(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The Makioka Sisters is the saga of a proud, refined Japanese family that declines in fortune. The novel re-creates the sumptuous and pleasure-filled upper-class life of Osaka—the commercial center of Japan—just before and during World War II. Jun’ichir Tanizaki carefully creates a detailed portrait of four once-rich and haughty sisters, whose lives encompass a wide area of joys and sorrows, and he provides simultaneously a satirically accurate description of the whims and fancies of a vanished era.

The novel opens with a marriage prospect for the third sister, Yukiko, and ends with preparations and emblems for this sister’s ultimate wedding years later. Between these rituals lies a sequence of passions that fuse nostalgia and bitterness, tragedy and comedy. The Makioka sisters, although still proud and refined, have lost status in their society, for the luxury of their father’s last years and the dignity of ancestral reputation have been long reduced by extravagance and bad management of the family business. Consequently, it is now difficult to find acceptable suitors for Yukiko—especially as she is in the habit of rejecting men, has a blemish over her left eye, and is maligned in the local press for a scandal which really concerned Taeko, the youngest, most capricious sister.

The novel is divided into three parts. In the first, there is little dramatic incident beyond marriage proposals and negotiations, Sachiko’s...

(The entire section is 488 words.)