- Jun'ichirō Tanizaki
name = Tanizaki Jun'ichirō
caption = Tanizaki Jun'ichirō
birthdate = birth date|1886|7|24|df=y
deathdate = death date and age|1965|7|30|1886|7|24|df=y
Yugawara, Kanagawa, Japan
occupation = Writer
genre = fiction, drama, essays, silent film scenarios
nihongo|Jun'ichirō Tanizaki|谷崎 潤一郎|Tanizaki Jun'ichirō|extra=
24 July 1886– 30 July 1965was a Japanese author, one of the major writers of modern Japanese literature, and perhaps the most popular Japanese novelist after Natsume Sōseki. Some of his works present a rather shocking world of sexuality and destructive erotic obsessions; others, less sensational, subtly portray the dynamics of family life in the context of the rapid changes in 20th-century Japanese society. Frequently his stories are narrated in the context of a search for cultural identity in which "the West" and "Japanese tradition" (both of them constructions) are juxtaposed. The results are complex, ironic, and provocative.
but was forced to drop out in 1911 because of his inability to pay tuition.
Early literary career
Tanizaki began his literary career in 1909. His first work, a one-act stage play, was published in a
literary magazinewhich he helped found. In his early years Tanizaki became infatuated with the West and all things modern. In 1922 he went so far as to move to Yokohama, which had a large expatriate population, living briefly in a Western-style house and leading a decidedly bohemian lifestyle. This bohemian outlook is reflected in some of his early writings.
Tanizaki's name first became widely known with the publication of the
short story"Shisei" ("The Tattooer") in 1910. In the story, a tattooartist inscribes a giant "prostitute spider" on the body of a beautiful young woman. Afterwards, the woman's beauty takes on a demonic, compelling power, in which eroticismis combined with sado-masochism. The femme-fataleis a theme repeated in many of Tanizaki’s early works, including "Kirin" (1910), "Shonen" ("The Children", 1911), "Himitsu" ("The Secret," 1911), and "Akuma" ("Devil", 1912).
Tanizaki's other works published in the
Taishō periodinclude "Shindo" (1916) and "Oni no men" (1916), which are partly autobiographical. Tanizaki married in 1915, but it was an unhappy marriage and in time he encouraged a relationship between his first wife, Chiyoko, and his friend and fellow writer Sato Haruo. The psychological stress of this situation is reflected in some of his early works, include the stage play "Aisureba koso" ("Because I Love Her", 1921) and his novel "Kami to hito no aida" ("Between Men and the Gods", 1924). Nevertheless, even though some of Tanizaki's writings seem to have been inspired by persons and events in his life, his works are far less autobiographical than those of most of his contemporaries in Japan.
He had a brief career in Japanese
silent cinema, working as a script writer for the "Jun Eiga Ka", or 'pure cinema movement' where he was instrumental in bringing modernist themes to Japanese film. He wrote the scripts for the films "Amateur Club" (1922) and "A Serpent's Lust" (1923) (based on the story of the same title by Ueda Akinari, which was, in part, the inspiration for Mizoguchi Kenji's 1953 masterpiece "Ugetsu monogatari").
Period in Kyoto
Tanizaki's reputation really began to take off when he moved to
Kyotoafter the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake. The loss of Tokyo's historic buildings and neighborhoods in the quake triggered a change in his enthusiasms, as he redirected his youthful love for the imagined West and modernity into a renewed interest in Japanese aesthetics and culture, particularly the culture of the Kansairegion comprising Osaka, Kobeand Kyoto. His first novel after the earthquake, and his first truly successful novel, was "Chijin no ai" ("Naomi," 1924-25), which is a tragicomic exploration of class, sexual obsession, and cultural identity. Inspired by the Osaka dialect, he wrote "Manji" (Quicksand, 1928-1929), in which he explored lesbianism, among other themes. This was followed by the classic "Tade kuu mushi" (" Some Prefer Nettles", 1928-29), which depicts the gradual self-discovery of a Tokyo man living near Osaka, in relation to Western-influenced modernization and Japanese tradition. "Yoshinokuzu" ("Arrowroot", 1931) alludes to Bunraku and kabuki theater and other traditional forms even as it adapts a European narrative-within-a-narrative technique. His experimentation with narrative styles continued with "Ashikari" ("The Reed Cutter," 1932), "Shunkinsho" ("A Portrait of Shunkin," 1933), and many other works that combine traditional aesthetics with Tanizaki's particular obsessions.
