counter create hit Some Prefer Nettles (Vintage Classics) - Download Free eBook
Hot Best Seller

Some Prefer Nettles (Vintage Classics)

Availability: Ready to download

The marriage of Kaname and Misako is disintegrating: whilst seeking passion and fulfilment in the arms of others, they contemplate the humiliation of divorce. Misako's father believes their relationship has been damaged by the influence of a new and alien culture, and so attempts to heal the breach by educating his son-in-law in the time-honoured Japanese traditions of aes The marriage of Kaname and Misako is disintegrating: whilst seeking passion and fulfilment in the arms of others, they contemplate the humiliation of divorce. Misako's father believes their relationship has been damaged by the influence of a new and alien culture, and so attempts to heal the breach by educating his son-in-law in the time-honoured Japanese traditions of aesthetic and sensual pleasure. The result is an absorbing, chilling conflict between ancient and modern, young and old.


Compare

The marriage of Kaname and Misako is disintegrating: whilst seeking passion and fulfilment in the arms of others, they contemplate the humiliation of divorce. Misako's father believes their relationship has been damaged by the influence of a new and alien culture, and so attempts to heal the breach by educating his son-in-law in the time-honoured Japanese traditions of aes The marriage of Kaname and Misako is disintegrating: whilst seeking passion and fulfilment in the arms of others, they contemplate the humiliation of divorce. Misako's father believes their relationship has been damaged by the influence of a new and alien culture, and so attempts to heal the breach by educating his son-in-law in the time-honoured Japanese traditions of aesthetic and sensual pleasure. The result is an absorbing, chilling conflict between ancient and modern, young and old.

30 review for Some Prefer Nettles (Vintage Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jim Fonseca

    We’re in 1930’s Japan and one of the main themes of the book is how the people, the upper middle business class, anyway, feel torn between modern Japan with all its new western influence and traditional Japan. The author tells us that to be foreign is to court unhappiness. A ferry boat the main character travels on has a “western deck” and traditional Japanese deck. The house of the main character has a traditional Japanese wing and an “American wing.” The main character goes to a house of prost We’re in 1930’s Japan and one of the main themes of the book is how the people, the upper middle business class, anyway, feel torn between modern Japan with all its new western influence and traditional Japan. The author tells us that to be foreign is to court unhappiness. A ferry boat the main character travels on has a “western deck” and traditional Japanese deck. The house of the main character has a traditional Japanese wing and an “American wing.” The main character goes to a house of prostitution (not a geisha house) run by a western woman with western women prostitutes for western men, largely because he feels honored to be one of the few Japanese allowed access. The story is one of a terribly unhappy marriage between two people who do not interest each other sexually and who feel a tormenting uncertainty over what to do about it. They consider divorce but they have a school-aged son, greatly complicating things. The woman often cries herself to sleep but the husband feels paralyzed to even reach out to her. Yet he feels they could be “good friends” if they weren’t married. He doesn’t mind that she has taken a lover and in fact has encouraged her to do so. The main character is the King of Indecisiveness; he wants to delay any action, postpone making any decisions. He’s crazy enough to want to keep involving more people in the divorce decision process to get their input: a male cousin who is friends with his wife; his father-in-law, and even his wife’s lover! As he muses at one point: “It was as though he married her to become obsessed with the question of how can I get away from her?” Just as he is torn between leaving his wife or staying with her, he reflects the book’s larger theme by being torn between the two competing cultures. Despite his western predilections, he starts to admire his father-in-law, who, in his old age, has turned back to traditional Japanese culture. The father-in-law has taken up with a young geisha. He starts collecting traditional puppets used in plays and insists on drinking sake only from ancient wooden lacquerware cups. Here are some good quotes related to the father-in-law: “I read somewhere the other day that men who are too fond of the ladies when they are young generally turn into antique-collectors when they get old.” “He was always careful to cultivate in his dress and his manner an impression of advanced years.” He believed “Old men should act like old men.” The main character thinks “…the regret at divorcing his father-in-law might be somewhat stronger than the regret at divorcing his wife…” Speaking of puppets, one chapter in the book talks quite a bit about traditional Japanese puppet plays. This must have been a theme in Japanese literature at the time: pick a traditional Japanese theme and expand upon it. I’m reminded of the discussion of the special Japanese fabric called chijimi in the novel Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata. There is also a theme, touched on several times, of regional variation in Japanese culture: Tokyo “reserve” vs. Osaka “openness and probing by asking brash questions even of strangers.” The author also tells us about what he sees as the phenomenon of “woman-worship” in western culture, going back to the Greeks and epitomized in the modern era by Hollywood always seeking new ways to display womanly beauty. The prose is interesting. We are told in the introduction that the author is a stylist who aims at a dreamy, floating prose, suspicious of too vivid a choice of words, too clear a view, too conspicuous a transition from one figure or idea to another. The author is quoted in the introduction as writing “Do not try to be too clear; leaves some gaps in the meaning” and “…we consider it good form to keep a thin sheet of paper between the fact or the object and the words that give expression to it.” And of course, for English readers, the translation adds another filmy layer of gauze to the words. One more quote I liked: “Japanese food is meant to be looked at and not eaten…” A good read about pre-WW II Japan. photo of Tokyo in 1930's from rakugoleon.wordpress.com Japanese puppets from jigsaw-japan.com

  2. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    I enjoyed Some Prefer Nettles immensely. If you appreciate or seek classic literarary fiction, Japanese novels, a well-formed sentence --and many of them --over plot, ambiguous endings, complex family dynamics, imperfect marriages, and the sound of rain frogs on a summer's eve, you likewise may appreciate it. For an excellent review, read this from William: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... I enjoyed Some Prefer Nettles immensely. If you appreciate or seek classic literarary fiction, Japanese novels, a well-formed sentence --and many of them --over plot, ambiguous endings, complex family dynamics, imperfect marriages, and the sound of rain frogs on a summer's eve, you likewise may appreciate it. For an excellent review, read this from William: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  3. 5 out of 5

