Jun’ichiro Tanizaki: 武州公秘話 (The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi)


The latest addition to my website is Jun’ichiro Tanizaki‘s 武州公秘話 (The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi). This is another thoroughly enjoyable Tanizaki novel. It tells the tale of the fictitious Terukatsu, who will later become a great general. However, instead of giving a conventional account of a great general, which would have invariably been boring and didactic, he focusses on the general’s sexial peccadilloes, a topic which was never raised in the real histories. At the beginning of the novel, Terukatsu is twelve and sent as a hostage to another castle. The castle is attacked and the enemy is gradually getting closer to the centre. Terukatsu cannot fight but he does get to see how the women dress the heads of the enemy who have been killed. Heads whose nose has been cut off, as the killer could not carry it around with him in the heat of the battle but can come back later to identify a noseless corpse, are called woman-heads. When Terukatsu sees an attractive woman dressing one, he has a sexual frisson and comes to associate noseless heads with sexual excitement. As they are rare, he decides to have one brought to the woman, by entering the enemy camp and killing a soldier. He is too successful, killing the enemy general and removing his nose and thereby, inadvertently ending the siege. Later, when Lady Kikyu, the daughter of the dead, noseless general marries Norishige, the son of the defending general, in an attempt at reconciliation, she vows revenge, by having her husband’s nose removed but leaving him alive. She does not succeed, not least because there is someone who knows what she is up to but, he, Terukatsu, is a faithful retainer of Norishige, till he imagines Lady Kikyu with the noseless head of Norishige. It is a witty, well-told tale, as always, somewhat tongue-in-cheek but Tanizaki clearly had great fun with it and so will you.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Nanosecond

    LOL, TMN. This novel sounds so bizarre and perverted that it is as if Tanizaki is parodying himself. I recently read Sakaguchi Ango’s short story “In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom” (1947) which also features an attractive woman who entertains herself with severed heads.

    1. tmn

      Thanks for your comment. I am not familiar with Sakaguchi Ango so I shall look out for him.

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