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?

what makes a modern classic (a translation point of view)

this weeks literary blog hop question is what makes a modern classic tough question from Megan is a teaser ,who knows what makes a classic it is a real mixture of luck and talent ,what may be a modern classic now may not be a classic in twenty or more years ,who is popular sways with taste and sometimes even the economic situation as is the case with the current resurgence in Ayn Rand books ,well to answer the question I ve chosen to talk about my main love works in translation what makes a modern classic in translation well there is books that were published soon after the writers wrote them that have grown into classics ,like Sebald his works we’re very fresh in the style of writing and quite unlike anything that had been seen in english or schlink where one book was a huge success the reader is a perfect modern classic .Now there is a second tier of books these are books that  considered huge in their homeland but haven’t straight away been translated into english or have been then the fallen out of print these include one of my favourite books this year Hugo Claus wonder which was a new translation of a Flemish modern classic a book that had been crying to be translated ,or Peirene press stones in the landslide a touching novella that was a huge hit in europe when it was written in the eighties but had to wait for Meike to translate it ,also the last few nobel winners have seen publishers diving to retranslated  or  republish their books Herta Muller and JMG LE Clezio both had books in new translation or reissued these are huge in their homelands and needed to be more widely available in english and thanks to there Nobel wins have done .Then the last books in translation I think could be considered modern classic are what I call refound treasures these are writers from the 30’s and 40’s that have just been republished or newly translated in to english ,these include Vasily Grossman ,Irene Nemirosvky ,Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth now these books are classics in the Natives but in english are modern classics as they’ve just become available to read for us .What hits the English market is really at the whim of publishers and I know there are writers yet to make an impact in english but are considered modern classics in their own languages ,I eagerly await these .

W G SEBALD

My all time Favourite modern classic in translation – rings of Saturn by W G Sebald a touching book that still touches me as I flick through it and read bits every week .

nervous conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga

nervous conditions

This is considered a modern african classic ,the book follows Tambu a 14 year old  as she grows up in a changing Zimbabwe or Rhodesia as it was when the book was set .she is sent to live with her aunt and uncle Babmakuru a strict ,father figure .her brother has died ,she must get on with it .In what is a change world between african traditions and western (english) values and cultures .she manages this but shows along the away the effect on various members of her family as some want progress and other try to cling to the old ways .The is times of joy and sorrow along the way at times Tambu escapes to her garden .I loved the feel of this story and setting a society on the edge of a new post colonial age .the struggle of african and western influences on every day life in africa .Tsitsi has written a follow-up to this book which i am looking forward to reading to find out what happened to the family .

I was not sorry when my brother died .nor am I apologising for my callousness,as you may define it ,my lack of feeling .For it is not that at all .I feel many things these days when i was young and my brother died ,and there are reasons for this more than the consequence of age .therefore i shall not apologise but begin by recalling the facts …………..

the opening words of nervous conditions.

July 2021
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