By Junichiro Tanizaki
The story is set in Japan in the 1920’s. Joji is a 28 years old man, who falls in love with a waitress named Naomi, who is only 14 years old. When they start living together, Joji is planning to make her the ideal woman for him. He is paying for her education, buying her new clothes and taking her to the movies and concerts. Joji is very fond of European culture and with time Naomi also finds western culture more appealing than Japanese. Naomi’s personality starts to develop in an unexpected way, she becomes like a beautiful devil to Joji. She starts attending dancing classes and spends more and more time with her friends. Joji is very surprised when he discovers that she has only men friends from the dancing class. He gets suspicious and after a while he finds out that Naomi is cheating on him. They break up, but after few days Joji is ready to take her back, because he cannot live without her. She doesn’t want to even hear about getting back together with him, so she teases and humiliates him in every possible way, but he doesn’t stop begging her to come back to him. Even when he discovers that she has become a prostitute, he doesn’t stop loving her. Finally she is ready to live with him again, but with new rules. She wants them to have a relationship where both of them are free to see other people. In the beginning Joji hesitates to accept this offer as this is not how he imagined their life together, but after some time he agrees.
This novel made Tanizaki one of the most important writers in Japan. The book is saturated with obsession, eroticism and the contrast of Japanese and western cultures. It is captivating story, when you are reading it, everything around you disappears and suddenly you think you are living in post World War I Tokyo. I can’t stop wondering about authors like Tanizaki who can make a book, written in 1924, seem like it was written today. The language he uses is so modern that it was easy to read and to follow the weird love story between Joji and Naomi. This is a great book, especially if you are interested in Asian culture.