Unformatted text preview: its considerable length and its plot construction.
Most Japanese novels are quite short and structurally loose; many socalled novels are really novellas. This appears to reflect, on the one hand,
the native taste for the suggestive instead of the fully delineative—the
“art of silence,” as one authority9 has put it—and, on the other hand, the
classical tradition whereby the author of prose tended to write episodically and to devote much more care to the transitional elements or passages in a work than to its overall structure. The reader of The Makioka
Sisters is drawn into a highly complex and detailed narrative of the interwoven lives of the sisters as they seek collectively to find a proper husband
for one, to deal with the independent and headstrong ways of another,
and above all to grapple with the vicissitudes that have so altered their
lives since their father’s death. Although Tanizaki informs us only in passing that the time is the advent of the China war in the late 1930s, the
reader is absorbed with a powerful sense—intensified by his own knowledge of the coming of World War II—that he is witnessing the decline
not only of a single family but of the entire way of life of prewar Japan.
This sense of decline is intense, for example, in the passage where
Sachiko, the second sister and central figure in the novel, visits her elder
sister as she is about to move out of the main family residence in Osaka.
With the dwindling of the Makioka family business, the elder sister’s husband—the titular head of the family—had returned to his former position
in a bank. The bank has transferred him to Tokyo, and the Osaka house
must be sold:
The house was built in the old Osaka fashion. Inside the high garden walls,
one came upon the latticed front of the house. An earthen passage led from
the entrance through to the rear. In the rooms, lighted even at noon by but a
dim light from the courtyard, hemlock pillars, rubbed to a fine polish, gave
off a soft glow. Sachiko did not know how old the house was—possibly a
generation or two. At first it must have been used as a villa to which elderly
Makiokas might retire, or in wh...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at UBC.
- Spring '13