His renewed interest in classical Japanese literature culminated in his multiple translations into modern Japanese of the eleventh-century classic "
The Tale of Genji" and in his masterpiece "Sasameyuki" ("A Light Snowfall", published in English as "The Makioka Sisters", 1943-1948), a detailed characterization of four daughters of a wealthy Osaka merchant family who see their way of life slipping away in the early years of World War II. The Makiokas live a remarkably cosmopolitan life, with European neighbours and friends without suffering the cultural-identity crises common to earlier Tanizaki characters.
World War IITanizaki again emerged into literary prominence, winning a host of awards, and was until his death regarded as Japan's greatest contemporary author. He was awarded the Order of Cultureby the Japanese government in 1949 and in 1964 was elected to honorary membership in the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the first Japanese writer to be so honoured.
His first major post-war work was "Shôshō Shigemoto no haha" ("
Captain Shigemoto's Mother", 1949-1950), with a moving restatement of the common Tanizaki theme of a son's longing for his mother. The novel also introduces the issue of sexuality in old age, which would reappear in Tanizaki’s later works, such as "Kagi" ("The Key", 1956). Kagi is a lurid psychological novel, in which an aging professor arranges for his wife to commit adultery in order to boost his own sagging sexual desires.
Tanizaki's characters are often driven by obsessive erotic desires. In one of his last novels, "Futen Rojin Nikki" ("Diary of a Mad Old Man", 1961-1962), the aged diarist is struck down by a stroke brought on by an excess of sexual excitement. He records both his past desires and his current efforts to bribe his daughter-in-law to provide sexual titilation in return for Western baubles.
Tanizaki died of a heart attack in
Yugawara, Kanagawa, south of Tokyo, on 30 July 1965, shortly after celebrating his 79th birthday.
Many of Tanizaki's works are highly sensual, a few particularly centered on eroticism, and virtually all are laced with wit and ironic sophistication. Though he is remembered primarily for his novels and short stories, he also wrote poetry, drama, and essays. He was, above all, a masterful storyteller.
ome works published in English
* "Naomi". Trans. Anthony Chambers. Vintage Press (2001). ISBN 0375724745
* "The Key" & "Diary of a Mad Old Man". Trans. Howard Hibbert. Vintage Press (2004). ISBN 1400079004
Seven Japanese Tales" Trans. Howard Hibbett. Vintage Press (1963). ISBN 0679761071
The Gourmet Club" Trans. Anthony Chambers and Paul McCarthy. Kodansha International (2001). ISBN 4770029721
* "The Makioka Sisters". Trans. Edward Seidensticker. Vintage Press (1995). ISBN 0679761640
* "Some Prefer Nettles". Trans. Edward Seidensticker. Vintage Press (1995). ISBN 0679752692
* "Quicksand". Trans. Howard Hibbett. Vintage Press (1995). ISBN 0679760229
* "A Cat, a Man, and Two Women". Trans. Paul McCarthy. Kodansha International (1992). ISBN 4770016050
* "The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi" and "Arrowroot". Trans. Anthony Chambers.Vintage Press (2003). ISBN 0375719318
* "Childhood Years: A Memoir". Trans. Paul McCarthy. Kodansha International.
* "The Reed Cutter" and "Captain Shigemoto's Mother". Trans. Anthony Chambers. Knopf, 1993.
* "In Praise of Shadows". Trans. Edward Seidensticker and Thomas Harper. Leete's Island Books, 1977.
* Boscaro, Adriana, et al., eds. "Tanizaki in Western Languages: A Bibliography of Translations and Studies". University of Michigan Press (1999). ISBN 0939512998
* Boscaro, Adriana and Anthony Chambers, eds. "A Tanizaki Feast: The International Symposium in Venice". University of Michigan Press (1994). ISBN 0939512904
* Chambers, Anthony, "The Secret Window: Ideal Worlds in Tanizaki's Fiction". Harvard University Asia Centre (1994). ISBN 0674796748
* Gessel, Van C. "Three Modern Novelists". Kodansha International (1994). ISBN 4770016522
* Ito, Ken Kenneth. "Visions of Desire: Tanizaki's Fictional Worlds". Stanford University Press (1991). ISBN 0804718695
* Keene, Donald. "Dawn to the West". Columbia University Press (1998). ISBN 0231114354.
* [http://www.city.ashiya.hyogo.jp/english/05.html Tanizaki Memorial Museum, Kobe]
* [http://www.horror-house.jp/e/cat4/he-worked.html Junichiro Tanizaki's grave]
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