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Junichiro Tanizaki's works

Author Theme Reads

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Apr 9, 2010, 5:35pm Top

Discuss the works of our second mini-author of 2010: Junichiro Tanizaki.

Instead of having separate threads for each work like last year, discuss all of his works in this one thread so we can more easily compare and contrast his works. It would be interesting to compare how Zweig and Tanizaki's works contrast considering they wrote during the same time period but in different parts of the world.

This mini-author lasts from May through August.

May 4, 2010, 8:35am Top

I finished reading Naomi early this morning, and wrote a review of it. It's his first major work, and the main theme was the conflict between traditional Japanese and Western values, in keeping with Tanizaki's shift from a love of Western culture before the 1923 Great Earthquake to a respect of the Japanese traditions of his childhood afterward.

Later this month I'll read Some Prefer Nettles, which will hopefully describe the East-West conflict in greater depth.

May 4, 2010, 2:28pm Top

kidzdoc -
An excellent review of the book as you both cover the novel's summary and Tanizaki's style which is much appreciated. As you mention, his style and themes changed greatly with time so it's important that readers take note of this while reading him.

I haven't read Nettles but one of Tanizaki's most influential works is In Praise of Shadows. Used often as a text for interior design classes to depict the intrigue behind minimalism in design, it is also a great text for comparing Tanizaki's wavering views as he starts to appreciate the Japanese aesthetic more and more. Definitely a book where one should read between the lines and an interesting read. (Short too.)

Edited: May 4, 2010, 2:33pm Top

Tanizaki also wrote another book with similar themes to Naomi called Le meurtre d'Otsuya (The Murder of O'tsuya), short, at 125 pages. I don't know if this novella was translated into English which is why I put the French title in there since that's what I read it in.

It starts off simply and surely builds up in dramatic tension. Shinsuke works as an apprentice in O'Tsuya's father's store but has developed feelings for O'Tsuya. She persuades him to run off together when one man, Seiji, offers to help negotiate terms between their parents. However, things change when one night during their fugue, O'Tsuya is taken away and Shinsuke is attacked. Shinsuke is forced to make dire choices to find her again.

It's certainly an interesting premise and we recognize Tanizaki's style immediately. The title "The Murder of O'tsuya" takes on so many meanings as the story progresses while we also recognize the huge changes in Shinsuke's character. It's a page turner as well as we keep wanting to know what O'Tsuya is really up to and where her allegiance truly lies.

O'Tsuya, according to your description, kidzdoc, is really just another version of Naomi.

Being a novella, when I read it I gave it 3.5 stars because I felt it could have been a tremendous character study but it was cut short. While the plot is allowed to develop slowly at the beginning the end is almost a bit too fast-paced. Yes the pace of the book reflects the character's changes (and very well done so) but I think this is one of those cases where I just wanted more.

But overall this is a great reflection on Tanizaki's style.

Jun 9, 2010, 6:49pm Top

I just finished Some Prefer Nettles, which further develops the theme of Western culture vs. traditional Japanese culture and values. Kaname seems unable to decide which he prefers - at times, he seems convinced that the old ways are best, drawn to his father-in-law's mistress and the puppet theaters. At other times, he's very Western - he visits an Eurasian prostitute (preferring her to wear white powder, to make herself look more Mediterranean and less Korean), reads English translations of books, has a Western wing at his house. Kaname is not capable of deciding anything, really. Neither the East vs. West decision or the should-he-get-a-divorce decision is resolved. He just drifts along, and lets things happen.

This was a very easy book to read - it is the second Tanizaki book I've read (the other was the hilarious The Key), and I really like his style. It made me laugh when he describes Kaname going through his copy of The Arabian Nights looking for the dirty parts. My favorite parts of the book, though, were the puppet scenes. Tanizaki can really set a scene without using too much description.

Edited: Jun 15, 2010, 8:04pm Top

How annoying - LT went down just as I posted. I'll try to remember my post... it went something like this. Just finished Some Prefer Nettles. I read a battered, old hardback copy published in 1955 borrowed from my local library. Its pages were old and yellowed but thick, quality stock. At the beginning of each chapter there was a line drawing of a puppet master controlling a puppet. It was a pleasure to hold let alone read.

I enjoyed the story of Kaname's conflicting emotions - marriage or divorce, east versus west, old traditional customs and new American ways. He never seems to make a decision, as #5 says he just drifts along. I found this book easy to read with the most interesting parts about Kaname's aged old fashioned father-in-law and his mistress. I laughed when Tanizaki describes the ideal female Osakan beauty has two blackened front teeth. The traditional customs didn't seem to be much fun for women - O-hisa (Kaname's father-in-law's mistress) seems a lot like a servant and is treated like a child in need of instruction from her superiors.

Jun 26, 2010, 9:50am Top

I finished Some Prefer Nettles yesterday, and reviewed it here.

Jun 26, 2010, 12:26pm Top

I saw your review on your Club Read blog and it was excellent again!
Right on point with how Tanizaki works.

Jan 2, 2012, 5:24pm Top

Bumping this thread up as it related to our 2012 theme read of Japanese authors.

Group: Author Theme Reads

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