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Jun’ichiro Tanizaki


Jun’ichiro Tanizaki was born in 1886 in the Nihonbashi section of Tokyo. His family had lived in the area for many generations. His father was given a Western style alcoholic drink shop to run by his wealthy father but did not do a good job nor did he a good job in subsequent businesses. He died when Tanizaki was young and the family fortunes gradually faded, not least because there were seven children. He did well at school but, with financial problems, he had to work as a houseboy while continuing his studies, a job he was fired from for having an affair with a maid. He went to the Tokyo Imperial University but had to drop out for financial reasons.

His first literary work was a one act play, published in a magazine he cofounded. This magazine – 新思潮 (Shinshichō – it means something like New Thought) – was where he published his first and very well received story – 刺青 (The Tattooer). The idea of the femme fatale will appear in other of his works. At this time, he married a woman, whom, he said, he married for stability and not for love. However, the marriage failed, not least because Tanizaki was more attracted to his wife’s sisters than to her. He started travelling but, like many Japanese intellectuals of the period, was fascinated by the West and moved to Yokohama, where there was more of an expatriate population. He also became fascinated by the cinema and started writing screenplays.

His house was destroyed in the Great Kantō earthquake of 1923 and he then moved to Kyoto. His first real novel – <>痴人の愛 (Naomi) – was written after his move and was the beginning of his real success. In this novel, as in his later work, both fiction and non-fiction, he dealt with the issue of what it means to be Japanese. He also started translating classic Japanese literature into modern Japanese, including the Tale of the Genji. He started writing what is perhaps his best-known work, 細雪 (The Makioka Sisters), just before World War II. It was initially serialised in a magazine but then it was decided it was not patriotic enough and publication was suspended till after the war. After the war, his reputation grew and he was recognised as Japan’s greatest living writer. He died in 1965.

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Jun’ichiro Tanizaki
Tanizaki Junichiro


(only books translated into European languages)

1915 お艶殺し (A Spring-Time Case)
1918 金と銀 (Gold und Silber) (only in German translation)
1918 白昼鬼語 (Devils in Daylight)
1919 富美子の足 (Le pied de Fumiko; I piedi di Fumiko) (only in French & Italian translation)
1919 美食倶楽部 (The Gourmet Club)
1922 愛すればこそ (Puisque je l’aime) (only in French translation)
1924 痴人の愛 (Naomi)
1925 赤い屋根 (Red Roofs and Other Stories)
1926 友田と松永の話 (The Story of Tomoda and Matsunaga)
1928 黒白 (In Black and White)
1929 蓼喰う蟲 (Some Prefer Nettles)
1930 卍 (Quicksand)
1931 吉野葛 (Arrowroot)
1932 蘆刈 (Ashikari; later: The Reed Cutter)
1933 春琴抄 (The Story of Shunkin; later: A Portrait of Shunkin)
1933 陰翳礼讃 (In Praise of Shadows)
1935 武州公秘話 (The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi)
1936 猫と庄造と二人の女 (A Cat, A Man and Two Women)
1948 細雪 (The Makioka Sisters)
1949 少将滋幹の母 (Captain Shigemoto’s Mother)
1956 鍵 (The Key)
1957 幼少時代 (Childhood Years: A Memoir)
1961 瘋癲老人日記 (Diary of a Mad Old Man)
1963 Seven Japanese Tales
1963 台所太平記 (The Maids)
2022 Longing and Other Stories
2023 人魚の嘆き (The Siren’s Lament: Essential Stories) (stories – contains The Qilin, Killing O-Tsuya, and The Siren’s Lament)