Book Review: Gold and Silver by Tanizaki Jun’ichirô

kintoginKin to Gin  金と銀  (Gold and Silver)  is an early work of the famous Japanese writer Tanizaki Jun’ichirô (1886- 1965). It is a psychologically well written character study of two Japanese painters: two rivals enmeshed in a love-hate-relationship with each other. And one can see the prototype of Naomi, Tanizaki’s modern femme fatale, which became so famous in 1924.

The story Gold and Silver has a Dostoevskian atmosphere with reference to Crime and Punishment. The protagonist Aono has a bad character: disingenuous, dishonest and egoistic, but is an exceptionally gifted artist on the way to the very top.  He has lost nearly all his friends by now because of his betrayal of trust, is poor and therefore became dependent of his one and only friend Ôkawa, also a painter, but less skilled. He is rich on the other hand.

Tanizaki describes their fatale relationship minutely detailed. One can feel the tension between them. The omniscient narrator gives insights to the very thoughts of both characters.

Their rivalry came to a climax, when the female model Eiko, a sloppy call girl, who knows to stage her female amenities, appears on the scene and this is also the beginning of a  crime.

Tanizaki is not on the height of his narration skills yet, but the story is psychologically well observed, thrilling and shows elaborate characters. Unfortunately it is not available in English, but there is a German translation.

谷崎 潤一郎:  金と銀 , 1918. Tanizaki Jun’ichirô, 1918. German: Gold und Silber, 2003.