    William2

    By the early twentieth century Japan had for decades been pursuing a policy of industrialization. Generally, this push toward modernization began with the Meiji Restoration of 1868. Now it’s sixty years later, 1928, and we find ourselves near Osaka in the home of Kaname and Misako. For a number of years they’ve been trapped in a loveless marriage. Neither knows how to proceed with the inevitable divorce. They are both stuck and suffering. Kaname, who considers himself a modern man, has even allo By the early twentieth century Japan had for decades been pursuing a policy of industrialization. Generally, this push toward modernization began with the Meiji Restoration of 1868. Now it’s sixty years later, 1928, and we find ourselves near Osaka in the home of Kaname and Misako. For a number of years they’ve been trapped in a loveless marriage. Neither knows how to proceed with the inevitable divorce. They are both stuck and suffering. Kaname, who considers himself a modern man, has even allowed Misako to see a lover, even though they still share the same house. A big problem is their young son Hiroshi, about ten, who, with the usual prescience of smart children, has intuited that something is terribly wrong. One morning Kaname arranges to meet his father-in-law at the bunraku puppet theater in Osaka, a favorite haunt of that connoisseur of Japanese culture. Misako can't bear to go since it means she'll have to forgo a meeting with her lover, she'll have to present herself to her father as Kaname's devoted wife, and she'll have to share the company of O-hisa, her father's mistress, a courtesan considerably younger than herself. The play that day is Chikamatsu's The Love Suicides (1703). Tanizaki deftly draws parallels between his characters's predicament and the melodramatic action on the stage. The motif of the puppet theater is ideal, since it suggests how the principals are acting a game or masque among themselves. Kaname’s father-in-law has brought food in traditional gold-flecked, black lacquer boxes. He talks a lot about O-hisa’s classical garb (which he busies himself buying to suit his tastes). O-hisa’s teeth have been blackened in the time-honored, esthetically pleasing manner. By today's standards, even in Japan, most would consider her a virtual slave, since everything she does is solely for the old man's pleasure. She is virtually a cipher toward that end. Misako represents the female side of the modern/traditionalist continuum, just as the old man does the male side. The old man likes to argue the merits of Osaka-style puppet theater versus the Tokyo style. He goes on about the correct way to sing the old songs. Kaname is torn. He is intoxicated by the old ways and his father-in-law's lifestyle but thinks of himself as modern. Enter Takanatsu, Kaname’s cousin, on one of his periodic visits from Shanghai. Takanatsu’s a fascinating character who’s able to articulate Kaname's indecisiveness with brutal clarity. With Takanatsu's arrival we see how truly split Kaname is between so-called modern (Western) views and the lure of old Japan. Even the house in which he and Misako live is split between a Western wing and a Japanese wing. Takanatsu, who's been in touch with Kaname by post, arrives with the hope of ending the masque, of revealing the players's true faces. The old man’s ways constitute a limiting provincialism that Kaname acknowledges yet cannot relinquish. Especially fascinating are the digressions Tanizake pursues with regard to Edo Period art, which is so reverenced by the father-in-law. I adore this novel. Tanizaki's touch is deft, his novel's emotional impact powerful.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Calzean

    There is a lot of "the grass is greener on the other side" in this short little classic. The question is what side of the fence is greener. There is the west is best or go with the traditional Japanese culture, live life like modern Tokyo or be like the country hicks in Osaka, and stay married where there is obvious love (but no sex) or divorce and proceed into new marriages. Japanese puppet theatre is lovingly featured as well. There is a lot of "the grass is greener on the other side" in this short little classic. The question is what side of the fence is greener. There is the west is best or go with the traditional Japanese culture, live life like modern Tokyo or be like the country hicks in Osaka, and stay married where there is obvious love (but no sex) or divorce and proceed into new marriages. Japanese puppet theatre is lovingly featured as well.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Japanese is a vague language and they produce vague books. "They prefer their prose to be misty," says the prolific Japanese translator Edward Seidensticker in his introduction, "To suggest more than it says." The great Japanese author Jun'ichirō Tanizaki traces it all the way back to the meandering, oblique Tale of Genji. "We Japanese scorn the bald fact," he says, "and we consider it good form to keep a thin sheet of paper between the fact...and the words." So here's this thin Jamesian sheet of Japanese is a vague language and they produce vague books. "They prefer their prose to be misty," says the prolific Japanese translator Edward Seidensticker in his introduction, "To suggest more than it says." The great Japanese author Jun'ichirō Tanizaki traces it all the way back to the meandering, oblique Tale of Genji. "We Japanese scorn the bald fact," he says, "and we consider it good form to keep a thin sheet of paper between the fact...and the words." So here's this thin Jamesian sheet of paper. Kaname and Misako are getting divorced, if they ever get around to it. Nothing dramatic has happened. It's a banal divorce. They're just not that into each other. Misako has a lover. Kaname's main concern is that when the divorce happens, the lover had better settle down with her to save embarrassment. I too have been banally divorced, and I loved this; it reminded me of some parts of mine. The part where for a while we thought we would be friends, that we'd still be important to each other even if we didn't stay married. The part where the loss of love isn't even that interesting; the logistics of divorce are the scary part. All this and puppet shows! Tanizaki, in his youth a dangerous writer, began to look backwards as he aged, as the timid do. Kaname finds truth in the old-fashioned Japanese puppet shows. "No matter how inspired an actor was, one still said to oneself: 'That's Baiko,' or, 'That's Fukusuke.' But here one had only [the puppet] Koharu herself." Miss Piggy or gtfo Kaname wishes the person would disappear, until only the performance remains. He finds his life too complicated. His father-in-law has a consort, O-hisa, almost a concubine, a much younger, submissive woman with her teeth blackened in the old-fashioned style. She resembles a puppet. Kaname would like a puppet. He's a stand-in for Tanizaki, who set his own wife up with a poet friend of his as their marriage washed away. Tanizaki wrote this book two years before they got divorced; it may be a subtle hint, but one would imagine she got it. this is an actual thing O-hisa isn't quite what she presents as. Flashes of rebellion show under her makeup. Kaname doesn't come off terribly well, as he curls up. The ending is subtle and brilliant. Apparently Tanizaki is known for good endings. The book says little and implies a lot. It's short and dense. Seidensticker says that Chinese novels are precise, and Japanese ones are misty. I read a lot of Chinese novels last year - he's right - and I'm starting to read a lot of Japanese novels now. There's been a dreamlike quality to many of them. Puppet shows are still silly, but this is a deep book. all of these are very serious men

