Book Review: Quicksand by Tanizaki Jun’ichirô

quicksand-tanizaki Kikuchi has an obsession. The young student Mitsuko.

She is married unhappy. Unsatisfied with her husband. After a first unlucky affair with a man she turns towards Mitsuko. Thinking a secret friendship between women would not be a threat to the relationship with her husband. She does not know that nothing could be farther away from the truth.

Kikuchi invites Mitsuko to her house. Under the protection of her own roof she becomes daringly and seduces Mitsuko. Soon after rumours about their relationship are starting at the Art School, where Kikuchi and Mitsuko are studying painting. When Kikuchi‘s husband is getting suspicious a quarrel begins.

Mitsuko on the other hand is not faithful. She is turning her attention to a handsome man of her age. One day the young couple gets into trouble at a love hotel, because their clothes were stolen. They turn to Kikuchi in order to ask for help and she comes over to hand them new clothes.
Kikuchi starts getting jealous, angry and hopelessly heartbroken because of the unfaithful Mitsuko. After the incident at the hotel she confesses her affair to her husband and tries to be a good wife further on. But this is not the solution of her marriage problems. It is just the beginning of the story Quicksand.

Again Tanizaki has taken up the topic of unhappy relationships, love and betrayal and he confronts his reader now with love between women. The story was serialized in 1928 to 1930 in the magazine Kaizô. All main characters are struggling with a unique personal situation, are confronted with moral and strict rules of the Japanese society of that time.

The key questions are: What is going on under the surface of an arranged marriage and what is becoming of people‘s dreams and hopes under strict moral standards living in modern times. These are the ingredients of a good story. It is thrilling, psychologically well observed, deeply intertwined. The story has many unforeseen turns and maybe Tanizaki is exaggerating a bit in the end. All but one of the four vivid characters are getting down a slippery road until a surprising double-suicide. Which is a romantic Japanese topic by the way.  I think one could call Quicksand a psychological thriller, if it sounds not weird, comparable to Patricia Highsmith.

Japanese: Tanizaki Jun’ichirô. Manji. 1928-1930.

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