The Makioka Sisters – Juni’chiro Tanizaki

Many things abound Tanazaki’s wonderful novel and yet I’m having a writer’s block to describe them. If I were to begin at the beginning, there are 4 Makioka sisters – Tsuruko, Sachiko, Yukiko and Taeko, all known for their youthfulness and beauty not to mention the by-gone splendor of Makioka wealth. While the novel was originally published in installments, the vintage edition contains all the parts.tms

Culture, family and family values dominate the story against the backdrop of WWII. The two older sisters – Tsuruko and Sachiko are married with children while the two youngest ones – Yukiko and Taeko are unmarried at the beginning of the novel. Despite the growing unease concerning the impending World War and escalating tensions with China, Tsuruko and Sachiko’s chief concerns remain to be Yukiko, Taeko and upholding their family’s traditions.

Tanizaki throws in a lot of cultural references which resonated to a certain extent with the Indian culture, perhaps a result of bygone cultural exchanges. The backdrop of this novel also references contemporary events such as the impending war in Europe, the second Sino-Japanese war, the Kobe flood of 1938 quite vividly. This was the positive aspect of the novel.

The sisters come across as stubborn, selfish and often times appear uncaring owing to the insular world in which they grew up. They find it difficult to adapt to the changing times, hate city life and Sachiko especially views her visits to Tokyo as ill-omen. The only character that’s somewhat endearing over time is Teinosuke, Sachiko’s level-headed but docile husband who often remains silent. Sachiko’s weakness is her sisters approval, which blinds her to their selfish natures. The fact that majority of the characters except Teinosuke were loosely based on Tanizaki’s third wives relations perhaps hints at his attempts to probably put his frustrations into words.

I made the mistake of watching the film version probably with high expectations only to have them dashed ruthlessly. The film was nowhere close to the novel and as R joked…the scripts of this film might have mixed up with the one of a soft porn! Best to be summarized as a terrible movie.