Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"Diary of a Mad Old Man" by Junichiro Tanizaki

Diary of a Mad Old Man by Junichiro Tanizaki (1961, translated  by Howard Hibbett, 197 pages)

Junichiro Tanizaki (1886 to 1965, born in Tokyo)  is on my read everything they have written (or in this case, has been translated) list.    This will be the 8th work of his on which I have posted.    I first discovered his work about nine months ago and now I look at any list of great novelists of the 20th century that does not include him as reflective of the Euro-Centric limits of the education of the list maker.  

I have written at some length in prior posts explaining why I feel as I do about Tanizaki.   I will keep this post short.    Diary of a Mad Old Man is the diary of a man in his late 70s who is in the grip of the illnesses of old age.   He lives with his wife, son and daughter in law.   Even now he can still feel sexual stirrings brought on by the presence of his daughter- in- law.    The daughter- in- law functions on occasion as his care giver.    She begins to allow him minor sexual favors such as allowing him to kiss her neck and advances to letting him see her in the shower and wash her feet.   In exchange for this the man buys her western consumer goods.   The old man is very self aware and conscious of the impropriety in his actions.   This does not stop him from enjoying it all a great deal. The daughter-in-law may protest a bit but she enjoys the power this gives her over her father-in law.    One of the themes of Tanizaki is sexual fixation and we see this treated  in very intelligent fashion here.   We also get a look at the dynamics of the family relationships.  Diary of a Mad Old Man seems to be Tanizaki's last published work.   He was 75 when it was published.    

I am well past the mid-point in reading all of Junichiro Tanizaki's work.  I will be sad upon the completion of this reading project.   I think he has a number of untranslated works and perhaps more will be translated.   


Hannah Stoneham said...

This sounds like an interesting and touching read - thanks for recommending

Happy Tuesday


Suko said...

Mel, at first glance, I "read" the title of this work as "Diary of an Old Maid" for some reason.

Excellent review. I can't believe this is your eighth post about Tanazaki's work. Already!

Mel u said...

Hannah-thanks as always for your visits

Suko-when I first saw the title I thought it was my diary!

Anonymous said...

Sounds a bit like my Murakami list! I haven't read anything by Tanizaki yet but I plan to! I believe we have this book on the shelf -- maybe it's the one Mr Gnoe thinks I probably won't like... LOL

Anonymous said...

What a fascinating review! I'll have to add this to the list of suggested works for the JLC4 which will begin in June. My father is 78, and while I know it's old intellectually, and I see him age physically, he's still the exact same person I've always known and love. I doubt he's kissing his daughter in law on the neck, but I'd like to read this book to envision more of the aging process. :)