From a Japanese master of romantic and sexual obsession come two novels that treat traditional themes with sly wit and startling psychological sophistication. In The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi, Junichir Tanizaki reimagines the exploits of a legendary samurai as a sadomasochistic dance between the hero and the wife of his enemy. Arrowroot, though set in the twentieth century, views an adult orphan’s search for his mother’s past through the translucent shoji screen of ancient literature and myth.
Both works are replete with shocking juxtapositions. Severed heads become objects of erotic fixation. Foxes take on human shape. An aristocratic lady loves and pities the man she is conspiring to destroy. This supple translation reveals the full scope of Tanizaki’s gift: his confident storytelling, luminous detail, and astonishingly vital female characters.
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“These fictions, subversive and self-referential, join the already dazzling canon of Tanizaki’s work. They are masterpieces.” --The Nation
“Japan's great modern novelist...[Tanizaki] created a lifelong series of ingenious variations on a dominant theme: the power of love to energize and destroy.” --Chicago Tribune
“Junichiro Tanizaki may well prove to be the outstanding Japanese novelist of this century.”--Edmund White, The New York Times Book Review
“Arrowroot is related with a delightful deftness, in the blunt easy tone of a born writer.” --John Updike, The New Yorker
“With the publication of these two novellas one of the major lacunae in Tanizaki’s English translation . . . has been filled. (And with great grace and elegance–the translation is first-rate.) Tanizaki, with his wonderful imagination, his complete artistry, his honesty . . . his classical aesthetic restraint, is one of the great Japanese writers of this century.” --Donald Richie
"[A] master of death and eros. . . . The unthinkable is made breathtakingly real by Tanizaki's eye for detail, which can operate clinically . . . or like that of a primal shaman artist who knows how to turn an ordinary object into a fetish." --L.A. Weekly
“Tanizaki transforms the page into the ritual of Kabuki theater." --Newsday
"One of Japan's most prized novelists of this century." --The Wall Street Journal
"Tanizaki's spare and elegant prose draws us into a society at once familiar . . . and exotic. The disjunction, the remoteness are . . . entrancing." --New York Magazine
Junichiro Tanizaki was born in Tokyo in 1886 and lived there until the earthquake of 1923, when he moved to the Kyoto-Osaka region, the scene of his novel The Makioka Sisters (1943-48). Among his works are Naomi (1924), Some Prefer Nettles (1928), Quicksand (1930), Arrowroot (1931), A Portrait of Shunkin (1933), The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi (1935), modern versions of The Tale of Genji (1941, 1954, and 1965), Captain Shigemoto's Mother (1949), The Key (1956), and Diary of a Mad Old Man (1961). By 1930 he had gained such renown that an edition of his complete works was published, and he was awarded Japan's Imperial Prize in Literature in 1949. Tanizaki died in 1965.
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