  6. 5 out of 5

    E. G.

    Introduction --Some Prefer Nettles

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tosh

    Tanizaki is one of the greats in Japanese literature -and the only one that I know who was obsessed with how the West mixed with the old Japanese culture - in its practice as well as its aesthetic. The puppet theater in the novel is worth the price alone, but what is fascinating about this book is how Tanizaki shares his doubts and love of western culture. It was a conflict with him, and this is what makes his literature so unique in Japanese 20th Century letters.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Vivian

    Deliberate with an emphasis on aesthetics. The blurb gives a coarse approximation of the story, but fails to capture the essence and tone of it. Kaname and Misako's disintegrating marriage is the vehicle for observing a multitude of attitudes in post-Meiji Japan. There is conflict and slippage between the modern and traditional ways, advantages and disadvantages--Tanizaki leaves the reader to decide for themselves. The power here is the rich and evocative language, the descriptions. This is not Deliberate with an emphasis on aesthetics. The blurb gives a coarse approximation of the story, but fails to capture the essence and tone of it. Kaname and Misako's disintegrating marriage is the vehicle for observing a multitude of attitudes in post-Meiji Japan. There is conflict and slippage between the modern and traditional ways, advantages and disadvantages--Tanizaki leaves the reader to decide for themselves. The power here is the rich and evocative language, the descriptions. This is not an action-oriented story, but rather a sensual exploration. Beautiful, perhaps even indulgent, for one looking for a contemplative read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Inderjit Sanghera

    The story of the gradual disintegration of a marriage, 'Some Prefer Nettles' is not Tanizaki's novels, but contains moments of beauty and poetry interspersed between pages of often too stilted dialogue. Perhaps the dialogue is purposefully stilted; after all the key theme of the novel is the disaffection between the married couple Kaname and Misako, however their separation is a reflection of wider societal trends which Tanizaki is commenting and reflecting on. Kaname, whose Western sensibilitie The story of the gradual disintegration of a marriage, 'Some Prefer Nettles' is not Tanizaki's novels, but contains moments of beauty and poetry interspersed between pages of often too stilted dialogue. Perhaps the dialogue is purposefully stilted; after all the key theme of the novel is the disaffection between the married couple Kaname and Misako, however their separation is a reflection of wider societal trends which Tanizaki is commenting and reflecting on. Kaname, whose Western sensibilities are more a product of his fantasies than any objective reality; his favourite Western book, 'The Arabian Nights' is in fact an Eastern one, and the Western prostitute he is fascinated by is in fact not likely Western at all; in many ways the novels other key theme is the destruction of these mirages, these fantasies which dominate Kaname's psyche, but which he gradually sheds beneath a newfound fascination for Japanese values. Kaname doesn't realise, however, that the ideals he creates about Japan are just as fantastical as his ones of the West-it is this inability to confront and recognise reality which is the key reason for his split with his wife Misako-his idealisations render him incapable of forming concrete relationships with other people, until they begin to resemble the dolls in the plays he admires. Like most of Tanizaki's novels, the innermost feelings of the characters are subtly rendered via symbols, however the novel lacks the punch of 'The Makioka Sisters'. the ethereality of 'Naomi' or the sad, somnolent beauty of his treatise 'In Praise of Shadows'.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    There are some minor spoilers in this review. Nothing that gives away the main plot, but some characters are looked at in depth and some plot points are mentioned. “In the beginning there was no east and west. Where then is there a north and south?” This is the question that is at the heart of Tanizaki’s wonderful “Some Prefer Nettles.” At first, I mistakenly believed that this was going to be another east vs. west style novel, as it was a common theme in Japanese literature during this period. U There are some minor spoilers in this review. Nothing that gives away the main plot, but some characters are looked at in depth and some plot points are mentioned. “In the beginning there was no east and west. Where then is there a north and south?” This is the question that is at the heart of Tanizaki’s wonderful “Some Prefer Nettles.” At first, I mistakenly believed that this was going to be another east vs. west style novel, as it was a common theme in Japanese literature during this period. Understandable given that many Japanese traditional values were being replaced with more American/European ideals. Even the clothes were changing drastically, with kimonos leaving and suits becoming the norm. Though these ideas are discussed, they are notwhat the novel is about... at least not in that direct of a way. In fact, if there is indeed an answer to the above quote, it seems that Tanizaki thinks that there is still no such thing as east and west, north or south. Tanizaki constantly subverts any personifications of any specific core value, showing them to consistently be flawed. For example, O-hisa, who to Kaname seems to personify the eastern traditions, is scolded by the old man for using a compact at one point and she doesn’t like many of the traditional clothes. She even talks about preferring to read women’s magazines to calligraphy and such. In contrast, the most fully western character (as in the only one actually from Europe) is the madam who puts on a front of how European she is, but even after her brother’s death she refuses to leave Japan. This says to me that Tanizaki is saying that people are pretty much the same everywhere. We’re all fascinated by things foreign and new, but at the same time still uphold a lot of traditional aspects even unintentionally (this is further reinforced by Kaname saying that his marriage would maybe work in the west but would be unheard of in Japanese society towards the beginning of the novel, and then later the old man says how many relationships, including his marriage, are very much like theirs). Kaname in particularly is in love with the perfect eastern personification, which is why he is fascinated by O-hisa, he even says that maybe he could end up with someone who is "more O-hisa than O-hisa actually is." (I don't have the book on me, so this is probably not the full quote, just the gist of it). Despite this, he regularly sleeps with a woman who looks as European as possible... practically the opposite of O-hisa. Yet despite opposites appearances, they are quite similar. It turns out despite her presentation as a European who escaped her homeland, she's of Asian descent as well. Thus any presentations as fully eastern or western are shown to be... flawed. Beyond analysis though, my terms of the story as a whole; the book is ambiguous to the point of frustration. I found myself pondering throughout the novel, do they not want a divorce or do they and they are simply too lazy? It was frustrating, but intriguing. I loved the details about classic puppet theater that are presented, and found myself wanting to know more beyond what the book gave me, which is satisfying in its own way as well. All in all this is a very satisfying read. I’m rather shocked that the book was never adapted into a film. While many readers may not think the plot would serve itself as a film, many Japanese directors of the 50s and 60s thrived on this sort of material, Ozu or Kon Ichikawa in particular come to mind (the later of which directed a film version The Makioka Sisters, which is another Tanizaki novel). Highly recommended to all fans of Japanese literature, or those looking for a complex dysfunctional family drama.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sonali V

