dinsdag 7 april 2015

Junichirõ Tanizaki: Some Prefer Nettles

Hi again

Some Prefer Nettles is rumored to be Japanese writer Tanizaki’s most autobiographical novel. I can’t compare with his other work because this is my first read. This was written in 1929.
It has 151 pages and I got it at the Waterstones some time ago in the UK.

“The marriage of Kaname and Misako is disintegrating: whilst seeking passion and fulfilment in the arms of others, they contemplate the humiliation of divorce. Misako's father believes their relationship has been damaged by the influence of a new and alien culture, and so attempts to heal the breach by educating his son-in-law in the time-honoured Japanese traditions of aesthetic and sensual pleasure. The result is an absorbing, chilling conflict between ancient and modern, young and old.”

To me, this novel has many layers and I can’t presume to be able to write about them in the way they should be explained. As a non-literary student I can only give my own opinion and interpretation of a novel.

I’d say that half of the scenes are centered around Traditional Japanese puppets and performances. I think that this is meant as a way to show us that the real performers are Kaname en Misako. They try to keep up the appearance of a rather happy marriage, especially to her father when in reality they have wanted a divorce for several years. She has been driven away to someone else by his lack of interest in her. But he thinks love and sex aren’t vital to a happy marriage. Something she desperately needs.

Secondly there’s the clash between the old Japanese traditions and the new Western habits. We see Kaname slowly leaning more to the old traditions even though that’s not the way he is introduced to us at the beginning.
Kaname longs for a traditional marriage with a doll-like traditional eastern wife. Someone just Like O-Hisa (who we discover on further reading isn’t as traditional as her husband would like to believe). But he can’t bring himself to actually make the decision whether to stay or go.

This was such a beautiful novel. The coldness between the couple is always hidden behind politeness and a façade of happiness. Both have treated each other well, there is just no love between them. The loneliness and the struggling are captured in rich details. Their own flaws are never hidden from us as a reader. 

It is subtle, lyrical, intricate, delicate and subdued. A stunning novel.

Happy reading!
Helena