Can the Japanese do “ribald,” I once wondered, when I too briefly lived there. I could see that they could do “obscene.” But using Rabelais as my standard, I could not find Japanese examples. I could, on the other hand, find woodblock prints that might be mistaken for ribald. They were what an old-fashioned Western simpleton might describe as “dirty pictures”; but, so to say, “aestheticized.” Our Rabelais doesn’t aestheticize. I am fairly sure of that, having worked all my way through Gargantua and Pantagruel . There is a different approach and, I have suspected, even in the production of pornography, the sleaziest Japanese adopts subtle devices to preserve not the anonymity, but the dignity of his subjects. We might read satire into his “floating world,” but we read in only. The intention is not in the composition itself, any more than in, for choice example, Les Fleurs du mal , where a spiritual japanaiserie is being affected. But there, only at the surface; there is a (very Catholic) satirical undertow.
When even the inkeeper sent them away,
Joseph was wondering, where they would stay?
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And that begs us to ask, “what are our goals?” or how do we want to spend our time? There are as many “good lives” as there are people, but our technology (and the attention economy) don’t really seem on our team to give us the agency to live according to them.