    I had not expected to be so drawn in by this book after reading the blurb. Just because I like to read a variety of writers across countries and genres I decided to give it a try. Also, I am fascinated by Japanese culture. Certainly I am a big fan of Haruki Murakami and Kazuo Ishiguro, though the latter cannot be strictly called a Japanese writer. Tanizaki brilliantly captures the angst which comes when you are caught between two things you like/not like, are used to /cannot really accept. The o I had not expected to be so drawn in by this book after reading the blurb. Just because I like to read a variety of writers across countries and genres I decided to give it a try. Also, I am fascinated by Japanese culture. Certainly I am a big fan of Haruki Murakami and Kazuo Ishiguro, though the latter cannot be strictly called a Japanese writer. Tanizaki brilliantly captures the angst which comes when you are caught between two things you like/not like, are used to /cannot really accept. The old way of life one has grown up with, it is a part of one's being yet, the pull of modernity and the changes it brings are not bad either. What you choose to accept and what to reject is entirely personal, it cannot be dictated... I also love the open ending, you are and are not sure what the future of the characters hold.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tina

    I'm trying to distance myself from the cultural and time differences I experienced and still, as much as try to, I cannot really say I liked the book. Some Prefer Nettles is not at all a badly written book, but unfortunately there was nothing in the story or characters I could relate to. Tanizaki tells a story of a married couple that no longer wants to be married, but somehow Misako and Kaname don't do anything towards their official separation. Both husband and wife want out of this marriage, a I'm trying to distance myself from the cultural and time differences I experienced and still, as much as try to, I cannot really say I liked the book. Some Prefer Nettles is not at all a badly written book, but unfortunately there was nothing in the story or characters I could relate to. Tanizaki tells a story of a married couple that no longer wants to be married, but somehow Misako and Kaname don't do anything towards their official separation. Both husband and wife want out of this marriage, and it's not something that the times didn't allow them to do, yet neither of them takes a step in the right direction--they maintain a life "together", keeping the image of a married couple for the sake of I didn't actually understand what, while living each a life of their own. And it's perfectly fine by me if somebody wants to live their life in misery (which is actually the way I perceived their relationship), but I cannot remain neutral to the position of constant insecurity in which their son was put (apparently realizing the modern notion of divorce). The novel is centered around the conflict of old and new, of not wanting to change. Alas, I cannot sympathize with people who are not willing to take actions and change a situation they both don't like and are absolutely aware should change. I fully understand what Takizaki tried to do in terms of the conflicts between East and West, old and modern, but...no. Just no. I wish the novel was longer, providing a deeper insight to the main characters and their experiences. That would've probably made me care more about whether they stayed together or not. I've been really meaning to read another one of Takizaki's books and I will at some point. It's not that Some Prefer Nettles was a major disappointment, it just didn't speak to me in a way that can make me really like a book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cody

    READ DURING "THE DARKNESS" A very touching and incredibly sad story of a disintegrating marriage. Would elaborate but high levels of pharmacopeia at the time allows for little recall. (Million-dollar idea: Remake of Total Recall named Little Recall featuring the talents of dwarf actors exclusively. Nailed it!) READ DURING "THE DARKNESS" A very touching and incredibly sad story of a disintegrating marriage. Would elaborate but high levels of pharmacopeia at the time allows for little recall. (Million-dollar idea: Remake of Total Recall named Little Recall featuring the talents of dwarf actors exclusively. Nailed it!)

