key

The latest addition to my website is Jun’ichiro Tanizaki‘s 鍵 (The Key). This is a highly erotic novel, written entirely in the form of diary entries by an older, unnamed man and his younger wife, Ikuko. The husband is concerned that, as he is getting older, his sexual performance has deteriorated. Ikuko, while still loving her husband, is disgusted by him, particularly in bed. The couple have an adult daughter, Toshiko, who lives with them. Kimura is a man they are considering as a husband for Toshiko, though she does not seem very enthusiastic. However Kimura visits frequently and it is clear that he is more interested in Ikuko than in Toshiko. The husband soon starts to encourage this flirtation between Kimura and Ikuko as it awakens his jealousy but makes him a more passionate lover. Gradually, it becomes apparent that each is aware of the other’s diary (they had previously kept it secret) and each is aware of the growing familiarity between Ikuko and Kimura. Tanizaki skilfully pushes this erotic relationship more and more, as Kimura and Ikuko become closer under the watchful but willing eyes of the husband. It is wonderfully done and very inventive and, indeed, still some sixty years after its original publication, titillating.