BUNRAKU by Donald Keene


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Bunraku -- or the famous Japanese version of the puppet theatre- has been included in books on Japanese theatre, but- to this reader's knowledge- this is the first book entirely devoted to this unique art. Donald Keene in text and photographs, has made it more comprehensible than would have seemed possible without actually seeing it. In text he goes back to the conventions, the traditions, the stylization. He gives meaning to the amazing coordination between narration, music and puppets. He recaptures the fairy tale atmosphere, the childlike quality, the comic charm, the buffoonery and even the brutality. The texts of certain traditional plays have been selected for analysis, but the average reader will find the early background chapters more interesting, while the student of drama will be intrigued by the text study. The details about the elaborate costumes help make one realize why- in viewing Bunraku-one soon forgets the three operators assigned to each major puppet, and one accepts the exquisite refinement of manipulation, as part of the verisimilitude. There are 268 plates by Kaneko Hiroshi: color is reserved for the photographs of the puppets; halftone reproductions for the minutely detailed representation of details. A superb but very specialized gift book. Essential for specialists in field.

Publisher: Kodansha International Ltd.