  14. 4 out of 5

    David

    From the first reading, I thought I remembered that the father-in-law and his mistress did the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage, but I was wrong and they do a less arduous 33 holy places on Awaji. Whoops. In "Some Prefer Nettles" Tanizaki gives us a charming 1930s couple, Kaname and Misako, who are dripping towards divorce. They are thoroughly modern (Western influenced Tokyo types) and they haven't the energy to stop the rot. But then Kaname starts sliding towards Japanification and all things Osaka From the first reading, I thought I remembered that the father-in-law and his mistress did the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage, but I was wrong and they do a less arduous 33 holy places on Awaji. Whoops. In "Some Prefer Nettles" Tanizaki gives us a charming 1930s couple, Kaname and Misako, who are dripping towards divorce. They are thoroughly modern (Western influenced Tokyo types) and they haven't the energy to stop the rot. But then Kaname starts sliding towards Japanification and all things Osaka. It's his father-in-law's influence. The father-in-law is a man who likes his theatre like his women; dolls. Kaname ends up swinging the same way. Or does he? It's a bit "Choose Your Own Adventure" at the end. I liked the thoroughly modern cousin who smells of garlic. I liked the conversation about the greyhound's neck. I liked that the thoroughly modern people worried about how the boy will take the separation. I liked that the boy was sad. I was reminded of those poor children in "Tender is the Night" and how no-one ever gave a shit about them. "the son of Tokyo can, if he chooses, find in Osaka singing the perfect expression of Osaka crudeness. Surely, he may say to himself, the problem, no matter what strong emotions it stirs up, can be taken care of with less grimacing, less twisting of the lips and contorting of the features, less writhing and straining towards the skies. If in fact it cannot be expressed in less emphatic and dramatic terms, then our Tokyo man is more inclined to turn it off with a joke than try to express it at all."

  15. 5 out of 5

    Candissimo

    some prefer another book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    rosamund

    A moving, nuanced novel about a failed marraige. Kaname respects and likes his wife Misako, but he no longer feels any sexual or romantic desire for her. Yet it's very difficult for the two amicable, indecisive people to reach the point of divorcing one another. They don't want to hurt anyone or each other. Full of poignancy and a sense of loss, the backdrop to this story, Osaka in the 1930s, is evocative and intriguing. Tanizaki explores the tensions between traditional Japanese culture and the A moving, nuanced novel about a failed marraige. Kaname respects and likes his wife Misako, but he no longer feels any sexual or romantic desire for her. Yet it's very difficult for the two amicable, indecisive people to reach the point of divorcing one another. They don't want to hurt anyone or each other. Full of poignancy and a sense of loss, the backdrop to this story, Osaka in the 1930s, is evocative and intriguing. Tanizaki explores the tensions between traditional Japanese culture and the influence of the West, particularly through Japanese puppet theatre, a dying art which comes to fascinate Kaname. Tanizaki also explores the push-and-pull of traditional Japanese romantic relationships, and the different sexual mores and expectations of the West. Kaname is torn between his affection for traditional Japanese women, and his longing for the freedom he finds with the sex-worker, Louise. There is loss everywhere in this narrative, loss of culture, tradition, cities and buildings, love, childhoods, but also a pervading sense of beauty and possibility. An uplifting, though not cheerful, book, characterised by subtlety and Tanizaki's respect for everyone he writes about.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    3.5/5 From the beginning to around three quarters of the way through, I had higher than usual hopes for this work. The introduction was largely obsessed with stuffing all its supposed meaning in the last quarter, so up to that point, I was mostly free to analyze via a completely different paradigm, one which proclaimed this novel exceptionally 'modern' in the way of an unusual amount of humanization of certain demographics. However, Tanizaki's own viewpoint, as expressed in his In Praise of Shado 3.5/5 From the beginning to around three quarters of the way through, I had higher than usual hopes for this work. The introduction was largely obsessed with stuffing all its supposed meaning in the last quarter, so up to that point, I was mostly free to analyze via a completely different paradigm, one which proclaimed this novel exceptionally 'modern' in the way of an unusual amount of humanization of certain demographics. However, Tanizaki's own viewpoint, as expressed in his In Praise of Shadows, came so strongly through the personage of the old patriarch character in the last section that the main character, previously so seemingly forward thinking, only appeared as such through a combination of wishy washy hedonism and advantageous passivity. The final result of all the disparate characters' hand wringing is left to the reader's deduction, but I can't help feeling disappointed with nostalgia that seems to only be able to express its aesthetic through the forcible repurposing of women, body and soul. As such, while I could go the route of concluding the strong female character won the day, that leads to too much of a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too feeling for me to fully commit. I can put up an argument for my ultra-forward thinking interpretation as I did more comfortably with Naomi, but the nonfiction too closely resembles the fiction in this case for me to feel that Tanizaki would be on my interpretive side. Tanizaki poses some questions that are so subtle and yet so contrary to the status quo, whether 'East' or 'West', that it's not hard to understand why the average rating for this is so low. Still, these questions are of vital necessity to a world where rape culture and associated femicide is taken in stride as inevitable consequence instead of classified as unacceptable degradation of the human as civilized species. Treating women as autonomous human beings; taking marriage in stride as mature consenting adults who are willing to recognize the writing on the wall and put one another's welfare before their pride and luxuries of convenience; communicating about safety, security, and long term stability: the world would be better off if the average relationship had an aspect of the better sides of Misako and Kaname to it. However, the morass of cultural norms of any nation that has managed to survive to this day has its seductions, and oftentimes these beguiling structures of art and beauty and domesticity are the most easily sustained by various breeds of human sacrifice, often gendered, often on the heads of women. What ends up winning in this novel is, again, unknown(view spoiler)[ and I am rather disappointed that Kaname's seeming respect for Misako is characterized as little more than lazy opportunism (hide spoiler)] . As such, I may be done with Tanizaki after this fourth work of his, although the queer themes of his 'Swastika', renamed Quicksand, admittedly entice. In terms of the four Tanizakis that I've read, this would rank near the bottom of the stack. One of my students brought up translation possibly interfering with my reception, and I'm sure that played some role in it. However, language play and prose style does not occlude the translation of the conclusion(view spoiler)['s cliffhanger ambiguity (hide spoiler)] , and I've sent so much time reading translations, of which a sizable portion have been from Japanese, that I'm loathe to blow off all my reader experience without a proper fight. I'm still willing to pick up that previously named work, but that, and my reception of is, can ultimately be chalked up to political bias. However, when one is dealing with purported classics, it's best to be honest, as the passage of time is chocked enough on dehumanizing propaganda that a tad aimed in the opposite direction is rather necessary, wouldn't you say? In any case, with the finishing of this, I've run very low on the number of the classics from the 100 Must-Read Classics by People of Color that I'm interested in reading. Hopefully I'll be inclined to whimsically picking up some more in the next month, blessed as it is with an increased amount of worthwhile book sales. That's why you have to be careful with children—some day they grow up.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jayanth - A Capricious Reader

