top of page

Jun'ichirō Tanizaki - Writer

Jun'ichirō Tanizaki was a Japanese writer of the twentieth century.

Tanizaki was born in Nihonbashi, a commercial district of Tokyo, into a middle-class family that fell into poverty with the arrival of migrants in Tokyo. Already from elementary school he was recognized for his great intelligence and creativity, and in 1903 he published his first story, Shumpū shūu roku. After graduating from high school, he has been attending the faculty of literature at the prestigious Tokyo Imperial University since 1908, while at the same time working as a servant to be able to support himself. He interrupted his studies in 1911 due to economic problems.

Abandoned his studies, he decides to devote himself completely to literature. In 1910 he published his first major work entitled Shisei (The tattoo) in the university literary magazine Shinshichō and, in 1914, he wrote Jōtarō.

Thanks also to the influence of authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, in the early 1920s Tanizaki approaches Western culture which becomes the subject of his stories. Following the great Kantō earthquake in 1923, the author moved to Osaka, and his new interest in Kansai culture made him produce more balanced works that led him to greater success.

Already in the first works of him the themes that will characterize his stories begin to be outlined: the female figure imbued with a decadent eroticism, sadomasochism and fetishism. In the opera Shisei (The tattoo, 1910), the protagonist becomes the slave of a beautiful girl, represented as a woman-demon. The construction of the female archetype probably draws inspiration from the maternal figure, for which Jun'ichirō felt a deep admiration, and from the works of authors such as Iwaya Sazanami, Kōda Rohan and Izumi Kyōka. Early in his career he was also influenced by Western writers such as Poe, Baudelaire and Wilde, and by Japanese literature of the 17th and 18th centuries, especially the erotic and sadistic stories of Kusazōshi and kabuki theater.

In the latter part of his life, Tanizaki gradually approaches classical literature, which becomes the theme of his works, combined with that of the female figure and sadomasochism. In this intertwining of themes, the style of his latest works becomes more complex. His latest novels lead him to success. Sasame yuki (Thin Snow, 1943-48) is considered to be his masterpiece.

Considered one of the greatest authors of the time, he is known for his short stories and novels focused on the theme of female beauty linked to destructive erotic obsessions. In 1964, the year before his death, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Several stories of him have received a film adaptation: in Italy, Tinto Brass made The Key in 1983 and Liliana Cavani, two years later, Berlin Interior (Manji, The Buddhist Cross, 1928-30).

Credits images: from web


bottom of page