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Quatre soeurs

par Junichiro Tanizaki

Autres auteurs: Voir la section autres auteur(e)s.

MembresCritiquesPopularitéÉvaluation moyenneMentions
2,207437,372 (4.11)176
In Osaka in the years immediately before World War II, four aristocratic women try to preserve a way of life that is vanishing. The story of these women, the Makioka sisters, forms what is arguably the greatest Japanese novel of the twentieth century, a poignant yet unsparing portrait of a family--and an entire society--sliding into the abyss of modernity. Tsuruko, the eldest sister, clings obstinately to the prestige of her family name even as her husband prepares to move their household to Tokyo, where that name means nothing. Sachiko compromises valiantly to secure the future of her younger sisters. The unmarried Yukiko is a hostage to her family's exacting standards, while the spirited Taeko rebels by flinging herself into scandalous romantic alliances. The resulting novel is filled with vignettes of upper-class Japanese life, capturing both the decorum and the heartache of its protagonists.… (plus d'informations)
  1. 20
    Emma par Jane Austen (Sarasamsara)
    Sarasamsara: Like Austen's novels, The Makioka Sisters traces the daily lives and romances of an upper-class family-- the only difference is that this is pre-war Japan, not Regency England. Like in one of Austen's works, when you close the novel you feel like you are closing the door on someone's life.… (plus d'informations)
  2. 10
    Un garçon convenable par Vikram Seth (kitzyl)
    kitzyl: A family's quest to find a husband for an unmarried daughter/sister, set against the background of Indian/Japanese culture.
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Affichage de 1-5 de 43 (suivant | tout afficher)
In 1930s Japan, the aristocratic Makioka family is sliding into genteel poverty but is determined to uphold its good name and its traditions. Those traditions mostly come into play around the attempt to find husbands for the two youngest sisters—in their mid-to-late 20s, both are verging on spinsterhood.

I picked this novel up because it's widely acclaimed as a modern classic, and because it's so often compared to the work of Jane Austen. Having read it, the Austen comparisons puzzle me. Sure, if you sum up the book in a sentence or two it sounds not dissimilar to Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility, but the tone and concerns of Austen and Junichiro Tanizaki seem to me wildly different.

As someone who knows very little about Japanese culture, and who is reading this in translation, I'm surely missing many layers of meaning in The Makioka Sisters. I will freely admit that maybe I just don't have the context I need to enjoy the book's subtleties. I get that this is one of those novels where "nothing happens" is the point. But I found this an increasingly dull slog full of prevaricating, static characters whose interiority I never grasped and whose Highly Metaphorical Illnesses were off-putting. (What's that, Skippy? There's a rot inside the body politic?)

And then that last chapter—that last line! I mean, you can't say that Tanizaki didn't commit to the bit, but good lord. ( )
  siriaeve | May 18, 2024 |
“The ancients waited for cherry blossoms, grieved when they were gone, and lamented their passing in countless poems. How very ordinary the poems had seemed to Sachiko when she read them as a girl, but now she knew, as well as one could know, that grieving over fallen cherry blossoms was more than a fad or convention.”

The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki revolves around the once aristocratic and wealthy Makioka family, namely the sisters Tsuruko, Sachiko, Yukiko, Taeko (fondly referred to as “Koi-san” as per custom, meaning “small daughter”), who despite having lost most of their wealth over time, strive to maintain a way of life and uphold the traditional customs of an era slowly fading into history. The novel spans the period between the autumn of 1936 to April 1941. It is a slow-paced and detail-oriented depiction of life in Japanese polite society in the years leading up to WW2. The narrative alludes to historically significant events occurring in that period such as the “China Incident” namely the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Kobe flood of 1938, and the references to the tensions in Europe.
“Meanwhile the world was shaken by new developments in Europe. In May came the German invasion of the Low Countries and the tragedy of Dunkirk, and in June, upon the French surrender, an armistice was signed at Compiègne.”

