Critical Context

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Naomi was Tanizaki’s first popular success, which he soon followed with another highly regarded novel, Tade kuu mushi (1936; Some Prefer Nettles, 1955). In his works, he examined with trenchant irony the mixed cultural values that he detected in his contemporaries, caught between Eastern and Western ideals of behavior and morality. Later, Tanizaki explored traditional Japanese culture in his brilliant 1939–1941 translation into modern Japanese of the eleventh-century classic Genji monogatari, by Murasaki Shikibu. Tanizaki then went on to write his own elegy to more traditional Japanese values in his majestic Sasame-yuki (1949; The Makioka Sisters, 1957). Tanizaki’s postwar writings continued to explore cultural and erotic themes in both modern and historical settings, often revealing a profound understanding of traditional Japanese cultural and aesthetic values. Although Naomi is an early work, set in the twentieth century, in it the author first revealed his skill at dealing with themes that were to occupy him for the rest of his creative life. Naomi can thus be seen as a highly suggestive, and altogether successful, prelude to a long, insightful writing career focused on the ultimately mysterious relationships between men, women, and the cultures to which they owe allegiance.

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