Friday, August 10, 2012

Naomi (Jun'ichirō Tanizaki)

I thought this would be my type of books, though I have yet to really "define" my taste. But more importantly, the sadistic side of me wanted to read stories about doormats. In this context, doormats refer to guys who continuously treat girls nicely despite being walked over. If we look at history, from Chinese Dynasties to Roman Empire, there were many instances of great heroes being taken in by the wiles of an enchantress. And it happens to people we know. I couldn't understand why they put up with heartless girls and let themselves be fooled, even though they know they are destroying themselves. I wondered do they even deserve sympathy for taking up the crap they have been put through.

Naomi provides a precious record of the marital relationship between Joji and Naomi, despite the distinct difference in their age, family background and education. Everything began with Joji's strong attraction to Naomi's name and Western look. 
" Whether Naomi's appearance would improve was something only time would tell; she was only fifteen then, and I viewed her future with both anticipation and concern. My original plan, then, was simply to take charge of the child and look after her. On the one hand, I was motivated by sympathy for her. On the other, I wanted to introduce some variety into my humdrum, monotonous daily existence. "
In short, Joji wished by having Naomi around would inject more excitement and warmth into his life. And it would be different from setting up a proper Japanese household,  which could be unappealing and tiresome. He tried to groom her by hiring an English tutor and sending her to have music lessons. Nevertheless, things didn't turn out as he wanted. He learned disappointedly that she was not as intelligent as he had hoped. His desire but her to become a fine woman was nothing but a dream.
" But at the same time, her body attracted me even more powerfully... ... There was nothing spiritual about it. She'd betrayed my expectations for her mind, but her body now surpassed my ideal. Stupid woman, I thought. Hopeless. Unhappily, the more I thought, the more I found her alluring. This was very unfortunate for me. Gradually I forgot my innocent notion of "training" her: I was the one being dragged along, and by the time I realized what was happening, there was nothing I could do about it. "
Stupid man. Little by little Joji was stripped off his resistance, confidence and sense of dignity. He became ensnared, gave in to Naomi's demands and rationalized her misconducts. And all this led to unforeseen misfortunes. Not to mention Naomi's extravagant spending and poor household management, which had gotten him into debts that he had to resort to lying to his mother for financial assistance. He could no longer perform at work. 

I never expected myself to get so angry as I was reading through this book. In fact, I was getting more and more disgusted at how pathetic Joji had grown into. He knew he was being a fool. He tried to get Naomi out of his mind when he threw Naomi out of his house. But he still let her back in his life again, even though he was certain of her ulterior motive. 
My delusions grew more frenzied every day. I only had to close my eyes, and Naomi's image would appear. Often, remembering her fragrant breath, I'd look up at the sky, open my mouth, and take a gulp of air. Whenever I longed for her lips, whether I was walking down the street or closed up in my room, I'd look skyward and begin gulping. I saw Naomi's red lips everywhere I looked, and every breath of air seemed to be Naomi's breath. Naomi was like an evil spirit that filled the space between heaven and earth, surrounding me, tormenting me, hearing my moans, but only laughing as she looked on. "
Useless men. Nah, they don't deserve any sympathy if they are spineless.

P/S: Tanizaki's writing is beautiful. I am more interested to read from Naomi's (female) point of view about the manipulation and seduction.


  1. Spineless man indeed. I read Quicksand and I remember I was angry too. So angry that I gave the book away (I thought it was crap but I still review it). This sounds interesting though, I'm just wondering how you got away by reading that book with a raunchy cover in Malaysia? :D (If it is the Vintage cover that I know). lol

  2. Sorry the one with saucy cover is "The Key"!

  3. Quicksand is on my hoping-to-read-list. Lol. But yeah, I will probably sell this book as secondhand. I wouldn't want to reread or keep it.
    Nope, the publisher is Turtle Publishing (RM55 per copy). I believe I could have got it cheaper if it was Vintage (ranges between RM33-RM40).
    I haven't read anything with a raunchy cover except Murakami's Sputnik Sweetheart. But then it was in PDF. If I do, I guess I will just read it in a closed room, not going to carry it around on bus or to class :D