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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Individual freedom vs. cultural traditions.
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...
Published on 22 Dec 2002 by Mary Whipple

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3.0 out of 5 stars Maybe just too subtle
I admire Tanizaki very much, and I would not write this book off as in any sense a failure. But to enjoy it fully, I would have had to know a good deal more about traditional Japanese culture, especially puppet theatre, than I do. The storyline about the breakdown of a marriage is not compelling, because there is very little drama in it. It would really not keep you...
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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 (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Some Prefer Nettles (Vintage Classics) (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. The culture itself is presented lucidly, allowing the reader to admire both the depth of its traditions and the forms, artistic and otherwise, through which it is expressed. This fascinating novel offers a westerner much to contemplate as we see how our emphasis on the individual engenders inevitable conflicts with societies valuing tradition and cultural uniformity. Mary Whipple
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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 (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Some Prefer Nettles (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. The culture itself is presented lucidly, allowing the reader to admire both the depth of its traditions and the forms, artistic and otherwise, through which it is expressed. This fascinating novel offers a westerner much to contemplate as we see how our emphasis on the individual engenders inevitable conflicts with societies valuing tradition and cultural uniformity.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Maybe just too subtle, 12 Sep 2014
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I admire Tanizaki very much, and I would not write this book off as in any sense a failure. But to enjoy it fully, I would have had to know a good deal more about traditional Japanese culture, especially puppet theatre, than I do. The storyline about the breakdown of a marriage is not compelling, because there is very little drama in it. It would really not keep you awake at night.
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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 - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Some Prefer Nettles (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
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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4.0 out of 5 stars This is Tanizaki, 11 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Some Prefer Nettles (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
This is typical Tanizaki's style. I have to say I prefer Naomi, though.
The representation of contemporary Japan is awesome.
Great novel!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Junichiro Tanizaki's triple threat is nothing to be sniffed at, 10 Aug 2013
By 
S. Marsden (UK) - See all my reviews
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After first reading about Some Prefer Nettles a few years ago and being deterred by mixed reviews and the fact that I often finish translated fiction feeling like I've paid commission, to my delight I managed to pick up a used copy this spring.

Tanizaki's voice took a while to get used to, but ultimately the novella wasn't a waste of time; reading the introductory notes certainly increased my enjoyment of the story- it's just difficult to understand what the author wants to get across without any prior knowledge of the context.

The protagonist's voice is noticeably male and the story charting the death throes of his marriage is refreshingly matter-of-fact and lacking in emotion. Given that SPN is semi-autobiographical, it's difficult to fault Tanizaki in that regard and the description of Kaname and Misako's friends and family comes across as true to life; I think it's also fair to say that there is a real sense of place in the novel that might have gone missing from a similar western offering in favour of irritating emotional cud-chewing.

In comparison, 'The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi' is a comical, comparatively bawdy tale which I understand was intended as a sort of parody. Tagged onto the end with Arrowroot, the triple threat Picador edition is well worth reading and certainly kept my attention on the tube.
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Some Prefer Nettles (Vintage Classics)
Some Prefer Nettles (Vintage Classics) by Junichiro Tanizaki (Paperback - 1 Feb 2001)
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