The Key by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki

The key by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki 

Japanese fiction

Original title – 鍵 Kagi

Translator – Howard Hibbert

Source – personal copy

Here is my first of a few post time willing for this time round for Kaggy and simon year club the year this time is 1956 and the first book I have read is from Tanizaki who I have reviewed once before on the blog so when I saw this a latter book from the writer the last book I reviewed was written twenty years before this book. which is a later book by Tanzaki in his writing life. So when it was on the list of books that had come out in 1956. I decided to order it start away. The book has been made into three films over the years.

This year I intend to begin writing freely about a topic which, in the past. I have hesitated even to mention here. I have always avoided commenting on my sexual relations with Ikuko, for fear that she might surreptitiously read my diary and be offended. I dare say she knows exactly where to find it. But I have decided not to worry about that anymore. Of course, her oldfashioned Kyoto upbringing has left her with a good deal of antiquated morality, indeed, she would dip into her husband’s private writings.

The opening lines were written on new year’s day

The book has two narrative parts the both of them in the form or a diary of an older husband who has a much younger wife Ikuko whom he is very in love with but is deeply worried about his desires for her. Then we see the other side as Ikuko tries to help and follow her husband’s desires as she tries to stop letting him know she knows what he is up too. This is an inner look at a marriage of an older man and younger women and it shows the covents of the day where the only insight into there innermost wantings and desires is via these two diaries we see him for the first time see her body and take pictures and also starts to sleep more with his wife that is over ten years younger than him. when he and his future son-in-law take the drunk wife and undress her in the bed this leads to an affair on the wife. As the husband gets Kimura to develop the pictures of his naked wife the younger man is drawn to his future mother-in-law.

I suppose he carried me here from the bath that night, put me to bed, and then, since I was still inconscious, amused himself with me in all sorts of ways. Once, when he was kissing me and roughly under my arms, i was tartled awake. He had dropped his glasses onme; my eyes opened the instant I felt their chilly touch. All my clothes had been stripped off, and I was lying on my back, stark naked, exposed to the glare of light. There was two lamps; the floor lamp and another – a fluorescent one – on the beside table

She drank to much and let him use her as he had wanted too !!

At the heart of this is the problem of the convention in marriages in Japan at the time where sex and desires aren’t talked about so when on the 1st January he starts his diary as a secret but leaves the key in an obvious place for his wife to find so when she reads and starts to act out his desires he wonders how it happens. This is an erotic work a man desires for his wife to be a certain way that she isn’t this is shown when he first sees her body fully naked and who drawn he is to her. I was reminded of the emails of the german novel love virtually where it is her a flip flop of what he wants and she secretly discovers his desire like in love virtually where the two characters start opening up. |This is another gem turned up from the year club it wouldn’t be my next choice as a book from Tanizaki I had some of his better-known books down to read at some point but this is a short gem that can be read in an evening. Have you read this book?

The glass slipper and Other stories by Shotaro Yasuoka

The Glass Slipper and other stories by Shotaro Yasuoka

Japanese Short Stories

Original title -ガラスの靴 (title story glass shoe)

Translator – Royall Tyler

Source – personal copy

I have brought a number of Dalkey Archives older books when I have seen them cheap. I picked this up by the Akutagawa Prize-winning Shotaro Yasuora. He fought in the Philippines in world war two and was one of the few survivors to come back from there. He then started to study English but near the end of this contracted tuberculosis which affects his spine, he had spent a long time just lying on his back that is what started his writing career. The title story of this collection was one of the spending time recovering and amongst his earliest ones. He wrote and was listed for the Akutagawa prize but he did win it two years later in 1953. He won a number of other prizes and was the translator of Alex Haley’s books after he had visited the south of the US during that time and wrote about it.

I soon became caught up in Etsuko’s fantasy play. I enjoyed it goign along with her stories mademe feel as though I had taken possession of her. At her suggestion we played hide and seek. For all pratical purposes, the house and evertything in it belonged to us. There were hiding places everywhere – under the bed, behind the curtains, in the chest of drawers, in the dressing room woth all of it mirrors, I went upstairs and hid in a battlefield water bag that hung unused, in the closetat the end of the hall.

