UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Tanizaki Junʼichirō and the art of storytelling Pham, Thien Truong


This thesis deals with the storytelling art of Tanizaki Jun'ichirō. An esthete par excellence, this prolific writer produced for over half a century a string of works that are essentially dedicated to the glorification of art and beauty. This glorification in turn enhances the quality of life which, also in the author's view, is both a dream and a game. Art and beauty, dreams and games are virtually the building blocks of Tanizaki's fictional universe in which illusion and reality are meant to be complementary rather than opposing forces that govern human existence. Transplanting this fabulous world into the reader's heart is the result of Tanizaki's special skill in storytelling. An analysis of his four major works will hopefully bring this skill into full view. Chapter One examines Tanizaki's early short story "Shisei" that marks his brilliant debut. Though marred by technical flaws, "Shisei" succeeds remarkably in luring the reader into a fairy-tale atmosphere where art and beauty are the only raison d'être. A sensuous style characterizes this lively tale and between the lines flows a life force that will become Tanizaki's trademark. The theme of art and beauty is brought to a climax in "Shunkinshō" which is analysed in Chapter Two. The simple perspective of "Shisei" is now abandoned, giving way to a maze of multiple viewpoints that are there for the single purpose of hypnotizing the reader. The ultimate goal is to make the reader share the passion and devotion of an artist in the pursuit of the Ideal. The monogatari style is a feature of this novella and helps generate the ambiguity needed for the narrative. Chapter Three deals with "Yume no ukihashi," a tale of dream and sensuality. Man's ambition to create and perpetuate dreams is given full treatment in this story in which illusions are the name of the game. Incest is also a thorny issue but Tanizaki seems to consciously skirt the problem with various devices. Fùten rōjin nikki, Tanizaki's crowning novel, is the subject of Chapter Four. Everything that the author stands for in his writing is now brought into focus. Using the casual form of a diary, art motifs and erotic scenes are placed at well-calculated points so that structural balance is maintained throughout the story. A game-playing spirit and the overwhelming life force which starts with "Shisei" embody this last tour-de-force that proudly consolidates the author's fame. This thesis, through the four works that are examined, can be considered an attempt to shed some light on the question of why and how Tanizaki fascinates the reader.

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