Jun'ichirō Tanizaki Short Fiction Analysis
The dominant theme in Jun’ichir Tanizaki’s best work is love, but few writers so successfully explore this universally preferred topic with such unconventional revelations. Commentators often identified his earliest writings as “demoniac”; his later work they might have characterized as “sardonic.” As labels prove to be insufficient for most good writers, however, one must struggle to understand Tanizaki’s probing style as he uncovers complicated motives for lovers, spouses, family members, and friends, who continually surprise one another. In addition, as one finishes reading Tanizaki’s works of fiction, most characteristically, one finds oneself more than a little uncertain as to how things really work out. The dispute, the rivalries, or the resentments always seems resolved or brought to a close; most commonly, though, the reader finds himself needing to fill in indeterminate gaps using his own imagination. This challenge, in fact, contributes to much of the pleasure in reading Tanizaki’s fiction.
In his early sensational tale “The Tattooer,” the exceptional tattooer, Seikichi, behaves much like a sadist in his attitudes toward some of his customers, as he revels in the excruciating pain they endure for the honor of having such an artist adorn their bodies. He outdoes himself in embellishing the back of a beautiful young woman with a huge black widow spider. Readers are told that “at every...
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