Sunday, March 4, 2012

Memoirs of a Geisha: An Ethnographic Masterpiece

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No matter how many times i read this book i never seem to get tired of it, its probably the 9th time i red this book and it still manages to fascinate me and never cease to capture my imagination of a world so foreign to me! Its beautifully written, well narrated using a first person perspective and gave me an in depth perspective on a culture not my own. Despite the author Arthur Golden's non Japanese background the author manages to explain in quite explicit details about the culture and customs that is happening around the plot. The author manages to bring Sayuri the main protagonist to life throughout this book as though shes standing right in front of you reminiscing her life stories: her childhood her sadness, grief, dreams and hopes. So i would like talk a bit more about one of my all time favorite book, a book with quite a sentimental value to me.
The story tells the story of a girl named Chiyo born in a poverty stricken village called Yoroido on the coast of the Sea of Japan, she was sold by her parents into an Okiya (Geisha boarding house) in Gion the most prominent geisha district in Kyoto when she was only 9 years old. There she were to receive training to become a geisha under a very oppressive new adopted family: an elderly grumbling granny, a money obsessed mother (the okiya's mistress), a malicious geisha by the name of Hatsumomo who happens to be one of the most popular geisha in gion and finally another geisha apprentice of her age who Sayuri reffers to as "pumpkin" the only person nice to her in the Okiya.
Unhappy with her new life and her exploitative adopted family she tried to escape the okiya and return to the village on which she came from before recaptured by the household and forced into slavery to pay every single penny the household invested for her upon purchasing her due to her disobedience. Believing that her slife was over she cried and wept by the banks of the samegawa river until he met a certain man accompanied by what she sees as the most elegant women she had laid eyes upon (which happened to be geisha). This man took pity on her cheered her up and gave her his handkerchief, never receiving such kindness all her life she was determined to meet that man again and compelled her to resume geisha training under mameha determined to become the best geisha in all of gion.
What draws me to this book is how the author manages to portray the beauty of a culture not native to him in such a way that it has a strong aesthetic appeal that portrays elegance, mystery and emotions in such a way that you feel as though youre pulled into another world and seeing the world through sayuri's eyes reliving his life in Gion. Its amazing how the author managed to bring real like imagery throughout the book, and i believe that the cultural details contains within this book must have gone rigorous ethnographic research of Japanese culture during the time. I feel in love with this book instantly, and for me even though books with this particular genre is not uncommon but this book stand out in being able to immerse the reader in a totally new world. Im not surprised that this book has amazing reviews and was adapted into a Hollywood film i recently know about!(late comer). Although the film fails to portray the book in depth it manages to capture the aesthetically beauty that distinctive in this book. Memoirs of a geisha will trully remain one of my all time favorite books which i will recommend highly for those interested in ethnography and aesthetically pleasing narration. Here's the trailer of the movie im talking about and i regret that i didn't notice that the movie existed earlier it has flaws but it illustrates the general idea of aesthetics appeal perfectly

-"To be judged as a Geisha is to be judged as a living work of art" -Mameha

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