The played as the romance blossomed in the glass slipper

The title story The glass slipper sees the narrator a young man that has a job in a gun shop as he is asked to deliver a rifle to a US Colonel. Colonel Craigow house. When he arrives with his delivery he is meet by the families Japanese maid Etsuko he is smitten with her and returns as they spend the summer but then she isn’t there a nod to the fairy tale of the glass slipper. There are eight other stories. One sees a man selling his father’s beautiful enameled war medal to a US serviceman so he can make ends meet in the poor post-war times which is the time the stories are all set. Elsewhere a man is told by his boss to compose the company song via a shared love of verse. Jingle bells as the title suggest see a boyfriend on his way to his girlfriend but are running late and as is the case he keeps getting held up.

“JIngle Bells” was playing on the radio, and I was walking in time to it. It was christmas day. Noonetheless, the eateries lining both sides of the street in front of the station were flying big red-and-white banners against the leaden sky advertising “Grilled Sweetfish Tamagawa Specialty!Tasty !Tasty

Jingle bells, jingle bells

I tred not to walk in step, but it didn’t work. I seemed to have cords around my ankles that kept me marching along. I remembered how in my first year as a member of the Takasski Infantry Regiment the sergant had called “Hup,Two,Three,four” they called came a gap in the rhythm. Jingle(Hup) Bells(two) Jingle (three) Bells(four)

Jingle bells a man called by his girlfriend to visit her.

I read that this is a collection that Murakami recommends to readers it is a light-hearted collection of self-perception with a collection of characters that are all struggling in post-war Japan. The translator is American so we have a lot of American terms like Pants and vacations. But you can cope with that, Shotaro characters all have odd jobs a man guards a half-burnt house, a man writing a song and a translator. A varied section of post-war Japan. he died a few years ago. There is only this and another collection available in English by him. Have you read him?

Backlight by Kanji Hanawa

Backlight by Kanji Hanawa

Japanese short fiction

Translator – Richard Nathan

Source – review copy

I bring you the second book of the red circle series of short novellas from Japanese. Kanji Hanawa was before he retired a professor of French literature having only visited France as a student he has spent a lifetime teaching and in retirement has translated fifteen books from French into Japanese. He has also written a number of short stories and Novellas been listed for the Akutagawa prize twice.He is known for his for exposing the pressures and challenges of modern life in Japan. Here he has used the true story of Yamato a boy who was left by his parents in the woods of the northern Island of Japan and wandered off.

Ishida: “I imagine, don’t you think, they will set up the incident cemtre at the foot of the mountain?

Momose:”They will visit the situation. I am a psychologist, but I’m old and not so strong on my feet; nor do I have any children myself. So I’m not sure I can be of much use.But I’ve actually been to take a look and although they say it;sa mountain, it seems more like a nearby hill.The actual location took me by surprise.

THe opening and getting involved in the case.

The story uses an Ishida a psychologist asked to help out and he is called in by an old colleague Toshiko Momose as they were both at H university. Who wants to Ishida panel of experts helping with the investigation into the disappearance of A a seven-year-old boy who was left as a punishment by his Father as him and his sister and parents that are on the last day of the national holiday and A ios playing up as the family head through the woods of the Northern island they stop and leave him and drive off only to turn and return in a matter of minutes to find A has disappeared they look for him and he isn’t to be seen so they have to call in the police as the woods are bear-infested. What we see is Ishida as he is called to give help to the way the case is covered and he lets us know how they are trying to find A as the days go by the two discuss how the west and Traditional Japanese childhood differ and the fact that A disappeared is what has changed as when Japanese child was sent out of a house he would stayed glued to the spot whereas a western child would wander this is echoed in the western tales of children getting lost in the woods. Will A be found how long was he out there?

The statement compiled by Momose and Ishida was circulated to the chairperson and the others, but with a questionable level of comprehension. As a child was concerned, the media was showing some self-control. Even so, overall opnion was shifting, it was being taken much more seriously. More and more people were calling for a search of greatest magnitude possible, even if hastily excuted, with the largest number of people available. As a result there were 300 people in total, both locals and non-locals, forming small search oparties and heading into the area. Despite this, there was no postive news.

