QUICKSAND by Junichiro Tanizaki


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 The debut of a previously untranslated novel from Tanizaki, who died in 1965 (A Cat, A Man, and Two Women, 1990, etc.): a welcome reminder of just how good he was at limning the unexpected cruel twists and turns of human passion (also see below). A widow, Mrs. Kakiuchi, is telling her story to a writer- friend because, ``I want you to hear my side of the story from beginning to end. I tried to start writing, but what happened is so complicated I didn't know where to begin.'' And she starts with a beginning that sounds banal: bored with her marriage and recovering from an affair with another man, she takes classes in a local art school, ``the kind of school where you could always take the day off.'' Her husband is pleased, they were ``getting along very well''--and then ``I had a stupid quarrel with the director at my school.'' The director accuses her of drawing a fellow female student, the ``strikingly attractive'' Mitsuko, instead of the designated model, and the widow's story soon becomes a horrifying tale of evil, no less horrid for its benign middle-class setting. The two women meet; their friendship rapidly intensifies into an unresisted seduction by the narrator of Mitsuko; and the now- obsessed narrator writes love letters, sees Mitsuko daily, and neglects her husband. But Mitsuko begins to behave oddly: she tells lies; introduces a male lover; claims to be pregnant and in need of an abortion; and though Mrs. Kakiuchi suspects she's being used for ends she doesn't understand, she can't resist. A deliberately aborted suicide pact and treacherous seduction by Mitsuko end in a stunning tragedy. And yet, as Kakiuchi confesses, ``Even now, rather than feeling bitter or resentful, whenever I think of Mitsuko, I feel that old longing, that love....'' A riveting tale of malevolent corruption fatally masked by a terrible and deceptive beauty: Fatal attraction in a 1920's Japanese setting.

Pub Date: Feb. 2nd, 1994
ISBN: 0-394-58547-X
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1993


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