Some Prefer Nettles by Junchirō Tanizaki

Some Prefer Nettles by Junchirō Tanizaki

Japanese fiction

Original title – 蓼喰う蟲 – Tade kuu mushi

Translator – Edward G. Seidensticker

Source – personal copy

I’m back and the strange thing is I had covid last week so the break was a good idea as I wouldn’t have blogged last week it also means I’m probably only going review two books for this weeks 1929 Club but here I am with the first book for this week and it is a book from Japan. I always get the list of books published on the year for the club and try and find the ones in translation first that I may like to review. This title jumped out at me as I had featured a later book by Tanizaki in the 1956 edition of the club. Tanizaki is one of the best regarded and considered one of the founding figures of Modern Japanese fiction in the 20th century as his books follow both the working of the family and the changing times around him.

‘YOU THINK YOU might go, then?’ Misako asked several times during the morning.

Kaname as usual was evasive, however, and Misako found it impossible to make up her own mind. The morning passed.

At about one o’clock she took a bath and dressed, and, ready for either eventuality, sat down inquiringly beside her husband. He said nothing. The morning newspaper was still spread open in front of him.

‘Anyway, your bath is ready?

Oh.’ Kaname lay sprawled on a couple of cushions, his chin in his hand. He pulled his head a little to the side as he caught a suggestion of Misako’s perfume. Careful not to meet her eyes, he glanced at her – more accurately he glanced at her clothes – in an effort to catch some hint of a purpose that might make his decision for him. Unfortunately, he had not been paying much attention to her clothes lately. He knew vaguely that she gave a great deal of attention to them and was always buying something new, but he was never consulted and never knew what she had bought. He could make out nothing more revealing than the figure of an attractive and stylish matron dressed to go out.

the opening of the book we see the problem at the heart of the marriage.

This is described as his most personal book it focuses on the collapse of a marriage as we see what has caused the breakup. The couple Kaname and Misako are trying to navigate splitting up even on the first page there is a sense of distance when Kaname says he hadn’t noticed what Mistake had been wearing lately. He also early on laments the potential loss of his father I law which he feels he may miss more than his wife. He let his wife take a lover. The father-in-law is a very traditional man even his wife is like a doll ( in a very traditional dress and style even down to blacken teeth) This is part of the pull of the book is how the traditional world of Japan is disappearing as the book shows these two views modern western ideas versus tradition. The father-in-law is in the traditional world he loves traditional puppet theatre. The juxtaposed problems and themes in the book are how women are viewed and how the modern Misako maybe just wants her lover and not marriage and her son, as unlike her father’s view of a woman. It follows what happens when neither person in the marriage is brave or strong enough to say not is over. which creates a sense of inertia and causes tension also the fact they have a young son the status quo isn’t ideal as you sense the simmering tension but lack of wanting to end this marriage.

The images of the dolls, Koharu and O-san, were still vivid in Kaname’s mind. He was on edge, however, lest the old man begins his discourse on the serpent, the demon in a wife’s breast, and he found it difficult to stay politely through the lunch.

The doll as the object is part of the values and image of a woman dealt with in the book

I have reviewed three other books by Junichirō Tanizaki over the years it is hard to describe I am a fan but not a fan his books are slow-moving art times and aren’t the quickest to read but then the themes he deals with the clash of cultures the traditional world and modern world is something that I have always loved in fiction.I was reminded of those great books from Africa that followed a similar theme or even Pyre I reviewed recently that had marriage and traditional values at their heart. He is very good at the inside views of marriages. the inner workings of families. The things pulling at this couple from every side but also why divorce is really needed to solve the problems we see in this couple. I like way he describes how cultures clashes. Have you read any books from Him, what books have you chosen for this week’s 1929 club?

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. MarinaSofia
    Oct 24, 2022 @ 09:24:26

    This is one of my favourite books by him (alongside The Makioka Sisters) – he is not great at pacing, it can be quite slow-moving and at times repetitive. Have you tried the rather delightful short novella ‘A Cat, a Man and Two Women’?

    Reply

  2. Lisa Hill
    Oct 24, 2022 @ 11:27:29

    Well done, Stu, I a lot of people have brain fog with Covid so you’ve done well.

    Reply

  3. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Oct 24, 2022 @ 16:03:36

    Great find for 1929 Stu – he’s an author I’ve not explored much but this sounds fascinating.

    Reply

  4. Bellezza
    Oct 24, 2022 @ 19:20:36

    I have picked this out for the 1929 club, too! ❤️

    Reply

  5. Trackback: #1929Club – your reviews – Stuck in a Book
  6. 1streading
    Oct 30, 2022 @ 16:08:57

    I thought of re-reading this but didn’t have time – glad you have covered it, I love Tanizaki’s writing.

    Reply

  7. Trackback: That was the month that was October 2022 | Winstonsdad's Blog

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