The Maids (Hardcover)

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The Maids (Hardcover)


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A major discovery: Tanizaki’s wonderful final novel—now in English

The Maids is a jewel: an astonishing complement to The Makioka Sisters, set in the same house, in the same turbulent decades, but among the servants as much as the masters. The Maids concerns all the young women who work—before, during, and after WWII—in the pampered, elegant household of the famous author Chikura Raikichi, his wife Sanko, and her younger sister. Though quite well-to-do, Raikichi has a small house: the family and the maids (usually a few, sharing a little room next to the kitchen) are on top of one another. This proximity helps to explain Raikichi’s extremely close observation of the maids and their daily lives, although his interest carries with it more than a dash of the erotic, calling to mind Tanizaki’s raciest books such as Diary of a Mad Old Man and The Key.

In the sensualist, semi-innocent, sexist patrician Raikichi, Tanizaki offers a richly ironic self-portrait, but he presents as well a moving, nuanced chronicle of change and loss: centuries-old values and manners are vanishing, and here—in the evanescent beauty of the small gestures and intricacies of private life—we find a whole world to be mourned.  And yet, there is such vivacity and such beauty of writing that Tanizaki creates an intensely compelling epic in a kitchen full of lively girls.

Ethereally suggestive, sensational yet serious, witty but psychologically complex, The Maids is in many ways The Makioka Sisters revisited in a lighter, more comic mode.

Author of The Makioka Sisters, In Praise of Shadows, and A Cat, a Man, and Two Women, Junichiro Tanizaki (1886–1965) is arguably the greatest Japanese writer of the twentieth century.

Michael P. Cronin is assistant professor of Japanese at the College of William and Mary.
Product Details ISBN: 9780811224925
ISBN-10: 0811224929
Publisher: New Directions
Publication Date: April 25th, 2017
Pages: 224
Language: English
The Maids is altogether lighter, freer, and more playful than The Makioka Sisters?a busily peopled and remarkably sensual group portrait. The short novel teems with life and has a flavor all its own, a joyful, comic, improvisational quality rupturing the elegiac tone announced in its opening pages. Tanizaki’s remarkably fresh and intimate voice is speaking to us across a gulf of years and cultures.

— Edmund Gordon - The Times Literary Supplement

It’s as if David Lynch wrote a season of Mad Men, with an emphasis on the women. Tanizaki’s a really great writer.
— David Mitchell

Skillfully and subtly, Tanizaki brushes in a delicate picture of a gentle world that no longer exists.
— San Francisco Chronicle

Tanizaki is a very brilliant novelist.
— Haruki Murakami