    A beautifully written story set in early 20th century Japan about a husband and wife who have fallen out of love but are at an impasse as they struggle with going through with the logical future of their relationship, a divorce. I steer clear of reading general fiction like family dramas but I love the allure of "cozy stories set in Japan with cherry blossoms, volcanoes in the backdrop and all" and so I keep looking for such books. So, I went ahead and read this book and loved A beautifully written story set in early 20th century Japan about a husband and wife who have fallen out of love but are at an impasse as they struggle with going through with the logical future of their relationship, a divorce. I steer clear of reading general fiction like family dramas but I love the allure of "cozy stories set in Japan with cherry blossoms, volcanoes in the backdrop and all" and so I keep looking for such books. So, I went ahead and read this book and loved every bit of it. The fact that this book is translated from Japanese language is something I keep forgetting and that speaks volumes about the quality of translation by Edward G. Seindenticker. The writing was eloquent and it would not have been so had it not been so, or better, in its original form in Japanese written by Junichiro Tanizaki. All through the story I could see his vast and accurate knowledge of human nature and his understanding of our thinking patterns about things like love, relationships, responsibility, freedom and the things that influence us regarding our approach to these aspects of our lives. I was blown away by the first chapter because Tanizaki sets up the unpleasant, uneasy atmosphere of a home where the husband and wife no longer have any feelings for each other with simple but powerful writing. With just few simple moments between the couple Kaname and Misako, we come to know the current nature of their relationship. Particularly when, as today, she stood behind him, helping him into his kimono and straightening his collar, he became most keenly aware of what an eccentric thing their marriage was. . Kaname felt her hand brush against his neck two or three times, but her touch was as cool and impersonal as a barber's. . She perhaps knew from experience what sort of emotions the occasion would arouse in him, and, as if to ward off the possibility that she herself might be drawn into the same sentimentality, she went at her duties precisely, impersonally. A divorce is pretty horrible experience, I would assume, no matter the things that lead up to it, however amicable a couple might be in their collective decision to separate. The author excellently portrays what the couple who have in their minds and hearts already separated might be going through and how the fact that their decision would impact the life of their young son who, even in his innocence, perceives all is not well and has a sense of foreboding about the future of his family. The three of them would go out for their walk, each alone with his thoughts, each feigning easy, pleasant family affection. The picture was a little frightening. That his and Misako's conspiracy to deceive the world should have been allowed to include Hiroshi seemed to Kaname rather a serious crime. The author's profound understanding of human nature and the various personality traits each of us have and how they define and influence our decisions, or lack of, was a very humbling thing to read in the context of this story. Time and again, my heart stopped a beat because the dissection of these traits hit too close to home. He was disgusted with his own indecision, his tendency to postpone action from day to week to month until it had become clear that he would not be able to speak out until a final crisis forced him to. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this drama set in Osaka/Kyoto/Tokyo at a time when the western culture, that of USA and Europe, was gaining major ground in Japan and there is real and ever present conflict in almost every aspect of life of the people in Japan that contrasts the old and the new, people seemingly preferring one over another, subtly begrudging those who choose differently. I guess this happens to any cultural clash that leads to transformation and evolution, and degradation as some might prefer to call it, of native culture. The same is the case for art as well, as the every turning wheel of time and the ever transforming world force upon the art forms and their advocates tough decisions about whether to persist with the old or to adapt to the new and what it might mean for the creator/performer and what it means for the audience. It was not enough that something should be touching, charming, graceful; it had to have about it a certain radiance, the power to inspire veneration. One had to feel forced to one's knees before it, or lifted by it to the skies. . It hardly seemed necessary to worry about the plot. Just to lose oneself in the movements of the puppets was enough, and the disorderliness of the audience was no hindrance. Rather the myriad noises and myriad colors combined into a brightness, a liveness, like a kaleidoscope pointed into the sun, and the eye took from them an overall harmony. The author uses vignettes and metaphors to great effect. Here is Kaname explaining why he is waiting for spring season to talk to his son about the divorce. And the subsequent reply to this by his relative. Kaname: That's my theory. It's still a little chilly but it's getting warmer, and before long the cherry blossoms will be out and after that the new leaves - everything to make a separation as easy as it could be. Takanatsu: It something happens while the cherries are in bloom, you choke up when you see cherry blossoms.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    "The ancients would perhaps have called it girlish sentimentality, this inability to face up squarely to the sorrow of a farewell. Nowadays, however, one is counted clever if one can reach a goal without tasting the sorrow, however slight it may be, that seems to lie along the way. Kaname and Misako were cowardly, and there was no point in being ashamed of it. They could only accommodate themselves to their cowardice and follow its peculiar way to happiness." A small, beautifully written novel ab "The ancients would perhaps have called it girlish sentimentality, this inability to face up squarely to the sorrow of a farewell. Nowadays, however, one is counted clever if one can reach a goal without tasting the sorrow, however slight it may be, that seems to lie along the way. Kaname and Misako were cowardly, and there was no point in being ashamed of it. They could only accommodate themselves to their cowardice and follow its peculiar way to happiness." A small, beautifully written novel about the gradual dissolution of a marriage. The gentle, undramatic tone of the novel made it feel realistic and honest, and I continue to maintain my general impression that Tanizaki approaches the Japanese version of Tolstoy. Enjoyable and faintly depressing all at once. My little library here in London has a strangely sizable collection of Japanese literature (Tanizaki, Oe, Kirino), so I may be returning quite often to Japan.

