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Seven Japanese Tales Tanizaki Jun'ichiro

Seven Japanese Tales Tanizaki Jun'ichiro

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Seven Japanese Tales
 
Tanizaki Jun'ichiro
Note:
Although he is referred to as "Junichiro Tanizaki" on the back cover and in theIntroduction, the family name comes first in Japanese and so for filing purposes, the nameshould be listed as "Tanizaki Jun'ichiro" with no comma between the names. Also, the "o"in "Jun'ichiro" should be overlined but is not in this file due to the limitations of using theISO 8859-1 Character set. See the end notes for other words that fall into this category.
Back Cover:
 
Seven Japanese Tales
represents aspects of Tanizaki's prose art between 1910 and1959. The four short stories have a strong concern with abnormal psychology. He tells of atattoo artist who is obsessed with the desire to decorate the body of a supremely beautifulwoman; a city man who is struck with terror when obliged to ride trolley cars. There is astudy of the emotions of a schoolboy thief, and an account of a young man exhausted bymonths of passion for his mistress. The three longer tales, written in his maturity, tell thestory of a famous blind woman who teaches the samisen and the koto, and of a pupil who becomes her lover. When she is disfigured by some unknown enemy, her lover blindshimself. There is an account of a young man's erotic confusions between his dead mother,his stepmother and his wife. Finally, a blind man tells of the ambitions and stratagems,loves and cruelties during the feudal wars of sixteenth-century Japan."There can be few living writers with the range and subtlety of Junichiro Tanizaki. Hewrites angelically and with a deceptive fluency. . . We expect delicacy and refinement fromJapanese storytellers. Tanizaki elevates delicacy and refinement, usually associated with thelesser arts, to heroic proportions. At every moment he has exactly the right turn of thescrew. It is an art comparable to that of Flaubert's short stories, and there can be no higher  praise." --
Saturday Review
 
Perigee Booksare published byG. P. Putnam's Sons200 Madison Avenue New York, N.Y. 10016Copyright 1963 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
 
All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof,may not be reproduced in any form without permission.Published simultaneously in Canada by Academic PressCanada Limited, Toronto.This is an authorized reprint of a hardcover editionoriginally published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
The Tattooer 
appeared originally in
Show
 
 
and
 Aguri
in
Cosmopolitan
 
 
 Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication DataTanizaki, Jun'ichiro, 1886-1965.Seven Japanese tales.Originally published by Knopf, New York.1. Tanizaki, Jun'ichiro, 1866-1965 -- Translations,English. I. Title.
 
PL839.A7A26 1981 895.6'34 80-39965ISBN 0-399-50523-7PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
 
CONTENTS
 A Portrait of Shunkin
Shunkinsho,
1933)Terror 
(K 
 yofu,
1913)The Bridge of Dreams
(Y 
ume no ukihashi,
1959)The Tattooer 
Shisei,
1910)The Thief 
(W 
atakushi,
1921)Aguri
 Aoi hana,
1922)A Blind Man's Tale
(M 
omoku monogatari,
1931)
I
ntroduction
 The seven tales collected in this volume span half a century in the extraordinaryliterary career of Junichiro Tanizaki, a career which has outlasted more than one edition of his "Complete Works." Among his many distinctions have been an Imperial Award for Cultural Merit in 1949, after he had published the whole of his great novel
The
 M 
akiokaSisters,
and, in 1943, the suppression of that work as a menace to the national war effort.Tanizaki continues to alarm or delight the Japanese reading public with theaudacious vigor of his recent novels. One of these is
The Bridge of Dreams
(first publishedin October 1959), the confessional narrative of a young man who has grown up in theshadow of a guilt-laden obsession with the memory of his mother, and with the beauty of the girl who took her place. Here the exploration of erotic mysteries leads into a tangle of relationships as bizarre and unhealthy as those of Tanizaki's earlier novel
The
 K 
ey,
in whicha middle-aged professor attempts, with gratifying success, to corrupt his demure wife.
The Bridge of Dreams,
in the form of a memoir rather than a pair of diaries as in
The
 K 
ey,
has asimilarly tantalizing blend of candor and deviousness. Again the reticences of anold-fashioned Kyoto household provide a hushed setting for scandal.But there is also a subtle nostalgic flavor to
The Bridge of Dreams
and a hint of thematic reference to Lady Murasaki's eleventh-century
Tale of Genji,
that toweringmasterpiece which few were able to scale (except in the lucid English version by Arthur Waley) until Tanizaki made his long, loving translation of it into modern Japanese. Themoving coda of 
Genji
describes a young man's frustrated pursuit of a girl whom heidentifies with the obsessive memory of her dead sister; and its last chapter is entitled "The
 
