Jun’ichiro Tanizaki: 痴人の愛 (Naomi)


The latest addition to my website is Jun’ichiro Tanizaki‘s 痴人の愛 (Naomi). This was Tanizaki’s first full-length novel, written when he had moved away from Yokohama after the Great Kantō earthquake of 1923. It tells the story of Joji Kawai, a serious young man with a good job in Tokyo who falls for a young woman – she is fifteen when he first sees her – who has come from a poor background and is now working as a waitress in a café. Joji initially says he is going to protect her and pay for her to study (English and music) but it is clear that his real reason is sexual attraction. She is clearly a very attractive young woman, with something of a Eurasian look – Joji thinks that she looks a bit like Mary Pickford – and Joji, while initially happy with her, will soon find that many other men are attracted to her. Naomi is looking for a good time, which means dancing, parties, fine, generally Western-style clothes and good food. All of this costs money, but his main problem is that he is sixteen years older than her and she calls him Papa and there are plenty of men closer to her age who are happy to take her dancing. It was something of a risqué novel for the period, though very tame by our standards but still an interesting novel about how a man can fall in love with a woman to the extent that he is prepared to make any sacrifice to keep her.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Tony

    One I keep meaning to try. I’ve read several of Tanizaki’s novels (and actually recently reread ‘The Makioka Sisters’) One of my favourites is ‘Quicksand’, a book which, in its sexual tension, is just as effective as anything modern 🙂

    1. tmn

      I have read The Makioka Sisters twice and seen the film but not for a long time, so shall be rereading it, as well as many of the others. I don’t recall if I have already read Quicksand – I think not – but shall certainly be reading it in the next few weeks.

    2. Nanosecond

      I also admire Quicksand, Tony. More than the sexual tension, I remember that insinuating narrator’s voice. Did Quicksand also remind you of Ford Maddox Ford’s The Good Soldier?

      The Makioka Sisters is lovely, more gentle than any of the other Tanizakis I have read.

      I think I read Naomi many years ago on the heels of Some Prefer Nettles. TMR, if you haven’t already, you may want to read Some Prefer Nettles– the description of the bunraku puppet theater is especially memorable.

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