Photos of pages of a notebook of famed novelist Junichiro Tanizaki (1886-1965) that is believed to have been lost in the war have been discovered at a Tokyo publishing house.
Titled “Matsu no Kokage” (Shade of a pine tree), the notebook is said to contain the Nobel Prize-nominated author’s first-ever notes for writing fiction.
The 255 photographed sheets of copy include plots for well-known works “A Portrait of Shunkin” (Shunkinsho) and “The Makioka Sisters” (Sasameyuki, light snow) as well as notes for unpublished works.
“(Tanizaki) may have arranged for copies of the notebook to be made just in case the original was destroyed in the war,” said Shunji Chiba, a professor of modern Japanese literature at Waseda University, who described the unearthed photos as a first-rate resource for researching Tanizaki.
The prints were found at the office of Chuokoron-Shinsha Inc., which is compiling a new collection of Tanizaki’s works.
Chiba, who is involved in the compilation of the new collection, said the notes were written between February or March in 1933 and 1938.
The title “Matsu no Kokage” is derived from his wife’s name, Matsuko, indicating the author was writing with his wife in mind, Chiba said.
It is the first time that notes outlining the ideas behind “A Portrait of Shunkin” have been discovered. One section is titled “Notes on Shunkin” and includes sentences such as “Shunkin loses sight at the age of 9” and “has an accident at 37.”
The story, published in the magazine Chuo Koron in 1933, features a man who devotes his life to serving a blind koto teacher.
The "Notes on Shunkin," containing the names of characters, their relatives and details of their lives, appear at the beginning of the notes and are believed to have been written in 1933.
The expression “sasameyuki” first appears in a memo written in late 1936.
Chiba suspects the title “could have been decided before the names of characters were decided,” unlike the long-believed notion that the title “Sasameyuki” was derived from Yukiko, one of the characters.
The memo begins with the sentence: "S is 29 years old, yet a virgin."
The notes also contain graphic descriptions of affairs from women Tanizaki had interviewed.
The serialization of “The Makioka Sisters,” which was first published in the magazine Chuo Koron in 1943, was halted by military censors who deemed the content “inappropriate during wartime.” The publication of the series was resumed in the magazine Fujin Koron in 1947.
The discovered notes also demonstrate Tanizaki’s intention to write about the "fin-de-siecle" aspect of elite-class women, Chiba said.
Other concepts for unpublished works include an affair between a masochistic Buddhist priest and a young woman from an aristocratic family.
“I feel as if I'm peeping into the chaos in (Tanizaki’s) head,” Chiba said.
The copies are likely to have been made by a son of Tanizaki’s close friend around 1942. The family of the friend later brought the copies to the publisher.