A major discovery: Tanizaki’s wonderful final novel—now available as a paperback
The Maids, Tanizaki's final novel, sparkles like a jewel. Over the years—before, during, and after WWII—many women work in the pampered, elegant household of the famous author Chikura Raikichi, his wife, and her younger sister. Though the family's quite well-to-do, the house is small; the proximity of the maids helps perhaps to explain Raikichi's extremely close, and somewhat eroticized, observation of all their little ways. In the sensualist patrician Raikichi, Tanizaki offers a richly ironic self-portrait, but he presents as well an exquisitely nuanced chronicle of change and loss: centuries' old values and manners are vanishing, and here—in the evanescent beauty of all the small gestures and intricacies of private life—we find a whole world passing away.
About the Author
Author of The Makioka Sisters, In Praise of Shadows, and A Cat, a Man, and Two Women, Junichiro Tanizaki (1886–1965) is arguably the greatest Japanese writer of the twentieth century.
Michael P. Cronin is assistant professor of Japanese at the College of William and Mary.
The Maids is altogether lighter, freer, and more playful than The Makioka Sisters—a busily peopled and remarkably sensual group portrait. The short novel teems with life and has a flavor all its own, a joyful, comic, improvisational quality rupturing the elegiac tone announced in its opening pages. It is no bad thing to be reminded from time to time that Jun’ichiro Tanizaki’s remarkably fresh and intimate voice is speaking to us across a gulf of years and cultures.
— Edmund Gordon
The final novel of the greatest Japanese novelist of the twentieth century. It is also—as Michael P. Cronin’s translation, the first into English, shows—one of his best. Written with Tanizaki’s usual narrative brio and sly intimacy, with a focus on the pleasure and drama of everyday life so all-encompassing that when the eruptions of history intrude—in the form of the second Sino-Japanese war and World War II—they ring, as desired, like pistol shots at a party. Even without these cataclysms, we come to see—Tanizaki is an insistently elegiac writer—that the world is always in flux. Tanizaki’s great success is to make us see how it is not only the masters who mourn the passing of such a world, but also the old maids.
It’s as if David Lynch wrote a season of Mad Men, with an emphasis on the women. Tanizaki’s a really great writer.
— David Mitchell
Skillfully and subtly, Tanizaki brushes in a delicate picture of a gentle world that no longer exists.
Tanizaki is a very brilliant novelist.
— Haruki Murakami