Some Prefer Nettles

May 5, 2007

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Some Prefer Nettles, authored by one of Japan’s great modern novelists, Junichiro Tanizaki, is set in 1920s Japan. The protagonist, Kaname, is struggling with a loveless marriage and a changing postwar culture. From page one, the evidence of a failed marriage is apparent. Kaname and his wife Misako avoid meeting each others eyes. Deciding whether or not to go out for the evening, they are both passive and neither will decide. In what is likely the best sentence in the book, Tanizaki describes the situation-

“It was as if they held a basin of water balanced between them and waited to see in which direction it would spill.”

That was page two. I always struggle with disagreeing with most of the reviews that I have read of this book, but I simply did not enjoy it. There was good writing throughout, and I would not avoid other novels because I didn’t enjoy this one, but the first hundred pages describe Kaname and Misako avoiding reality. Perhaps if the truth had not been apparent so early in the novel, I would not have been yawning half way through.

“He had nothing against his wife. They simply did not excite each other. Everything else- their tastes, their ways of thinking- matched perfectly. To him she was not ‘female’, to her he was not ‘male.’ It was the consciousness of being husband and wife and yet not being husband and wife that caused the tension between them, and had they not been married they could probably have been excellent friends.”

There are interesting and beautiful descriptions of the Japanese are of puppetry as Kaname reevaluates his adoption of western ways, and sees the value of the way of his ancestry. I may try this book again someday, but I doubt it. I have to get over feeling like I am wrong when so many enjoy a book and I do not. Fortunately, their are plenty more on the shelf.

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2 Responses to “Some Prefer Nettles


  1. For some reason, this book has always intrigued me. It is always dissapointing when you can’t engage with something that you’ve had such high expectations of. I’ve read unfavourable reviews of Some Prefer Nettles on other blogs(Lotus Reads in a Winter’s Challenge post I’m thinking of in particular). I have the Makioka Sisters by Tanazaki at home. Do you know anything about it?

  2. Brad Says:

    I’ve not read The Makioka Sisters, but I remember reading that it was a favorite by Tanazaki. If I remember right, it was the one that was made into a movie- doesn’t necessarily mean it was a great book, but likely many enjoyed it.


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