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“Naomi” is a novel written by Junichiro Tanizaki, a renowned Japanese author. First published in 1947, it tells the story of Joji, a middle-aged man in post-World War II Japan who becomes infatuated with a young, attractive woman named Naomi. Narrated by Joji, the novel is a reflection of his tumultuous relationship with Naomi.
About the Author:
Junichiro Tanizaki (1886-1965) was a prominent Japanese author. He was, in fact, crucial for modern Japanese literature. Famous works of his include “The Makioka Sisters”, “In Praise of Shadows”, and “The Tattooer”.
Joji is a successful businessman– an electrical engineer– arising from a wealthy family. He is seen to shun traditional Japanese values and appraises Western standards. He becomes captivated by Naomi, a modan garu or modern girl’s beauty and youthfulness.
He rescues her from a difficult situation and takes her under his wing, intending to groom her into his ideal woman and proceeds to “Westernize” her. Despite their age difference– she was merely fifteen– and cultural disparities, Joji becomes increasingly obsessed with Naomi, and she becomes the centre of his universe.
As the story progresses, Joji’s infatuation with Naomi takes on increasingly destructive dimensions. Naomi is portrayed as a complex and enigmatic character, using her youth and beauty to manipulate Joji and exert control over him as she ages. Throughout the novel, Joji’s obsession with Naomi deepens, and he becomes willing to sacrifice everything for her, including his marriage and his social standing.
She engages in flirtation and manipulation, and Joji becomes embroiled in a tumultuous love triangle involving Naomi and another man. The book ends with her taking full advantage of his obsession and involving in many transgressions and him being merely sated with being obsessed with her.
As the story unfolds, Joji’s relationship with Naomi takes unexpected turns, leading to dramatic and tragic consequences. The novel ultimately serves as a critique of Joji’s obsessive infatuation with Naomi and its destructive consequences, while also examining societal shifts and the complexities of human desire.