Food, Eroticism and Exoticism

Eroticism and exoticism have a strong relation. If eroticism was a kind of aestheticism and if the food was a subject of eroticism, why cannot one express exoticism by using aesthetic world of cuisine? Junichiro Tanizaki, well known as an aesthetic writer with a great sense of eroticism, and also famous of his epicurism, illustrated food in an aesthetic and somehow grotesque way and created a dramatic world of exoticism in his novel ‘Gourmet Club’.

In Gourmet Club, Tanizaki frequently uses the metaphor of the female body in order to illustrate food. The metaphor of female shows the strong sense of desire of the characters toward food, not merely physiological but more emotional and sexual. For both the Gourmet club members and the Chinese club members, eating is not just a physiological act; it is an artistic sacred ritual that must be accomplished with best effort of improvement. Many people enjoy food, or other arts in a similar way with the Gourmet Club members at some extent. Tanizaki uses the metaphor to realize the readers their similarities with the characters; appetite toward beauty nevertheless it might be a taboo.

The sense of taboo is essential to create a mood of exoticism. Exoticism is a feeling of ‘foreign’. In many literatures, this feeling occurs in the encounter with the other world. This encounter and obsession with the other world blurs the one’s original moral sense and creates the feeling of taboo. Since taboo is often related with sexual matters, the feeling also contributes to increase the erotic tension and make the story more dramatic.

The most notable illustration of the food as taboo could be seen in the scene of imaginary quests. The appetites of the Gourmet Club members drive them to their quest; pursuit of the encounter with other world, that enhances the exotic mood of the story. Although the physical quest of Count G to the Chinatown succeeds to increases the exotic feeling by using contrast between Chinese Club and Kudan, Tanizaki’s true worth is shown in the imaginary quest of exoticism of the characters. For example, in the scene where A “experiences” The Ham with Chinese Cabbage, one could see a strong sense of immorality in being seduced by food. However, by using the most extreme form of taboo, Cannibalism, Tanizaki completes the illustration of the immoral beauty. The imaginary quests, the cabbage scene (135) and the dream of the Count G (106) show both sides of Cannibalism, to eat or to being eaten. While the implication of Cannibalism increases the sense of immorality, showing the actual cannibal as imaginary prevents to create a wall and remains the border between exoticism and reality unclear.

In Conclusion, Tanizaki created his exotic world in ‘Gourmet Club’ by connecting food with eroticism, and by creating the feeling of immorality. Moreover, using the power of imaginary scenes enabled Tanizaki to create the ambiguous exoticism that exists nearby reality.



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