The eldest Makioka sister, Tsuruko is married to Tatsuo, who works in a bank and after her father’s demise is the head of the family as per Japanese custom. He has also taken the Makioka name. They constitute the “main house” in Osaka and are traditionally regarded as the head of the family who yields authority over the other branches. Sachiko, the second eldest sister is married to Teinosuke, an accountant who has also taken the Makioka name. Together they maintain the Ashiya house on the outskirts of Osaka. Most of the story is described from Sachiko’s perspective. Though tradition dictates that the unmarried sisters live in the “main house”, both Yukiko and Taeko prefer to live with Sachiko’s family in Ashiya, where they are welcome though this is a matter that leads to some tense interactions between Sachiko and her older sister. As per custom, Taeko cannot marry before her elder sister Yukiko who is pushing thirty at the beginning of the novel . Yukiko is yet to find a husband mostly on account of the Makiokas rejecting multiple proposals because the prospective grooms' families were not found suitable in stature, a condition that they are forced to relax in the subsequent years as the proposals for Yukiko’s hand in marriage dwindle over time. The focal point of this novel is the search for a suitable groom for Yukiko - a match that meets the Makioka’s standards, the selection, the meetings, in-depth background investigations and familial consent of the main house.

The author paints a vivid picture of the customs, beliefs, traditions, gender roles as well as the temperament, vanity and class consciousness that was representative of that era. The characterizations of the sisters is superb. The two older sisters, married and settled remain stuck in tradition and prioritize their family standing and all its glory which has long since dimmed considerably. As the story progresses we see a moment when Yukiko is rejected by a suitor that it dawns on Sachiko that their fortunes have truly changed with the realization that they would have to change with the times.
“Never before had the Makiokas been so humbled. Always they had felt that the advantage was with them, that the other side was courting their favor—always it had been their role to judge the man and find him lacking. This time their position had been weak from the start. For the first time they were branded the losers.”

Yukiko, whose marriage (or rather search for a groom) is the focal point of the novel is a graceful quiet, obedient sister whose presence is felt but whose voice is either unheard or drowned out by those of her more vocal sisters. She is also bound by tradition, trusting her elder sisters and brothers-in-law with the responsibility of finding a suitable match and sits through a miai (a formal meeting between a prospective bride and groom) several times. However, despite her fine manners and quiet nature she can convey much through her “tepid” responses and often surprising non-cooperation in interacting with her prospective grooms. Takeo, the youngest who has never experienced the full fame and wealth of the family, is more willful than the other sisters. She has a mind of her own and does not hesitate to do as she pleases and is often the cause of much embarrassment and concern for her older sisters. One incident that is referred to a few times in the narrative is the “newspaper incident” - when the local newspapers carried the story of her elopement with her beau, Okubata but got her name mixed up with Yukiko’s (which was later clarified). The family assumes this to be another reason for which Yukiko’s proposals are fewer than expected. Taeko is ambitious and industrious and attempts to carve a profession for herself - be it earning a living doll making or training as a seamstress , while juggling her romantic relationships. She embodies a modern spirit that is in stark contrast with the mindset of her more traditional sisters and is representative of the changing times and the shift in societal norms and strictures.

Junichiro Tanizaki’s The Makioka Sisters is a beautiful novel, meant to be read slowly. Vivid imagery and fluid narrative make this an easy if quiet read. Though it might seem tedious for many readers, I enjoyed the detailed depictions of the contrasting personalities, the beautiful descriptions of the different places, the cherry blossoms and dragonflies,Japanese culture and customs and the relationship between the sisters. This is a novel I had been meaning to read for a long time and I am glad I finally picked it up. ( )
  srms.reads | Sep 4, 2023 |


I visi moderni erano molto comuni, rara, invece, era la fragile, elegante grazia delle fanciulle di un tempo, delle delicate creatura non ancora sfiorate dai venti del mondo; ecco in che consisteva il pregio di Yukiko.(pagina 39)

