For Barthes, traveling in Japan is his entry-point to the drift. Bobbing around in a language and culture he does not understand - can make neither heads nor tails of - the whole is denied him. Adrift in a sea of meaningless signs and symbols, abandoned by anything remotely resembling a common sense notion or a friendly cliche, what it all adds up to is beyond him, what it all actually means draws a blank.
And so, for what seems like the very first time in a very long time - let's say, since he was a baby, peering around at a world composed of tiny details that did not yet add up to a whole, that had yet to be transcribed into sociolect - Barthes looks around him and sees things for what they are: just things. And Japan, through his eyes, becomes a wondrous place: sensuous and exquisite, all surface and no depth. A walk through Tokyo is like being immersed in a thousand haiku: each detail to which his eye is drawn is a "snap" that exists for itself and itself alone; the scape of the land recedes as the scope of the micro puffs and swells. It is a world of floating ephemera and for once, the drifters are the ones in the driver's seat."
This piece comes verbatim from the Wine, Women and Philosophy blog.
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