Bridge of Dreams" -- an image symbolizing the insubstantial beauty of life itself, once poetically alluded to by Prince Genji as "a bridge linking dream to dream."Dreams, daydreams, elaborate fantasies -- often dramatizing the secret affinity of love and cruelty -- have had a significant place in Tanizaki's fiction ever since he beganwriting short stories in his twenties. The first and most famous of these is
The Tattooer 
(1910), an elegant little sadomasochistic fable of an artist who fulfills his wish to tattoo theskin of the Perfect Woman. The time is late Tokugawa (around the 1840's), the place Edo,and the style lush
 fin de siècle.
Aside from being "representative," in the Japanese sense of  being an obligatory anthology piece,
The Tattooer 
illustrates at once Tanizaki's fascinationwith the Japanese past and with the seductively evil blossoms of exotic decadence.
Terror 
(1913), a highly colored fragment of the case history of a man with "morbidly excitablenerves," is set in a modern urban milieu of streetcars and jostling crowds, as disturbing intheir way as the phantoms of the past. It is another of the early stories which depictabnormal psychological states in a prose of great sensuous beauty.
The Thief 
(1921) is in a plainer style and exposes a different sort of aberration, onewhich is confessed ("I have not written a single dishonest word here") in the equivocalmanner of the narrator of 
The Bridge of Dreams.
But the predominant tone is rational. In
 Aguri
(1922), however, Tanizaki indulges in a vein of almost surrealist fantasy: Okada,drained of health by a vampirish young mistress, is a prey to terrifying hallucinations.Aguri herself is merely a pleasure-loving, acquisitive young waitress or bar girl, amannequin requiring adornment in order to become the idolized fatal woman who appearsin so many guises in Tanizaki's fiction. Her metamorphosis is to be accomplished, not byactual tattooing, but by dressing her in those alluring Western garments which seem to givethe female body a fresh, vividly tattooed skin, and yet which, unlike the constrictingtrousers, coat, and tie (with stickpin) of fashionable Western-style gentlemen, release itsvital powers.Another of Tanizaki's cruel beauties is the gifted blind heroine of 
 A Portrait of Shunkin
(1933), perhaps the finest in a series of short novels which reflect both in style andin subject his deepening appreciation of the traditional culture of Japan. This time thenarrator is a scholarly man with antiquarian tastes who has come into the possession of acurious biography of Shunkin, a few anecdotes and reminiscences about her, and a singlefaded photograph -- apparently the only one ever taken -- of her bland, lovely face. Shunkingrew up in the still-feudal merchant society of the late Tokugawa period and lost her sight before the arrival of Perry and the upheaval of the Meiji Restoration, events which (thoughunmentioned) doubtless would not have made such a strong impression on her as the deathof one of her prized larks or nightingales. Indeed, as her servants remark, she has moreaffection for her birds than for any human companions, even her long-suffering guide and pupil, the devoted Sasuke.The theme of blindness -- so often associated with love in Tanizaki's world -- occursalso in a slightly earlier novel centered on a servant and his mistress:
 A Blind 
 M 
an's Tale
(1931). But here the setting is one of the most confused and violent ages of Japanesehistory: the century of civil war which ended with the decisive victory of Tokugawa Ieyasuat the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. Among Tanizaki's characters are two conqueringgenerals -- the ruthless, vindictive Oda Nobunaga and his cleverer and even more ambitioussuccessor, Hideyoshi -- who imposed a harsh order on the chaotic pattern of relationsamong the warlords of sixteenth-century Japan. Yet the alliances and treacheries, the battlesand sieges, the incessant movement of forces, are seen only obliquely in his narrative,

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