A Distant Mirror?

The tale of Genji is very old and very new, a novel about love and society that also, along with Proust's masterpiece, is one of the world's great representations of the passage of human time. It immerses us deeply in a strange and distant culture, whose graceful decadence initially seems light-years away from the haste and thirst for progress of modern Japan. But 21st century Japan shares the same sense of fecund decay as Genji's Heian period—in both eras, society has become complex, gaudy but, finally, ennui-inducing. Now, as then, it is more rewarding to scrutinize the smallest signs of every...

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