Third day and fears and the search increases for A .

This is another great choice as it is a gripping story that highlights changes in Japan in a way the boy should have stayed when his parents left and the curveball of him walking off is the start of the tale. Ishida and Toshiko provide a sounding board for how Japanese is changing,. Also, the way this case was cover and the aftermath this made headlines around the world. They also discuss the history in fairy tales of Children in the woods in western culture. from Grimm and then before that in Perrault’s tales. This shows how values change and how Parents are treating the children in Japan. I have three more from Red circle the first two have been very interesting so I hope to finish the rest of them in the new year. Have you a favorite Japanese short story or novella?

Stand-in Companion by Kazufumi Shiraishi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stand-in Companion by Kazufumi Shiraishi

Japanese fiction

Original title – スタンド・イン コンパニオン(原題:代替伴侶)

Translator – Raj Mahtani

I was surprised when  Richard from Red circle contact me after the suggestion of one of there translators as I don’t review many Japanese novels its works out about two a year over the time of the blog. So to get to have these five slim novellas from some of the best new writers in Japan I couldn’t turn the chance time.Kazumi Shiraishi is from a family of writers his father is Ichiro Shiraishi a prize-winning writer and his twin brother is also a writer. He has published a number of novels initially he worked as a journalist and editor for one of Japan’s leading magazines. He has had two novels published by Dalkey Archive before this one. It is worth noting with sadness that it was the last work the Raj Mahtani translated before he passed away.

By the time the news of her pregnancy was expected to arrive, though, the snow would have completel disappeared. But then again, such a thing as a pregenancy, in the first place, was impossible, Hayato silently thought to himself. “I somehow have this gut feeling i’ll get lucky,” yutori had said a few days ago, regarding the trip to the hot-spring resort this time

Right above now, Hyato mised, she must be dropping her shoulders in defeat, while applying a saintary  pad between her legs in the toilet at the pharmacy, disappointed at the unreliability of her gut feeling

They try and check every month for the result

Stand in companion is a futuristic tale set in the near future where the world has decided that birth control is need and that things like IVF has been outlawed so we meet a couple Yutori and Hayato  a couple who have been trying for a number of years for children we meet them as they do a monthly stop for a pregnancy test to see if his sperm have moved quicker or if the time at the spa has helped her tubes. as this has happened for a number of years we see her move away and then they both decide that they need a new start so they get what is called a stand-in companion of each other but each wants the new companion to have no knowledge of what was the problem with the getting pregnant as they both head of with a new Yutori and Hayato at some point will loser there replacement after ten years on the android laws of this near future.

However, in these past several months, Yutori was gradually fiding it unbearable to see the dark look of disappointment cloud Hayato’s face every time

AN Android activated as a  Stand-in companion, in accordance with the Stand-in android act, is recognised as having rights completely equal to those of humans. Until just prior to their deactivation by a termination sinal transmitted from the control centre of the Human rights Relief Comittee, at the time their rental peroid expired, an android in this soceity was to be treated entirely as an indivdual – a human being.

I was remind of the deatgh of Rutger Hauer in bladerunner here as he was an android with a short life but had seen so much in his life.

Strangely of all the countries that maybe they don’t need birth control, measures in Japan with a growing older generation and shrinking younger generation in the future, it would maybe be one country that would need more children. But these growing older generations are already getting looked after at times by robots that run memory and exercise classes in the old people’s homes in such of the larger cities. I saw this over the weekend in a tv show here in the UK. Then we have can an android robot replace a human well in Bladerunner there is the main character played by Sean Young her character Rachel is an android that doesn’t know she is an android and this is the sense her the two new stand-ins aren’t aware they are stand-ins for each other it is a question of what we need from life babies or companionship. This short book is just 43 pages long that sits with you for a long while after you put the book down. Have you read any of this Red Circle series?