  20. 4 out of 5

    aida

    very well written. although the plot didn't contain many twists, i found the reading enjoyable. it really was full of japanese essence in the sense that i felt calm when reading the book; light and calm. the old man who represented the tradional japanese opinions and way of life was an idea of ease to me. i have a feeling that the whole book is just about feelings and atmosphere, rather than about actions, which i liked. it left me plenty of space to think about what was written on the paper and very well written. although the plot didn't contain many twists, i found the reading enjoyable. it really was full of japanese essence in the sense that i felt calm when reading the book; light and calm. the old man who represented the tradional japanese opinions and way of life was an idea of ease to me. i have a feeling that the whole book is just about feelings and atmosphere, rather than about actions, which i liked. it left me plenty of space to think about what was written on the paper and about the feelings i felt. it wasn't abstract, though. that would make it harder to read. i think i'm starting to like tanizaki more and more, his view on society and life, and his portrayal of everyday situations and feelings.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mel

    Some Prefer Nettles is the fourth work by Junichiro Tanizaki that I have read. (It was first published in 1928 in serial fashion in a literary publication. The version I read was translated from Japanese by Edward Seidensticker in 1951.) Like Quicksand it has as its center a failed marriage, though of a different kind and among people of a very different sort. Misako and her husband Kaname got married at a time of matrimonial transition from arranged marriages through family connections or broker Some Prefer Nettles is the fourth work by Junichiro Tanizaki that I have read. (It was first published in 1928 in serial fashion in a literary publication. The version I read was translated from Japanese by Edward Seidensticker in 1951.) Like Quicksand it has as its center a failed marriage, though of a different kind and among people of a very different sort. Misako and her husband Kaname got married at a time of matrimonial transition from arranged marriages through family connections or brokers to marriages of romantic love. They are in their mid thirties and have a son, Hiroshi, about twelve. They do not hate each other, plot against each other or have horrible fights. The husband simply feels no sexual attraction for his wife. They can and do have civil conversations but they are described as like two strangers in an inn sharing a bed when the inn is full. The husband even encourages his wife to start an affair with a male friend of hers to ease her into another marriage. The father of Misako is the third central character in Some Prefer Nettles. He is refereed to simply as "the old man". He has been a widower for a long time, has enough money to live a cultivated life of leisure and keep a mistress the same age as his daughter. Misako, of course, is embarrassed by the fact that her father lives with a woman her own age and she treats the mistress with thinly disguised contempt. She sees her as sort of like a maid that has promoted herself via extra duties to a position above her station in life. Kamame and his father in law have a cordial relationship. The husband does find the father in law intimidating and cannot relate to the highly refined interests of the very cultivated older man. He is a bit bored by him. The father in law is very much "old school". He scorns what he sees as the decadent Hollywood movies that his daughter loves and the romance novels she reads. He is totally into Bunraku, a form of traditional puppet theater founded in Osaka in the late 17th century. Puppet theater goes much further back than that in Japan. Great care is lavished on the costumes of the puppets. There are 100s of plays. The father in law loves to talk about the smallest details in the plays, being especially interested in the costumes worn by the dolls. He and his son in law go to a festival where many plays will be put on over a three day period. The father in law is not really judgmental when his son in law tells him of the divorce that may be coming. He feels the problem is caused by western corruption bringing people to false expectations about marriages. Unlike Quicksand, characters in this work are basically sympathetic. There are no real villains. It is a lot of fun to see what happens in the marriage and how everyone deals with events in their own way. I do not want to give away any more plot details as it is terribly clever. There is an amazing two page description of a minor character, a fifty year old Canadian woman who owns and operates a number of brothels, that is an amazing literary jewel. In Some Prefer Nettles we see a classic Reading Life type in the father in law, a man who has sort of cultivated himself into a isolated corner. His inner life has been totally enriched by things those around him do not fathom and frankly find a total bore. I did not at all see the ending of this book coming. Tanizaki sort of plots his books so you have to continually rethink what is happening. I endorse this book without reservations. It is not simply an historical curiosity. All of the characters are perfect. There are no trite plot lines. The ending befuddled me and may do the same to others. As a side benefit we learn a lot about Japanese life in the 1920s.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ashita Thakur

    Let me say just one word for this novel: Indecision. About a relationship that stopped being exciting a long time ago but where the couple are confused whether to move on or just stay where they are and let things happen. Indecision. About a man trying to be modern in all senses but charmed by traditional life, a japanese man who wears suits to sleep sometimes. Indecision. A kid watching his parents drift apart, trying to be the glue that binds them together but not really sure about what the hell Let me say just one word for this novel: Indecision. About a relationship that stopped being exciting a long time ago but where the couple are confused whether to move on or just stay where they are and let things happen. Indecision. About a man trying to be modern in all senses but charmed by traditional life, a japanese man who wears suits to sleep sometimes. Indecision. A kid watching his parents drift apart, trying to be the glue that binds them together but not really sure about what the hell is happening because such goddamn indecision. The premise is so realistic and so eternal it hurts. In context of an eastern society on the cusp of modernity but still holding on to its past, this seems like an extremely relatable tale about something not given the artistic importance that Tanizaki bestowed upon it. The moral and emotional dilemmas are so ageless that it feels strange that it was written a lifetime ago. I shall let this one simmer a bit till i figure out what Tanizaki tried to say with the ending but i must say that the prose was absolutely delicious. Tge rating feels deceptive. It feels weird to give it a 3 star so I'll give it a 4 but it left me a little confused about its ending but that could also be a careful ploy to accentuate its indecision so i am not complaining (till i decide to think over it and discover that it wasn't as good as i thought it was)

