The Dark Side of Love and Sex in Quicksand by Junichiro Tanizaki
Quicksand by Junichiro Tanizaki: A Review
Quicksand is a novel by the Japanese author Junichiro Tanizaki, originally published in serial format between 1928 and 1930. It is one of his major works, along with The Makioka Sisters, Naomi, and Some Prefer Nettles. Quicksand tells the story of a four-way bisexual love affair between upper-class denizens of Osaka in the late 1920s. It is a masterpiece of eroticism, psychology, and social commentary that explores the dark side of human desire and obsession.
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The plot and the characters
The novel is narrated by Sonoko Kakiuchi, a young woman from a wealthy family who is married to a respectable lawyer named Kotaro. She attends art classes at a local women's school, where she meets Mitsuko, a beautiful and mysterious student who becomes her model and lover. Mitsuko reveals that she is engaged to Watanuki, an effeminate and impotent man who is obsessed with her. She also seduces Kotaro, who falls under her spell. The four lovers form a complex web of attraction and repulsion, deception and devotion, passion and violence. They are trapped in a quicksand of their own making, unable to escape their fate.
The style and the symbolism
Tanizaki uses a first-person unreliable narration to create suspense and ambiguity in the novel. Sonoko tells her story to an unnamed listener, who occasionally interrupts her with questions and comments. She admits that she may have forgotten or distorted some details, and that she may be biased or delusional. She also confesses that she enjoys telling her story, as if it were a form of art or therapy. The reader is left to wonder how much of her story is true, how much is fiction, and how much is madness.
Tanizaki also uses various motifs to represent the characters' entrapment, fate, and self-expression. The most prominent one is quicksand, which symbolizes the destructive cycle of obsession and jealousy that consumes them. Another one is manji (swastika), which is the original title of the novel in Japanese. It refers to the Buddhist symbol of four arms pointing in different directions, which resembles the configuration of the four lovers. It also suggests their connection to karma and reincarnation. A third one is art, which is both a source of pleasure and pain for Sonoko. She uses art to express her feelings for Mitsuko, but also to expose their affair to others. She also compares her story to a novel or a painting, implying that she has some control over its outcome.
Tanizaki also contrasts the modern and traditional aspects of Japanese culture and sexuality in the novel. He depicts Osaka as a cosmopolitan city, influenced by Western trends and values. He also portrays the characters as modern and liberated, experimenting with different forms of love and gender roles. However, he also shows the persistence of old customs and norms, such as family honor, social status, and moral judgment. He also hints at the darker and more perverse aspects of Japanese sexuality, such as sadism, masochism, and incest. He challenges the reader to question their own assumptions and prejudices about love and sex.
The impact and the legacy
Quicksand was controversial and influential in its time and later. It was banned by the Japanese government for its explicit depiction of homosexuality and adultery. It also provoked heated debates among critics and readers, who either praised or condemned its artistic merit and moral message. It inspired many other writers and artists, who explored similar themes and styles in their works. It also attracted the attention of filmmakers, who adapted it into several movies.
The first film adaptation was Manji (1964), directed by Yasuzo Masumura, written by Kaneto Shindo, and starring Ayako Wakao and Kyoko Kishida. It was faithful to the novel, but added some scenes and details to enhance the drama and the eroticism. It was well received by critics and audiences, who appreciated its boldness and beauty. The film was remade twice, in 1983 and 2006, with different casts and directors.
The second film adaptation was The Berlin Affair (1985), directed by Liliana Cavani, written by Roberta Mazzoni, and starring Gudrun Landgrebe and Kevin McNally. It changed the setting to Nazi Germany in the 1930s, and added some political and historical elements to the story. It was less faithful to the novel, but more ambitious and provocative. It received mixed reviews from critics and audiences, who either admired or disliked its daring and disturbing vision.
There was also a 1984 PC-88 game by CSK Research Institute based on the novel. It was a text adventure game with graphics and sound effects. It followed the plot of the novel closely, but allowed the player to make some choices that affected the outcome. It was one of the first games to feature lesbian content in Japan.
Quicksand reflects Tanizaki's artistic vision and personal life. It is a culmination of his exploration of eroticism, psychology, and social commentary in his previous works. It is also a reflection of his own experiences with love and sex, especially his affair with his second wife Matsuko, who inspired the character of Mitsuko. Quicksand is a novel that challenges and fascinates readers with its complex and captivating portrayal of human nature.
Quicksand is a masterpiece of eroticism, psychology, and social commentary that explores the dark side of human desire and obsession. It tells the story of a four-way bisexual love affair between upper-class denizens of Osaka in the late 1920s. It uses a first-person unreliable narration to create suspense and ambiguity. It also uses various motifs to represent the characters' entrapment, fate, and self-expression. It contrasts the modern and traditional aspects of Japanese culture and sexuality. It was controversial and influential in its time and later. It has been adapted into several films and other media. It reflects Tanizaki's artistic vision and personal life. Quicksand is a novel that deserves to be read by anyone who is interested in literature, art, or life.
Q: When was Quicksand published?
A: Quicksand was published in serial format between 1928 and 1930 in Japan.
Q: Who is Junichiro Tanizaki?
A: Junichiro Tanizaki was a Japanese author who lived from 1886 to 1965. He is considered one of the most important writers of modern Japanese literature.
Q: What are some other works by Tanizaki?
A: Some other works by Tanizaki include The Makioka Sisters, Naomi, Some Prefer Nettles, In Praise of Shadows, The Key, Diary of a Mad Old Man, The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi, A Cat, A Man, And Two Women.
Q: Where can I find Quicksand in English?
A: Quicksand was translated into English by Howard Hibbett in 1994. You can find it online or in bookstores.
Q: Where can I watch the film adaptations of Quicksand?
A: You can watch the film adaptations of Quicksand online or on DVD.