Jun’ichiro Tanizaki: 瘋癲老人日記 (Diary of a Mad Old Man)

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The latest addition to my website is Jun’ichiro Tanizaki‘s 瘋癲老人日記 (Diary of a Mad Old Man). This is, in fact, the diary of seventy-seven year old man who, while he might have one or two mental issues, is more of a dirty old man than a mad old man. The narrator is suffering from ill health and, by his own admission, impotent but, despite that, he is still aroused by the sight of a pretty woman (or even a pretty man dressed as a woman, as in a traditional Japanese play). In this book, his lust is directed towards Satsuko, wife of his son, Jokichi. It is clear to him that their marriage has lost its early romanticism with Jokichi travelling a lot on business and going out on his own when at home. Satsuko helps his wife and nurse with caring for him but this gets him excited and when he tries to take it a bit further (mild touching) she cleverly take advantage of this, both to allow her lover access to the shower on a daily basis (which means access to her) as well as getting the narrator to buy her jewellery. Tanizaki tells the story of how the narrator’s lust continues and how he tries to satisfy it while Satsuko strings him along. At the same time, the erotic excitement has an effect on his health, raising his blood pressure. Yes, it is a bit Lolitaish though Nabokov and Tanizaki have different aims, with Tanizaki interested in the reaction of the old man and what others think of him. This is not his best novel but still a worthwhile read.

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