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Tanizaki, Junichiro

makioka deals readers book

(Japanese, 1886–1965)

Tanizaki combines in his work a nineteenth-century love of Romanticism with the utmost modernity. In his youth, he was much influenced by such writers as Baudelaire, Poe, and Wilde, and interested in stories about corruption and decadence. A novel such as Quicksand deals frankly with sexual matters. It was first published in serial form 1928–30, and in book form in 1947. English readers had to wait until 1993 to discover an elegant and fascinating work. Tanizaki's undoubted masterpiece is The Makioka Sisters (1948). It was written during the Second World War as a way of reminding the author of a happier past, and it takes the reader into the lives of the Makioka family. We learn so much about the sisters that it is something of a shock to realize at the end of the book that ordinary life is still going on, in the real world. Every possible detail of clothes, food, customs, furnishings, and landscape is there, together with a strong plot that deals with love, marriage, and the loving and complicated relationships between four very different women. Readers should be prepared to become for ever part of the Makioka family. It is a great shame that this author is not better known and more widely translated.

Anita Brookner, A. S. Byatt, Thomas Mann (Buddenbrooks)  AG

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