Some Prefer Nettles

Some Prefer Nettles

Paperback(1st Vintage International ed)

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Junichiro Tanizaki’s Some Prefer Nettles is an exquisitely nuanced exploration of the allure of ancient Japanese tradition—and the profound disquiet that accompanied its passing.
It is the 1920s in Tokyo, and Kaname and his wife Misako are trapped in a parody of a progressive Western marriage. No longer attracted to one another, they have long since stopped sleeping together and Kaname has sanctioned his wife’s liaisons with another man. But at the heart of their arrangement lies a sadness that impels Kaname to take refuge in the past, in the serene rituals of the classical puppet theater—and in a growing fixation with his father-in-law’s mistress. Some Prefer Nettles is an ethereally suggestive, psychologically complex exploration of the crisis every culture faces as it hurtles headfirst into modernity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679752691
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/28/1995
Series: Perigee Japanese Library Series
Edition description: 1st Vintage International ed
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 522,567
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.50(d)
Lexile: 1030L (what's this?)

About the Author

Junichiro Tanizaki was born in Tokyo in 1886 and lived in the city until the earthquake of 1923, when he moved to the Kyoto-Osaka region, the scene of one of his most well-known novels, The Makioka Sisters (1943-48). The author of over twenty books, including Naomi (1924), Some Prefer Nettles (1928), Arrowroot (1931), and A Portrait of Shunkin (1933), Tanizaki also published translations of the Japanese classic, The Tale of Genji in 1941, 1954, and 1965. Several of his novels, including Quicksand (1930), The Key (1956), and Diary of a Mad Old Man (1961) were made into movies. He was awarded Japan’s Imperial Prize in Literature in 1949, and in 1965 he became the first Japanese writer to be elected as an honorary member of the American Academy and the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Tanizaki died in 1965.

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Some Prefer Nettles 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
kidzdoc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Some Prefer Nettles (1929), which was loosely based on the author's first marriage, is the story of a Japanese couple who are at the brink of divorce, having fallen out of love with each other. Kaname is no longer physically attracted to his wife Misako, and she begins an affair with a man in a neighboring town. The couple continues to live in a unsteady relationship, held together by their 10 year old son Hiroshi, but they gradually realize that the current situation is untenable. Tanizaki uses this seemingly simple story in a further exploration of East versus West in pre-World War II Japan, which began in his earlier novel [Naomi]. However, his portrayal of Misako, as a modern Japanese wife torn between her duty to her husband and family and her own need for love, is much richer and more complex than the shallow and flighty Naomi, and she is a much more sympathetic and likable character. As the marriage disintegrates, Kaname develops a more meaningful relationship with Misako's father, a middle aged man who embodies traditional Japanese culture through his love of puppet theater (bunraku) and the manner in which he treats his young mistress. Kaname begins to understand and appreciate his father-in-law's beliefs and lifestyle; however, his relationship with a Western (Eurasian) prostitute is also titillating and nearly irresistible.The characters in Some Prefer Nettles exist between Eastern and Western cultures, embracing some elements of each but not fully enmeshed in one or the other. A sense of tension persists throughout the novel, as Kaname and Misako painfully seek to understand their own desires and to resolve their loveless marriage.This was a sensitive portrayal of unrequited love, as well as a multilayered view of a changing Japanese society and its effects on individuals and their relationships with each other.
heatherhoarder on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tanizaki's even-keeled writing ability is shown in his account of a couple facing the disgrace of divorce. The writing style is truly Japanese with all concern devoted to honor and representation. This book's Japanese perspective is missing the shock and edge of modern western literature but is a good taste of a well respected author.
DieFledermaus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In Tanizaki¿s Naomi, the detached, spineless main character learns of his wife¿s cheating and hedonistic behavior but can¿t leave her. In Some Prefer Nettles, the husband is also a detached, spineless man who can¿t leave his wife. However, in this case, he is the one who coldly rejected her, pushing her to take a lover, but inertia prevents them from ending it. This was a fast read and I enjoyed the subtle prose. The reason for Kaname¿s coldness and indecision is given several explanations but the author leaves it ambiguous. He shows how many characters are divided by the past and present, Japan and the West. It did seem like some of the comparisons and symbolism could be heavy-handed and obvious, but the writing prevented me from thinking this.I found the book to be a gripping read despite the fact that not much happens. The cold marriage looks fine on the surface but is deeply unhappy. Kaname grows closer to his father-in-law and develops an interest in Japanese puppet theater, compares Misako, his wife, to his father-in-law¿s mistress and a prostitute he visits, and hopes his cousin¿s arrival will spur him to end the marriage. In just a few scenes, Tanizaki conveys the deadened state of the marriage and all the little irritations that come with presenting a false front. The contrast when Kaname¿s cousin comes is all the more striking as the couple regains some of their good nature. In the character of their son, one can see why divorce is recommended instead of `staying together for the children¿ ¿ Hiroshi is constantly anxious but can¿t talk about it, always waiting for the ax to fall, and has taken up people-pleasing behavior to guard against whatever it is that afflicts his parents.Tanizaki sets up multiple contrasts between Western and Japanese styles and values. Sometimes it seems too pat, as in the comparison between Misako and O-hisa, her father¿s mistress. Misako is having an affair and likes jazz, O-hisa is submissive, traditionally dressed and schooled in all the arts that a woman should have known in the past. However, besides the smooth and descriptive prose, which never focuses too much on the obvious, Tanizaki also constantly undercuts the assumptions about his characters. Misako¿s sophisticated character, it is noted, is an act but one that can be hard to distinguish from the truth after such a long time. O-hisa¿s behavior is also something of an act ¿ though she¿s been trained by Misako¿s father to be the perfect Japanese mistress, she still indulges in Western behavior ¿ using a compact ¿ and her conservative dress hides the fact that she¿s much younger than she looks. Louise, the prostitute Kaname frequents, pretends to be a European and disguises herself with powder, but she is actually Eurasian. The contrasts attract Kaname ¿ similar to his feelings about O-hisa. He rejects Misako though she is still young and attractive and loved him before. Several explanations are suggested ¿ a paralysis from trying to be too Western, Kaname¿s habit of setting women on a pedestal ¿ no one would be good enough ¿ or his division of women into wives and mistresses, where no wife can excite his passion. Kaname¿s growing fascination with the puppet theater could be another obvious bit of symbolism ¿ he¿s somewhat dead inside and wants someone else to pull the strings ¿ but Tanizaki deftly describes several performances, differences in Osaka or Awaji theaters and generally makes it interesting.
technodiabla on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Some Prefer Nettles is the story of the struggle to decide between tradition (East) and new ideas (West), stability and excitement, a spouse and a lover. The main storyline chronicles the degradation of a traditional Japanese marriage as it gives way to new ideas of what love should be. The parallel story tells the tale of Japanese puppet theatre-- reduced attendance and lost art. Tanizaki's insight into marriage is alarmingly perceptive, and his slow revelation of O-hisa's and Misako's father's relationship has the same effect on the reader as it does on Kaname-- a subtly growing appreciation and admiration despite first impressions. I loved the ending-- a bit of hopeless resignation, but overall the right thing seemed to be on its way for Kaname and Misako. I felt that at the end Tanizaki was illustrating that the urge to embrace new ideas had little to do with the ideas themselves and more to with the newness of them. And thus, should be avoided, or at least thought over carefully. Nonetheless the angst, desperation, and indecisiveness is palpable throughout the novel-- supported by Tanizaki's descriptive but surgically clean writing. 4 stars