With this book, Barthes offers a broad-ranging meditation on the culture, society, art, literature, language, and iconography--in short, both the sign-oriented realities and fantasies--of Japan itself.
Roland Barthes (1915-1980) was a French cultural and literary critic, whose clever and lyrical writings on semiotics made structuralism one of the leading movements of the twentieth century. Barthes had a cult following and published seventeen books, including Camera Lucida, Mythologies, and A Lover's Discourse.
Richard Howard is a poet, scholar, teacher, critic, and translator. Paper Trail is published simultaneously by FSG with Howard's Inner Voices: Selected Poems, 1963-2003. He teaches at Columbia University and is poetry editor of The Paris Review.
“If Japan did not exist, Barthes would have had to invent it--not that Japan does
exist in Empire of Signs
, for Barthes is careful to point out that he is not analyzing the real Japan, there is no terrible innerness
as in the West, no soul, no God, no fate, no ego, no grandeur, no metaphysics, no 'promotional fever' and finally no meaning . . . For Barthes Japan is a test, a challenge to think the unthinkable, a place where meaning is finally banished. Paradise, indeed, for the great student of signs.” —Edmund White, The New York Times Book Review