Kanai Mieko writes in several genres: poetry, fiction, and criticism—most notably on film and photography. We, who know no Japanese, will probably never read her criticism on film and photography, although this is what we most desire.
Kanai Mieko is highly acclaimed in Japan. She has also been described as noncommittal, apolitical, and frivolous.
One critic laments “that the author, whose talent is comparable to that of Salman Rushdie, would take up such a light, meaningless subject as an ordinary housewife’s uneventful life when she could, and should, be concerned with ideological and political issues of import.”
Kanai Mieko ranks Jane Austen higher than Dostoyevsky.
She’s not interested in describing objects; she wants to accentuate their amorphous nature.
In 1997, Kanai published a novel called Karui memai, or Vague Vertigo. It isn’t available in English. I read about it in Atsuko Sakaki’s book, The Rhetoric of Photography in Modern Japanese Literature. Sakaki gave Kanai’s novel the English title Vague Vertigo. In an earlier paper, she called it Light Dizziness.
Sakaki changed the title to Vague Vertigo to emphasize Kanai’s references to Hitchcock’s film and to Roland Barthes.
Barthes, who wrote: “One day I received from a photographer a picture of myself which I could not remember being taken, for all my efforts; I inspected the tie, the sweater, to discover in what circumstance I had worn them; to no avail. And yet, because it was a photograph I could not deny that I had been there (even if I did not know where). This distortion between certainty and oblivion gave me a kind of vertigo, something of a ‘detective’ anguish.”
Researching Kanai Mieko gives me a detective anguish. Read More