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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Junichiro Tanizaki - Naomi

Naomi by Junichiro Tanazaki
Description from amazon.com: Naomi is the first English translation of Tanizaki's first important novel (originally serialized in Japanese in 1924-25). It is a subtle adaptation to a Japanese setting of the basic story in Maugham's Of Human Bondage . Joji, the narrator, finds Naomi, a girl half his age, working in a cafe. He takes her to live with him, tries to groom her (with English and music lessons), indulges her whims, encourages her ``Western'' ways, and eventually marries her. She becomes a torment to him, but he is so obsessed with her that he tolerates even her infidelities as long as she will stay with him. The recurrent theme in Tanizaki's novels of the danger in sexual fascination may here represent a self-criticism of his youthful preoccupation with things.

Comments: This is an infuriating novel. You watch how a man love someone so much that he ended up becoming her bitch, and even though he knew that he was being her bitch, and she was treating him like her bitch, he remained her bitch despite the crap she did to him. While reading it, I almost wanted to scream out as the bastard for some of the things he did. It's kinda a social commentary of Japanese's obsession with the West, something that exists til this very day. It has one of those endings which would have been considered a happy one in most conventional love stories, but feeling totally bleak in here. As I've said before, it's an easy read, so I think anyone can try it. Gonna quote one of those reader reviews from amazon.com

"Joji fancies himself Pygmalion, sculpting and pruning his caged bird, primping her and spoiling her. He encourages her fantasies and wraps her in Western clothes (an extreme rarity at the time) and outrageous kimonos. Her whims are his directives, and their games become more and more sexual in nature. But rather than Pygmalion, Joji finds himself in the role of Dr. Frankenstein, soon to be destroyed by his monstrous creation. Naomi grows soulless and spectacular, a hollow beauty who is fully aware of her power over Joji. She is manipulative and without morals, but Joji's investment in her is so great, and his ego so wrapped up in her, that he cannot let her go even when he discovers the horrible truth. It is a vicious whirlpool that he finds himself dragged into."

Yeap, it's that sad.
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