
In the West we’ve developed a romanticised view of the geisha, largely thanks to Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha and the related film. The geisha have become one of the defining images of old Japan for many of us, like samurai or cherry blossom, but Downer takes us beyond the picture-perfect gloss into the complex histories and modern incarnations of this fascinating profession...
For the rest of the review, please see my blog:
Lesley Downer lived among the geisha for many years and got to know many of them personally. The first 200+ pages of her book focus on the history of Japan, which is also closely related to the history of the geisha. This was - to me - the most interesting part of the book. Japan was isolated for centuries with no foreign contact, until in 1853 an American commander stepped ashore and demanded that the country be opened for foreign trade. Stories about the first confused and culture-shocked foreigners in Japan and their encounters and affairs with famous geisha sound like the screenplay of a soap opera...
The latter parts of the book mostly describe Downer's own experiences among the geisha, including personal anecdotes from different hana-machi, or geisha districts, especially in Tokyo and Kyoto. I found the book a bit confusing towards the end, because there wasn't a clear thematic structure or outline - just random stories of different geisha and their clothes, training, customs and behaviour. These were all interesting facts, but the book could have used with a more coherent structure and less repetition.
But I certainly learned a lot of strange and fascinating things. For example, I didn't know that the first geisha, taikomochi, were actually male and it caused quite an outrage when women began to perform on stage as geisha. Or that Richard Nixon, Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir are some of the foreign guests that the geisha entertained. Or that kissing is one of the most erotic things that a geisha could do and was - until very recently - considered so shockingly pornographic and taboo that it was never shown in drawings of the geisha.
The ultimate question that Lesley Downer tries to answer is: are the traditional geisha vanishing, becoming extinct, because they cannot survive in the modern world? Is there any way to preserve their ancient customs? The paradox of the situation is that the geisha culture depends on a certain degree of mystery, isolation and secrecy. The geisha are not meant to interact freely with the outside world. They are not supposed to fall in love, get married (although if they are lucky, they might get a danna, a patron) or ever forget that they are geisha, 24/7.
At the same time, fewer and fewer girls and women in Japan are interested in the traditional geisha training. Fewer men are able to or willing to pay the enormous amounts of money that geisha entertainment costs. So in the end, the geisha simply cannot make a living by doing what they traditionally do. So should they modernise their act, open their doors to curious tourists and forget the ancient rules of secrecy? It's a difficult question and Downer doesn't provide a simple answer.
A really satisfying study of the place of the geisha in Japanese society, from the counterculture leanings of their beginnings to their exalted status in the more recent past. By immersing herself within the culture (as far as it is possible for a non-Japanese to immerse themselves in any aspect of Japanese culture), Downer brings a warmth to the subject, illustrated by lively sketches of current geisha and maiko, as well as their customers. The narrative does have a tendency to flit from topic to topic, but I found this flow kept me entertained and left me eager to know more about certain aspects: handily, the lengthy bibliography points the direction for anyone keen to soak up more.
Infinitely more worth reading than Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha for anyone with more than a galncing interest in Japanese culture. I wasn't keen on the slightly sensationalist front cover though: it does seem to pander to prurient stereotyping of the geisha as prostitute.
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Wikipedia en anglès (5)
Ever since Westerners arrived in Japan, we have been intrigued by geisha. This fascination has spawned a wealth of fictional creations from Madame Butterfly to Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha. The reality of the geisha's existence has rarely been described. Contrary to popular opinion, geisha are not prostitutes but literally arts people. Their accomplishments might include singing, dancing or playing a musical instrument but, above all, they are masters of the art of conversation, soothing worries of highly paid businessmen who can afford their attentions. The real secret history of the geisha is explored here.
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Classificació Decimal de Dewey (DDC)952 — History and Geography Asia Japan
LCC (Clas. Bibl. Congrés EUA)
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