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The Peony Garden by Nagai Kafu

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Niamh J

on 26 August 2013

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Transcript of The Peony Garden by Nagai Kafu

The Peony Garden by Nagai Kafu
Main Idea
This story explores three major, but strongly overlapping themes.
Death,
Boredom,
and the lack of the traditional Japanese household
Mortality and Death
“Perhaps the peonies would already have fallen”

“I had nothing to do with a world that had gone on moving without me”

“Is it much farther to the peonies?”
“Not much, That’s Third Bridge.” We both bit back yawns.

The Lack of a Traditional Japanese Household
An American Comparison
“I had exhausted the man-made pleasures that a city has only for those born in it, and now, in the wake of the dream, it was as though I were looking back over the whole long series of dreams.”

“A dark cloud was just then blotting out the evening sun, and beyond the low, crawling form of New Bridge, where the sky descended to cap the mouth of the river, the smoke from the factories spiralled upward.”
“The rich green of the Kanda Canal in the rising tide shone like a freshly polished sheet of glass, catching the sun as it sank into the grove of the Kanda Shrine.”
“Wisps of cloud from the storm trailed across the sky, like stylised Kano-school clouds on a temple ceiling.”
“The weariness and boredom of having to bloom too long seemed to flow from each blossom.”
The Taisho Era
From 1912 - 1926
Nagai Kafu's Background
Born in 1879 and died in 1959.
In 1903 he lived in the USA, then in 1906 traveled to Lyon, London and Paris.
His writings were a critique of the Modernisation process occurring in the Taisho Era, and focused on aspects of the Edo period - significantly the Geisha.
“I had exhausted the man-made pleasures that a city has only for those born in it, and now, in the wake of the dream, it was as though I were looking back over the whole long series of dreams.”

An American Comparison
“A dark cloud was just then blotting out the evening sun, and beyond the low, crawling form of New Bridge, where the sky descended to cap the mouth of the river, the smoke from the factories spiralled upward.”

“The rich green of the Kanda Canal in the rising tide shone like a freshly polished sheet of glass, catching the sun as it sank into the grove of the Kanda Shrine.”
Boredom and Dissatisfaction
Modan Gaaru & Modan Boi
“The shrill voices crossed the canal, and, following the bank, seemed to come down on us from behind, pushing us faster on our way.”
Japan's Future
“A boatman squatted in the prow of each [barge] as he smoked…In the cabins, women with babies strapped to their backs were lighting fires and washing out pots. Their fuel seemed to be coal scrap, which sent up very smelly fumes.”
“How nice.” She looked back at me. “Away from the world.”
“wouldn’t like being someone’s wife and having to do the housework”.
“The idea is all right, maybe. But it’s one thing to enjoy yourself and not worry about the teahouse bills, and another thing to get down to work.”
…”So we’ll never get married?”
“That’s not the point. You’ll just have to wait a little while. Till you aren’t so worried about falling in love… and you don’t have any regrets…We’ll just sort of come together”
The Ending
“But the scenery was unchanging, however far we went, and the charm of the boat was vanishing, leaving only the discomfort of the thin rush mats.”
“Wisps of cloud from the storm trailed across the sky, like stylised Kano-school clouds on a temple ceiling.”
Boredom and Death
“Maybe we should think about committing suicide together.”
“Maybe we should”
“What would people say, do you suppose?”
“All sorts of things. And we’d be forgotten about in three days.”
“That wouldn’t be fun.”
“No fun at all.”
Full transcript