Junichiro Tanizaki, who was born in 1886, is one of the giants of 20th-century Japanese literature. His work ranges from epic novels such as The Makioka Sisters, delving deep into the lives of four wealthy sisters in western Japan up to and including the early years of the Second World War, to the celebrated In Praise of Shadows, an essay on Japanese aesthetics. The Maids is his last novel and the last of his works to be translated into English.
Originally serialised in 1962, three years before his death, it’s a slice of life stretching from the 1930s to the 1960s, a kind of Upstairs, Downstairs, focusing on the various maids who pass through the peaceful, prosperous household of the narrator, a famous writer called Chikura Raikichi.
Raikichi is a wry