The Makioka Sisters

The last line of the book deals with diarrhea. Yes. The Makioka Sisters is a book of non negligible size. It presents and does not judge. It is sweeping in its presentation. Elegiac is the word. Would it not be more apt to describe it as polished? The last line deals with dysentery.

A gentle bow, a quick dip

Doesn’t Tanizaki present a vignette into the fading Japanese suburban lifestyle of a by-gone era. In describing the gardens of a one storey backyard that adjoins their neighboring German family with the same breath as the Imperial Gardens, are we not presented a story that will not rely on vulgar dramatics, but gently sloping episodic fragments of Osakan everyday life.  Or maybe the book is a literary cherry blossom viewing exercise to be enjoyed in transit, to appreciate how fleeting life is for even the most tradition bound. Or could it be that Tanizaki is doing the opposite? Surely, the Makioka sisters insist on their traditions, their specially ordered kimonos, particular on apologies and gratitude to even the smallest perceived transgressions precisely because they resist their family name fading away into irrelevance? Without giving away spoilers we shall stop here.

Indian Japanese Weddings

Japanese familial traditions, till the early 1930s at least, seem to overlap quite interestingly with Indian traditions. The responsibility of the family elder, the rule of sibling marriages by age (the younger females cannot marry without older sisters already married) and emphasis on family honors and customs. Even miai, the official brokered meeting of the groom’s side and the bride’s side seem to have occurrence in the Indian sub continent, if I remember right. So it should not come as a surprise that when I was reading this I felt completely at home, though not necessarily in agreement with all the happenings. Contrary to many reviewers who want the characters to “just stop deliberating and do it”, I was uncomfortably aware of the reality of social pressures that exist in societies where propriety is an insurmountable art.  Even then the book is a page turner. A slow burning page turner for some, a fast page turner for others.

I found the book so easy to read that I finished the book in three days. I think there were two main reasons. I have a lot of uncles and aunts. And secondly, my wife is visiting her parents.

Time to review a Tanizaki series maybe. Naomi, Seven Japanese Tales, Some Prefer Nettles, The Key and The Diary of a Mad Old Man.

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