  23. 4 out of 5

    Gertrude & Victoria

    Some Prefer Nettles is both a historical account as well as a personal story of struggle between a married couple. Written in Tanizaki's distinctive style, his depiction of life in Japan during the earlier decades of the 1900's is richly textured, beautifully refined, and intimately inviting. Tanizaki masterfully maintains a delicate balance between description and suggestion throughout the narrative. The story centers around a wife and husband who have decided on a divorce after realizing for so Some Prefer Nettles is both a historical account as well as a personal story of struggle between a married couple. Written in Tanizaki's distinctive style, his depiction of life in Japan during the earlier decades of the 1900's is richly textured, beautifully refined, and intimately inviting. Tanizaki masterfully maintains a delicate balance between description and suggestion throughout the narrative. The story centers around a wife and husband who have decided on a divorce after realizing for some time that their marriage is without passion, or even, much emotion. Despite their mutual agreement, neither takes the initiative or is assertive enough to settle their differences, once-and-for-all. Like many of his works, it is bathed in irony and steeped in symbolism. The plot may not move as quickly or entertain as much, but it is still as intriguing as some of his best works. Recommended for those who do not mind a slower, more serious piece of literary fiction.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rise

    Kaname and Misako, husband and wife, couldn't bear their relationship anymore. They decided to separate. Misako fell in love with another man; and Kaname, feeling no attachment to his wife, condoned it. Both agreed they need to divorce each other. Tanizaki's novel would have been ordinary soap opera material had it not been for his masterly use of details. His depiction of insular world of puppet plays, of geishas and mistresses, and of the contrasting refinements in the cities of Tokyo and Osak Kaname and Misako, husband and wife, couldn't bear their relationship anymore. They decided to separate. Misako fell in love with another man; and Kaname, feeling no attachment to his wife, condoned it. Both agreed they need to divorce each other. Tanizaki's novel would have been ordinary soap opera material had it not been for his masterly use of details. His depiction of insular world of puppet plays, of geishas and mistresses, and of the contrasting refinements in the cities of Tokyo and Osaka, places the story in a cultural context and in a dramatic light that sublimates all the tension and conflict into a dizzying calmness. The characters are so precise in their barbaric gentleness. They move with the grace of the bourgeoisie, but their inner identity crises are just as crude as modern humanity's. My full review here: http://booktrek.blogspot.com/2010/07/...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Trina

    This is a very beautiful and simple book about a young man and woman in an apparently loveless marriage, and the hold of Japanese traditions which both comfort and chafe them. The story is told alongside the traditional puppet shows: the ancient stories of the Bunraku puppet shows of Osaka and Awaji island. It was very lovely and touching, much less complex than the Makioka Sisters, which I also love.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    Recently I read The Makioka Sisters by the same author, and loved it. I enjoyed this short novel as well. I really like Tanizaki's descriptions of Japan, the people, their clothing, the theater (in this case puppet shows), and the cherry blossoms Recently I read The Makioka Sisters by the same author, and loved it. I enjoyed this short novel as well. I really like Tanizaki's descriptions of Japan, the people, their clothing, the theater (in this case puppet shows), and the cherry blossoms

  27. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I found this book really interesting, but I resented the overall message. It seemed to me that it was saying that the new modern ways give women too much freedom and that they were better off with their older limitations.

  28. 4 out of 5

    George

    A slow, meditative, character based read on the fragility of relationships, the difficulty of letting go and being indecisive. Set in Japan in the 1930s. A middle class Japanese couple over some years decide to separate, the wife having a boyfriend and the husband mixing with a European woman named Louise. The husband finds himself drawn to the old culture of Osaka whereas his wife, Misako, likes the new ways of Tokyo. Osaka is where traditional Japanese art is, like the puppet theatre. Here are A slow, meditative, character based read on the fragility of relationships, the difficulty of letting go and being indecisive. Set in Japan in the 1930s. A middle class Japanese couple over some years decide to separate, the wife having a boyfriend and the husband mixing with a European woman named Louise. The husband finds himself drawn to the old culture of Osaka whereas his wife, Misako, likes the new ways of Tokyo. Osaka is where traditional Japanese art is, like the puppet theatre. Here are a some of examples of the authors writing style: ‘We can’t make a decision between being sad for a little while and being wretched for the rest of our lives. Or rather we’ve made the decision and have trouble finding the courage to carry it through.’ ‘Each worm to his taste; some prefer to eat nettles.’ ‘You are being very demanding indeed. Where, I wonder, will we find the woman to satisfy you? You really should have stayed single - all woman-worshippers should be single. They never find the woman who answers all the requirements.’ My copy of the book is translated by Edward G. Seidensticker and is 155 pages, Penguin Books edition.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Hikaoru

    Liking manga doesn't mean you'll like Japanese lit. Picked this up because of the cover. Yeah2, say what you want, I'll still do that til the end of time. Some Prefer Nettles, the title is actually a Japanese idiom which basically means people like what they like. However, I quite dislike this book. It wasn't a total lost, it made me learn about Japanese theatre that uses dolls as the main characters, kinda like wayang kulit but 3D. Aside from that, it's just about someone's failing marriage. He wa Liking manga doesn't mean you'll like Japanese lit. Picked this up because of the cover. Yeah2, say what you want, I'll still do that til the end of time. Some Prefer Nettles, the title is actually a Japanese idiom which basically means people like what they like. However, I quite dislike this book. It wasn't a total lost, it made me learn about Japanese theatre that uses dolls as the main characters, kinda like wayang kulit but 3D. Aside from that, it's just about someone's failing marriage. He wasn't even firm about it, going back on forth on the decision. Not my cuppa. I'll pick up other Japanese lit next time. If I still can't find any good ones, it's probably just not my style.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Juliana

    unbelievably boring and unlikeable but some sentences hit hard ngl

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.