30 covers for #WITMONTH A japanese favourite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think most readers now stat with Murakami as there first Japanese writer but for me, in the early nineties, it was the novel Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto a book about a woman overcoming her grandmother’s death. I read a number of her books over the years. But when I come to do this list I have seen it has been more than a decade since I read a book by her and I need to add her to my blog. It is sad I haven’t cover her before now as her voice is one I have alway enjoyed.

30 covers for #WITMONTH off to Japan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I move to Japan for Today’s cover and a writer whose books  I have covered twice on the blog. She has a new book out The memory police this month which I am looking forward too I also have this to read from her. Have you read Yoko Ogawa?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sound of waves by Yukio Mishima

Image result for The Sound of Waves

The sound of waves by Yukio Mishima

Japanese fiction

Original title – 潮騷 Shiosai

Translator – Meredith Wetherby

Source – personal copy

I have missed Tonys Japan in January last year so was pleased when Belezza said she was moving her Japanese literature Challenge too the first three months of this year. I have been buying but not reading a lot of Japanese fiction in recent years, in fact, Mishima is a writer I have brought a lot of his books. I wasn’t a huge fan of the book the sailor who fell from grace with the sea as I found it rather brutal in places. But others said I should try him again so nine years later I have got to him again. He missed out on a Nobel when it went to fellow Japanese writer Kawabata won the prize he was an early mentor of Yukio Mishima.

Boththe lighthouse keeper and his wif had taken Hatsue, the newcomer, to their warm hearts. Just when she was so silent that they were thinking maybe she was not so attractive after all, suddenly she would break into her lovely, girlish laughter; and if she sometimes seemed lost in the clouds, she was also most considerate. For instance, at the end of an etiquette lesson hatsue would immediately begin clearing away the cups they had drunk their tea in – a thoughtful action that never would have occured to the other girls – and while she was at it she would go on to wash the dirty dishes she might find in the kitchen.

Help ful and pretty the girl taken in by the lighthouse keepr and is seen by Shinji for the first time.

I choose this as my next Mishima as it seemed different from the other book by him I have read. Set in what seems to post world war two Japan we focus on a small island and Shinji a young fisherman looking after his mother and brother after losing his father in the war. He does jobs around the island one involves visiting the lighthouse keeper and his wife this is where he comes across a young pearl diver that has come there from a nearby island. Hatsue the girl in question is the girl all the local lads like. she is tanned and as Mishima discusses in detail has wonderful breasts. The two fall in love. It turns out that Hatsue is actually the daughter of Teruckuchi the wealthiest local man that had sent his daughter away to leave his son in charge of his empire as the future heir. But when he loses his son in the war he turns to the daughter he left to grow up as a pearl diver to make sure she marries a man he can then call a son and takes as his heir. He favors another but when he sends the two out on one of his ships Shinji and Yasuo a bitter rival of for the affections of Hatsue he had earlier said Shinji had taken his relationship further than he should of  !! who will get her hand and become the new son to her wealthy father?

If Shinji had had more experience with women, as he looked at the naked Hatsue standing across the fire, in the storm encircled ruins, he would have seen unmistakably that hers was the body of a virgin. Her skin, far from fair-complexioned, had been constantly bathed in in sea-water and stretched smooth; and there, upon the wide expanse of a shest that had served for many long dives, two small breasts turned their faces slightlyaway from each other, as thoughabashed, and lifted up two rose-colored buds. Since Shinji r=fearful of being discoverde, had barely opened his eyes, the girl’s form remained a vague outline and, peered at through a fire that reached as high as the concrete ceiling, became almost indistinguishable from wavering flames themselves.

Shinji sees her breifly and is grabbed by her body as he sees it in the flames.

This is a classic boy and girl tale boy meets girl falls in love. Then we have the twists to it father figures missing fathers and missing sons Hatsue was abandoned then taken back by her father as he lost his son, Shinji Lost his father in the war. This is also a story that shows how life works in small villages as the gossip cause a lot of problem for the young couple especially when lies are told. The one thing that shone in the description of Hatsue was it must have been a woman that Mishima knew the way he so sexually described the body of Hatsue through Shinji’s eyes. This was much 6lighter Mishima than in the previous book a romantic work that shows love can win through in the end. A great first choice for the Japanese Literature Challenge.

