cover image Quicksand


Jun'ichiro Tanizaki. Alfred A. Knopf, $22 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-394-58547-5

Originally published in 1947, this fine, startling novel by the renowned Japanese writer (1886-1965) appears for the first time in English. Sonoko Kakiuchi, the bored and willful upper-class wife of an Osaka lawyer, recounts the story of her desperate love in the year 1927 for a willowy young woman named Mitsuko. When Sonoko discovers the presence in Mitsuko's life of a man, the elusive Watanuki, she is surprised by enormous feelings of jealousy and soon finds herself ``sinking deeper and deeper into the quicksand'' of the couple's lies. But Sonoko is no saint: in an attempt to gain time and attract sympathy she fakes a suicide attempt that draws her husband into the affair. The romantic quadrangle lurches to a tragic, quintessentially Japanese conclusion. Tanizaki's prose, seamlessly translated by Hibbett, is as icy and lovely as a winter morning. It's also interesting to note how the author propels the plot and develops characters through their use of pharmaceuticals, a device he later employed with great effect in his masterpiece, The Makioka Sisters . This novel will be published simultaneously with two Tanizaki novellas also previously untranslated (see below). (Feb.)