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Naomi Paperback – April 10, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (April 10, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375724745
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375724749
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Westernization of a Japanese bar girl spells trouble for her husband. "Charm, lucidity, fascination with perverse passion and relentless emotional honesty . . . are all here in subtle force," said PW.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Naomi is the first English translation of Tanizaki's first important novel (originally serialized in Japanese in 1924-25). It is a subtle adaptation to a Japanese setting of the basic story in Maugham's Of Human Bondage . Joji, the narrator, finds Naomi, a girl half his age, working in a cafe. He takes her to live with him, tries to groom her (with English and music lessons), indulges her whims, encourages her ``Western'' ways, and eventually marries her. She becomes a torment to him, but he is so obsessed with her that he tolerates even her infidelities as long as she will stay with him. The recurrent theme in Tanizaki's novels of the danger in sexual fascination may here represent a self-criticism of his youthful preoccupation with things Western. L. M. Lewis, Social Science Dept., Eastern Kentucky Univ., Richmond
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Great, characters, great plot, great book.
RupturedSpleen
Even if this isn't my favourite book or even my favourite Japanese book, it's still a great, bittersweet read.
Angry Mofo
The first thing that makes this book so wonderful, is how easy it is to read.
Roof

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

69 of 69 people found the following review helpful By M. Clark on January 21, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When I first picked up "Naomi", known as "Chijin no Ai" in Japanese, it was in a Japanese literature class at my University. My first exposure to Tanizaki came in reading a short story called "The Tattooer" ("Shisei", which can be found in another collection of his short stories called "Seven Japanese Tales" in English), so I knew he was a good writer with some perverse ideas. Little did I know what I was in for with "Naomi".
We were to read it in a week, which is quite the task with a full schedule. I finished it in three days and reread it a week later. I was amazed at its intricacies.
The story is set in early 1920s Japan, a period when the import of Western fashion, style and culture was at its height and every Japanese person found him or herself enamored with imported American and European literature, dance, clothing and people.
Naomi is a young Japanese waitress with a Western look that a man named Joji finds himself obsessing over at first sight. Even her name, he remarks, resembles Western names. He adopts her and begins to mold her into his perfect woman. The story follows his continual perfecting of her behavior, and her treatment of him. The question soon arises, however, as to who is truly the dominant force in their fragile relationship.
In what I've now come to find is Tanizaki standard, all is never as it seems, and the relationships established throughout the story are rarely as simple as they first appear.
"Naomi" serves as a primer to Tanizaki's entire body of work, being one of his earliest full-length novels and coming before his shift from an obsession with the West to a love of his own traditional Japanese culture.
Since reading it, I've had the opportunity to read much of the rest of his work, and I'm thankful I started with "Naomi".
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Zack Davisson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 19, 2005
Format: Paperback
Tanizaki's theme is obsession. Almost all of his works revolve around obsession in some way, usually a consuming devotion to something that others find revolting. Rarely does a Tanizaki character worship something beautiful, or worthy. Rarely does this obsession result in happiness.

"Naomi" ("Chijin no Ai" or "A Fool's Love") showcases these themes in a typical Tanizaki style, showing the weakness of devotion and the soullessness of beauty. His writing style is what keeps his stories from being stomach turning, and he manages to keep the reader going through the very darkest pits of self-loathing. Beautiful prose and ugly people.

In "Naomi," the aging salaryman Joji seeks to build himself a toy, a fascinating pet with bright plumage and sophistication to color and decorate his drab and mundane existence. The foundation for this masterpiece, which he will sculpt and paint, is a 15-year old bar maid named Naomi. She is a low girl, of no station or wealth, but her unusual name sets her apart from others, and he moves her into his house and begins her training.

Joji fancies himself Pygmalion, sculpting and pruning his caged bird, primping her and spoiling her. He encourages her fantasies and wraps her in Western clothes (an extreme rarity at the time) and outrageous kimonos. Her whims are his directives, and their games become more and more sexual in nature. But rather than Pygmalion, Joji finds himself in the role of Dr. Frankenstein, soon to be destroyed by his monstrous creation. Naomi grows soulless and spectacular, a hollow beauty who is fully aware of her power over Joji.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
Unlike the other reviewers, I have a different take on this book. Although admittedly disturbing, it is a book about love. What might disturb the other reviewers is to me the expression of true love.
We've all grown up hearing that Love is kind, Love is pure, Love is innocent. What this book illustrates is that Love is none of these! Love is possessive, Love is controlling, Love is needy. And to top it off, Love has no pride.
Tanizaki has masterfully drawn the reader in to show that indeed, with Love, you do not set up a schedule and a plan ... you do not control Love. Love controls you.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Charles E. Stevens VINE VOICE on April 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
'Naomi', Tanizaki's first major novel, starts off simply: a relatively young middle-class man discovers an even younger woman, who he sees as both exotic (starting with her western-sounding name 'Naomi' and Mary Pickford-esque looks) and an exciting work-in-progress, a Japanese Pygmalion. She ends up living with him, and (to no great surprise) they end up as man and wife. This is where the fun begins.

Joji begins to see the sarcastic and nasty side to Naomi, who, with his nurturing, has turned into a full-fledged 'modern girl' (or 'Moga' as the Japanese referred to them). Interested in avant-garde clothing and modern dancing, red flags go up as Joji meets her large number of intimate male friends and gradually recognizes her manipulative ways. Still, he has decided that it is not that women deceive men; rather, men enjoy being deceived by women. The rest of the story progresses as an ever-deepening spiral of manipulation and masochism as Naomi fully exploits her role as Joji's Lolita-like object of obsession.

Although this story was so shocking that its serialization was briefly halted, the idea of sexually-dominant women and submissive men is a theme repeated often in Tanizaki's works (perhaps the pinnacle of this theme in Tanizaki's work is the early short story 'The Tattooer' or 'Portrait of Shunkin').

While it's easy to generalize and say that Naomi represents the West, Joji the East, I think that might be an oversimplification and miss Tanizaki's more immediate point. First and foremost, Naomi represents the Japanese 'modern girl', an increasingly powerful and liberated creature with even more weapons to make men submit to her. This story is as much modernity vs. tradition as it is West vs. East.
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