ArtiFact #37: Junichiro Tanizaki’s ”Some Prefer Nettles” | Ruslan Gallopyn, Alex Sheremet

ArtiFact: Books, Art, Culture

15-02-2023 • 2時間 2分

Junichiro Tanizaki (1886 – 1965) was a Japanese novelist born to a Tokyo merchant family. His work combined some of the best elements of modernism while tapping both Japanese and Western aesthetics. In ArtiFact #37, Alex Sheremet and Ruslan Gallopyn discuss Tanizaki’s “Some Prefer Nettles” (1929), a novel depicting a dysfunctional open marriage and impending divorce which nonetheless might be averted. The book’s dry humor, poetic descriptions, modern (especially by today’s standards) psychology, and deft use of understatement allows Junichiro Tanizaki to develop some of his richest characters.

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0:00 – introduction to Junichiro Tanizaki’s novel & aesthetics; In Praise of Shadows; Patreon show

5:31 – “Some Prefer Nettles” & modern politics; Tanizaki’s cleverness in the opening chapter; Kaname’s indecision, the book’s understated use of humor; invoking “the old man” as a concept vs. a slowly-unfolding, ‘real’ character; Tanizaki’s tapping of ‘pure’ aesthetics in the service of deeper characterization; East/West, conservative/progressive

22:07 – Tanizaki’s use of self-indulgence; Kanane is incurious; the (false) characterization  of Misako; Kaname’s use of psychological leverage against Misako; Tanizaki apportions guilt differently from how the characters apportion guilt; Kaname’s passive-aggressive qualities work well with Japanese stylization, use of understatement; the different functions of passivity

35:40 – the Osaka, Tokyo, Kyoto axes; how Tanizaki always presents counter-arguments to his own arguments; “Some Prefer Nettles” & the tension between subjectivity, objectivity within the narration; how “the old man” goes from being indirectly characterized, to speaking for himself; Tanizaki’s use of music; the Herman Hesse / Steppenwolf connection; Kaname’s confusion of women with art, art with women; Hiroshi as a character; re-assessing Misako

57:30 – introducing Takanatsu; the use of seemingly throwaway details (like the purchase of a dog) for rich effect; Misako’s domesticity

01:11:00 – the phenomenal middle section in “Some Prefer Nettles”; Kaname’s “set of principles” for divorce; objectivity in humor;

01:25:15 – Kaname’s visits to Louise, a Eurasian prostitute; what this says of his psychology; the interplay of East/West disturbs Kaname; ennui, boredom, & the creation of synthetic enigmas;

01:36:50 – the book’s mysterious ending; “the old man’s” principles about marriage, love; how Kaname’s lack of “troubles” hurt him; how seemingly regressive comments on men/women have a progressive edge; O-hisa reveals her own complexities near the end, encouraging Kaname (possibly) to change his incoherent views of women; Tanizaki’s great choice of turning Kaname’s father-in-law into a man of wisdom, yet also a man no one should aspire to be; Kaname realizes he would miss Misako’s domesticity; the John Ashbery connection

Tags: #japaneseculture, #books, #japanese, #podcast, #artifact, #automachination, #asian