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.
About Junichiro Tanizaki
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.
“Tanizaki writes with an unabashed sensuality.” —John Updike
“Japan’s great modern novelist, [Tanizaki] created a lifelong series of ingenious variations on a dominant theme: the power of love to energize and destroy.” —Chicago Tribune