From Junichiro Tanizaki, “Some Prefer Nettles”

From Junichiro Tanizaki, “Some Prefer Nettles” January 16, 2013

tr. Edward G. Seidensticker:

Clearly he would one day have to tell Hiroshi everything, to appeal to his reason. Kaname did not doubt that the boy would understand, and to deceive him seemed as reprehensible as to deceive a grownup. Neither he himself nor Misako was wrong, Kaname would say; what was wrong was outdated convention. The time would come when a child need think nothing of having divorced parents. He would go on being their child, and he could visit one or the other as he chose.

So Kaname would explain it one day. But in the meantime he could not be sure that he and Misako would not have a reconciliation, and in any case it seemed pointless to upset Hiroshi any earlier than was necessary. The “one day” therefore continued to be postponed, and, in the desire to see the boy happy, the two of them occasionally put on bright connubial expressions and went out for a walk with him. But the intuitive powers of a child that age were remarkable, Kaname sometimes thought. Hiroshi was probably quite beyond being deceived, and indeed he was perhaps acting a part as carefully as they were, hiding his troubles from them, trying to make them happy as they were trying to make him happy. The three of them would go out for their walk, each alone with his thoughts, each feigning easy, pleasant family affection. The picture was a little frightening. That his and Misako’s conspiracy to deceive the world should have been allowed to include Hiroshi seemed to Kaname rather a serious crime.

(I like this passage because it’s freighted with dramatic irony–Misako, for example, is definitely not open to any reconciliation, but Kaname doesn’t know that–and for the way it conveys psychological insight through Kaname’s somewhat warped perspective on both himself and his child. It also reminded me strongly of Between Two Worlds, in which Marquardt finds that rather than replacing conspiracy with authenticity and honesty, divorce often makes the child much more complicit and deceptive in his dealings with parents. Nonetheless you do feel that Kaname is right about the frightening picture of the three of them in their separate displays of happiness.)

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