Japanese Love

Anthony Thwaite

Junichiro Tanizaki (1886-1965) is rightly regarded as one of the handful of 20th-century Japanese novelists whose work has to be seen as of universal and not just Japanese interest. One can, indeed, number them quickly: Tanizaki’s senior, Soseki; his contemporary, Kawabata; his juniors, Endo, Abe and Mishima. This is to leave out too many writers, I know: but the rest can generally be classed under other headings – the pathologically interesting, such as Dazai; the producers of one powerful novel, such as Osaragi (Homecoming) or Ooka (Fires on the Plain); or those who qualify through a sense of potential rather than actual worldwide achievement, such as Oe. The women novelists – Uno, Ariyoshi, ‘Banana’ and many others – have not broken through to an audience outside Japan.

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