Jun’ichiro Tanizaki: 蓼喰う蟲 (Some Prefer Nettles)


The latest addition to my website is Jun’ichiro Tanizaki‘s 蓼喰う蟲 (Some Prefer Nettles). This is wonderful little novel on the gradual falling apart of a marriage but one that it is falling apart without bitterness and recriminations but just because the couple are, as Kaname, the husband, says, no longer excited by one another. Misako, his wife, has a new lover, Aso, and Kaname is happy for her to see him and is happy to divorce her and for her to marry Aso,whom he has met more than once. He himself has a lover, a Eurasian courtesan called Louise, who wants him to set her up in a flat. As with deciding about his divorce, he is dragging his feet on this. Meanwhile, Misako’s father, who has a mistress younger than his daughter, is concerned with traditional Japanese culture and does not like the increasing influence of Western culture, both on art – theatre, music and traditional dress – but on daily life, such as food and even toilets. It is Takanatsu, Kaname’s cousin, who is visiting from Shanghai, where he lives, who tries to persuade Kaname, not very successfully, to make some decision and to think about his own and Misako’s future, as well as the future of Hiroshi, their son. It is a superb novel about a marriage drifting away but also about one of Tanizaki’s favourite themes, traditional Japanese culture versus modern Western culture and, as always, Tanziako tells his tale beautifully.

2 thoughts on “Jun’ichiro Tanizaki: 蓼喰う蟲 (Some Prefer Nettles)”

  1. I also liked Some Prefer Nettles very much. It left me with a sense of uneasiness that one must feel when vacillating between cultures. Seidensticker is a wonderful translator. My Perigee paperback has woodcuts of Bunraku puppets and puppeteers at the chapter heads — lovely!

    • I agree that Seidensticker does a wonderful job of translating. Sadly my (very) cheap ($1.75) Berkley Medallion paperback had no woodcuts.


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