Cult X by Fuminori Nakamura

 

Cult X by Fuminori Nakamura

Japanese Crime fiction

Original title – Kyōdan X (教団X)

Translator – Kalau Almony

Source – review copy

I read this a few months ago and decide I have a flick through it today it was one of those books I read and said got do a review and then life and everything got in the way. Anyway, Fuminori Nakamura is one of Japan’s leading crime writers he has won a number of prizes with his books including the Kenzaburo Oe prize one of the biggest book prizes in Japan he has been writing since his early twenties He has had a number of his books Translated into English. The events in this book were inspired by the events that lead up to the Sarin Attack in 1995 in Tokyo and the cult behind it. Strangely as I was reading this in the summer members of that cult were executed in Japan.

“…Cult X?”

What a strange name, Narazuki thought. Like the name of some trashy TV show.

“Have you told the police about this scam?”

“Matsuo-san didn’t want to” Yoshida said, lookinf fed up. “Because of whatever that old connection is between Matsuo-san and Sawatari.I don’t know the details”.

It bega to grow dark outside. Narazaki felt as though the lights inside were growing stronger – manmade lights stretching out everyone’s shadow

When he hears about Cult X he also has a feel of darkness drawing in around him !!

This follows one man as he tries to find his girlfriend. Toru Narazaki girlfriend has disappeared off the face of the earth and he is worried enough in the start to hire a private detective to try and find her. He only turns up that a cult is now connected to one-off her addresses. This is how Toru ends up following what Happened to Ryoko Tachibana also she is known as Rina. Toru has an interest in religion he has been attending talks by a man known as Matsuo.this leads to a dark cult called X which Toru is drawn into as we see the philosophy of its leader through lectures and discussions. She is in the groups compound he needs t get there but behind the fence is a world of a cult with power tri[ps sexual activities  violence and a leader that has lost it and is drawing his followers near the abyss of something that could end their lives but also of a lot of other people as he has brainwashed them so much. This all unfolds nicely as we follow Toru in the rabbit hole of a cult.

The leader was sitting in the dark. At first the woman thought he was sleeping, but then he made a slight movement, as if something small had gotten caught in his thrat. His eyes open briefly.

She examined his face carefully, but the leader closed his eyes again. It was like he had already forgotten the previous moments discomfort.He kept his eyes closed, even though right in front of him were many naked men and woman with only bath towels covering their bodies.

“Today is Monday,” Maeda-Kun said. His voice carried well. He had good posture. He was kind. And he wasn’t the only one – everyone here was kind.

The leader and his naked disciples all isn’t as it seems here.

This book is a writer question what happened with the 1995  Sarin Attacks and the cult and its leader that lead the attack. It is strange I have listened and seen a number of things about cults in the last twelve months. The last series of American Horror story had a cult as it’s storyline this showed how easy it is for ordinary people to get drawn into a cult when they have a few problems in their life. So the fact that Ryoko has a past she hasn’t ever talked about with Toru means this secret made her a perfect target for the cult and their Leader as she was damaged in a WayI also listen to a podcast about the Heavens Gate Cult which liked this showed how the Leaders tend to cherry pick the bits of different philosophies they like and mix them to there own end this is what the first part of the book shows is the ideas behind the cult and shows how when they have been brought by the followers they do the horrific events in the later third of the book which lift that dark curtain of the sex and violence and the abuse of power within the Cult it a slow-burning novel that draws the reader in with the last third that is engrossing and horrifies in equal parts. This is a beautiful book as well Soho has made a real effort in the hardback with the Huge X cut in the hardcover showing the devilish illustrated endpapers in the book.

 

A cat, A man And two women by Junichiro Tanizaki

 

A Cat

A cat, a man and two women by Junichiro Tanizaki

Japanese fiction

Original title – Neko to Shōzō to Futari no Onna

Translator – Paul McCarthy

Source – personnel copy on Kindle

I have been using my Kindle a bit more recently as I had a few books I had brought cheap and want to read this being one of them. Tanizaki is a writer I had to want to feature on the blog for a while. He was one of the best writers of the mid 20th century. He himself was a translator working a lot during his life translating the Epic Tales of Genji into modern Japanese. He also was known forthright intimate nature of his writing. This is a lesser work but for me a very personal insight into a family life.

