Jun’ichiro Tanizaki: 細雪 (The Makioka Sisters)


The latest addition to my website is Jun’ichiro Tanizaki‘s The Makioka Sisters, one of the great Japanese novels. I have now read this novel three times and seen the film and it continues to give me great pleasure. It tells the story of four sisters, daughters of an old family, whose father had had considerable success in business. However, though two of the sisters have married, the youngest two have not and this is a cause of concern for the family. The third, sister, Yukiko, has had numerous suitors but all have been rejected either by her or the family (or both) and, as a result, offers are drying up, particularly as she is now in her thirties. We follow several proposals during the course of the book and quite a few look promising but, for various reasons, do not work out. The youngest sister, Taeko, cannot get married, by tradition, till her older sister is married, so she eloped with her boyfriend but both families managed to intervene before anything happened. Taeko is indicative of the changes that are taking place in Japan, which the Makiokas do not seem to be in tune with. Taeko gets a job, first of all making dolls, which sell to department stores, and then sewing. The Makiokas do not consider a woman working seemly for a Makioka, nor do they approve of her choice of boyfriends. However, they find it difficult to rein her in. Tanizaki tells a superb story of a family that does not adapt to changes, both in its own declining status and the general changes in Japanese society. The novel ends just before Pearl Harbour, which will, of course, lead to far greater changes in the country.

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