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Some Prefer Nettles [Hardcover]

Jun'ichiro Tanizaki , E.G. Seidensticker
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 Mar 1983
The marriage of Kaname and Misako is disintegrating: whilst seeking passion and fulfillment 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.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd; New impression edition (7 Mar 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0436516039
  • ISBN-13: 978-0436516030
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,435,113 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A chilling climax. Tanizaki is a master of ambiguity in his own language and the subtle flavour of the work is skilfully preserved in this translation" The Times "One of Japan's most popular writers in this century. In this and his other books, he pulls aside the shoji that screens Japanese home life to eavesdrop on what people are really saying and thinking behind their polite facades" New York Times "It is important that the British public should become acquainted with this great twentieth-century Japanese fiction writer" -- Anthony Burgess

Book Description

A powerful, autobiographical work set in 1920s Tokyo and Osaka --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Individual freedom vs. cultural traditions. 22 Dec 2002
By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Written in 1929, Some Prefer Nettles is as relevant and fresh today as it was more than seventy years ago. Illuminating the conflict between the old, traditional ways of Japan and western, "modern" influences, obvious in Tokyo even in the 1920's, this story of an unsuccessful marriage could be contemporary, except in the details. The social unacceptability of divorce in Japanese culture and the resulting tensions felt by three generations of a Japanese family allow the western reader to enter an emotional world, a world of conflict rarely shared with outsiders and almost never understood.
Kaname and his wife Misako "do not excite each other," but they are stuck, perhaps permanently, in their loveless marriage. If Misako leaves Kaname, she will have to return to her father's home, a social outcast, without her son, who will stay with his father. Kaname will also suffer--he has failed as a husband. Considering himself "modern," Kaname has allowed Misako to take a lover, while he finds satisfaction in geisha houses and with prostitutes. As we follow this unhappy couple, we watch Kaname come increasingly under the influence of his conservative, traditional father-in-law, becoming more and more fascinated with old traditions--wearing the kimono, visiting the Bunraku puppet theatre, and appreciating the behavior of O-hisa, his father-in-law's doll-like mistress--while Misako relentlessly pursues materialistic and selfish goals, presumably western.
Tanazaki creates beautifully realized domestic scenes, and his subtle dialogue reveals character by what is not said as much by what is said. Kaname is a sympathetic character torn by his culture and loyalties, a man at the mercy of a cultural tradition which he also embraces.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Individual freedom vs. cultural traditions., 19 Jan 2003
By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Written in 1929, Some Prefer Nettles is as relevant and fresh today as it was more than seventy years ago. Illuminating the conflict between the old, traditional ways of Japan and western, "modern" influences, obvious in Tokyo even in the 1920's, this story of an unsuccessful marriage could be contemporary, except in the details. The social unacceptability of divorce in Japanese culture and the resulting tensions felt by three generations of a Japanese family allow the western reader to enter an emotional world, a world of conflict rarely shared with outsiders and almost never understood.
Kaname and his wife Misako "do not excite each other," but they are stuck, perhaps permanently, in their loveless marriage. If Misako leaves Kaname, she will have to return to her father's home, a social outcast, without her son, who will stay with his father. Kaname will also suffer--he has failed as a husband. Considering himself "modern," Kaname has allowed Misako to take a lover, while he finds satisfaction in geisha houses and with prostitutes. As we follow this unhappy couple, we watch Kaname come increasingly under the influence of his conservative, traditional father-in-law, becoming more and more fascinated with old traditions--wearing the kimono, visiting the Bunraku puppet theatre, and appreciating the behavior of O-hisa, his father-in-law's doll-like mistress--while Misako relentlessly pursues materialistic and selfish goals, presumably western.
Tanazaki creates beautifully realized domestic scenes, and his subtle dialogue reveals character by what is not said as much by what is said. Kaname is a sympathetic character torn by his culture and loyalties, a man at the mercy of a cultural tradition which he also embraces.
Read more ›
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A sting in the tale. 2 Jan 2013
By Sue Kichenside TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Tanizaki takes as his starting point a passionless marriage to tell us about the changing mores of Osaka in the 1930s.

The marriage of Kaname and Misako has been in stasis for a while. Kaname has lost any physical feelings for his wife and has allowed - one might even say encouraged - her to take a lover while he pays for his pleasure elsewhere. This arrangement is deemed more `acceptable' in an era when divorce was frowned upon. With about 140 pages, this is a short tender tale which made me feel genuinely sad for this couple. Neither of them can bring themselves to make the break and, besides, they have a son to consider.

Tanizaki uses the character of Kaname's father-in-law to instil in his son-in-law a sense of respect for the traditional Japanese customs which are in danger of dying out. Thus, the author manages to digress onto such arcane subjects as puppet theatre and the ways of geisha which, while interesting to an extent, tend to take the reader away from the main narrative. A little too much, perhaps, because the story presents us with an interesting moral dilemma which I found myself longing to get back to. Today, of course, couples counselling would help to resolve this couple's problem in no time! And so, in the time-honoured traditional Japanese way, does Kaname's father-in-law.

Tanizaki is also the author of The Makioka Sisters (Vintage Classics) a truly memorable book and one of my all-time favourites. `Some Prefer Nettles' is not in the same league but nevertheless it is a thought-provoking read and, with sensitive direction, would make a wonderful film.
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