"Vronskij..." mormorò Teinosuke. "Si chiama così uno dei personaggi principali di Anna Karenina, se non sbaglio."
"Sicuro. Ha letto Tolstoj?"
"Tutti i giapponesi leggono Tolstoj e Dostoevkij", osservò Kyrilenko.
(pagina 77)

La caccia alle lucciole non ha nulla della gioia radiosa che accompagna le gite ai ciliegi in fiore. (pagina 332) ( )
  NewLibrary78 | Jul 22, 2023 |
A wonderful book that brings to life a time, a place and a culture so very different from anything I have experienced. It proves to me, yet again, the power of fiction to broaden one's worldview.
The story is simple and simply told but contains such richness. It is based around 4 sisters. Two are married, the third should be next but the youngest sister has a complicated and relatively rebellious life which causes many difficulties.There is much tenderness and charm in this story as well as fascinating glimpses of a way of life which must be largely gone. ( )
  rosiezbanks | Jun 6, 2023 |
Years ago my mother-in-law gave me this book and said it helped her get an understanding of Japanese culture (in addition to being an exquisite novel). I read it in the early 1980's, and loved this lovely family saga of a pre-WW II Japanese family in decline. I was excited to reread nearly forty years.

The focus is on the four Makioka sisters. Tsuruko is the oldest. Her husband has adopted the family name, and they are considered the head of the family and in charge of all important family decisions. Most of the novel concerns the second sister, Sachiko, who is also married. The two younger sisters, Yukiko and Taeko, live with Sachiko and her husband. The plot, such as it is, concerns the family's efforts to find a husband for Yukiko. Taeko already has a young man, but as the younger, she cannot marry until Yukiko marries. Sachiko is in charge of finding a husband for Yukiko, subject to approval by Tsuruko, of course. And what a lot of effort goes into finding a husband--matchmakers, investigations, meetings, and more meetings, all until some flaw is found, and the process starts all over again. We follow the family over several years, as one prospect after another is considered and rejected. There are lots of lovely family occasions, and life is serene and calm, but subtly in the background there are hints of a horrendous war fast approaching, in fact already ongoing in Manchuria.

Before rereading the book, I remembered little about it (other than the broad general plot), but I did remember one family excursion to go see fireflies. I remember being charmed by that. There are also annual excursions to view the cherry blossoms, visits to traditional Japanese theater, tea ceremonies and so on. Much is devoted to the mundane events of day to day living, so that at times it seems that not much is happening, but in the end a whole world is created and lived.

My 21st century persona occasionally became impatient about some of the minor dithering of these characters as they tried to make decisions--for example, there are pages devoted to whether Yukiko should meet a new potential suitor when she has a "spot" near her eye (which the doctor says will go away after she marries). But I still found it a book to become immersed in.

Recommended

4 stars ( )
1 voter arubabookwoman | Oct 27, 2021 |
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Nom de l'auteurRôleType d'auteurŒuvre ?Statut
Tanizaki, Junichiroauteur principaltoutes les éditionsconfirmé
Hengst, UllaTraducteurauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
Nieminen, KaiTraducteurauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
Seidensticker, Edward G.Traducteurauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
Westerhoven, JacquesTraducteurauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
Yatsushiro, SachikoTraducteurauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
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In Osaka in the years immediately before World War II, four aristocratic women try to preserve a way of life that is vanishing. The story of these women, the Makioka sisters, forms what is arguably the greatest Japanese novel of the twentieth century, a poignant yet unsparing portrait of a family--and an entire society--sliding into the abyss of modernity. Tsuruko, the eldest sister, clings obstinately to the prestige of her family name even as her husband prepares to move their household to Tokyo, where that name means nothing. Sachiko compromises valiantly to secure the future of her younger sisters. The unmarried Yukiko is a hostage to her family's exacting standards, while the spirited Taeko rebels by flinging herself into scandalous romantic alliances. The resulting novel is filled with vignettes of upper-class Japanese life, capturing both the decorum and the heartache of its protagonists.

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