Shozo repeated the same thing over and over again. He would give her a fish, then himself a little drink, and calling ‘Lily’ would raise the next prize high. There must originally have been some twelve or thirteen mackerel on Shozo’s plate, each about two inches long, of which he himself had actually eaten perhaps three or four. For the rest, he had simply sucked out a bit of the vinegar dressing before giving the flesh to Lily. ‘Ohh-ohh … owww! That hurts!’ Shozo let out a shriek: Lily had leapt onto his shoulders and dug in her claws.

Shozo even feeds the cat more than himself

The book as the title suggests is about a Man Shozo, he is on his second marriage that is the two women referred to in the title of his first and second wives. There is also Shozo Cat Lily. The story focus on the relationship between the four characters. This happens when the first wife asks for Lily the cat back Shinako a seamstress by trade hasn’t got over losing her husband. She knows that Lily the cat may bring him back to her. Now his current wife isn’t a fan of Lily this is shown when she isn’t happy when she cooks 13 pieces of fish for her husband and he gives most of it to the cat. They even share the bed together at night. Who will win this power battle between the two women the rather lazy husband and the cat Lily?

Now, Fukuko was a cousin of Shozo’s; and, given the circumstances under which she became his wife, there was no need for her to worry about pleasing a difficult mother-in-law. So from her second day of married life, she did just as she pleased in everything. All the same, she could hardly stand by and watch her husband trying to wield a kitchen knife, so in the end she made the marinated fish for both of them, though under protest. To make matters worse, they had been dining off mackerel for five or six days running. Then, two or three days ago, it had struck her: Shozo wasn’t even eating the food he’d insisted on having, ignoring his wife’s complaints; instead, he was giving it all to the cat! The more she thought about it, the clearer it all became: the mackerel were small, with little bones, easily chewed; there was no need to fillet them, and they could be served cold; and one got a lot for one’s

He married a distant relative but his mother made life hard and now the cat and ex aren’t helping either !

This is really a mans ode to the cat. Lilly is the one character from the book I’d like to meet. Shozo is a lazy man that has lost one wife. But end with a younger model but at the end of the day is more into his cat than his wife even sharing the bed with the Cat then we have Shinako a perfect example of the scorned wife she wants to use Lilly as a pawn in her game to get back her man from the younger wife. She also loved this tortoiseshell cat and her man. This is one lonely lady that wants something back into her life. Fukuko his current wife has to find her place with him in there married life and somehow keep Shozo and keep him happy even if this means he gets to keep his cat! There is all of human life here love, loneliness, marriage, divorce and one man and his cat. This is a recent reissue from Daunt books and shows why it is good to bring lesser works by great writer back especially when like this they have a certain timeless feel to them. I haven’t read enough by him to say if this is the best entry book but I read it in a night and it brought a smile to my face and made me think of Winston and Merlin my two ex-pet dogs.

Two Japanese classics

I hadn’t been to the local Oxfam (sorry anyone locally it has very little in translation on its shelves as I have them!) for ten day which for me is a long time due to training last week and other things I hadn’t got to town. But I was pleased to find two Japanese classics one had been on my radar a while and the other is by a writer I have tried before and want to try again as my first encounter wasn’t the best but everyone rates him as a writer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First up is Kobo Abe’s Woman in the Dunes, a modern classic that is also a well-known film. It follows seven years in a man’s life as he is trapped by the woman in the dunes. A cat and mouse tale as the two try to escape and the woman uses here female sensuality to keep him there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we have another backlist book from Peter Owen (i do wish they’d make more of the backlist it is one of the best around) this is by Yukio Mishima whose sailor who fell from grace with the sea, I really didn’t get along with since then I have brought a couple of his books to read . Looking back it reminds me it is a year and half since I reviewed a book from Japan so I need to address that missing Tonys Japan in January which is when I would save my Japanese books to read.

What gems have you found recently ?

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