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

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Story of Tomoda and Matsunaga by Junichiro Tanizaki - 1926 Translated by Paul Warham - A Novella

The Story of Tomoda and Matsunaga by Junichiro Tanizaki - 1926 Translated by Paul Warham - A Novella

I read this work  in The Penquin Book of Japanese Short Stories 

The Japanese Literature Challenge 14 - Hosted by Dolce Bellezza 

January 1 to March 31. Japanese Literature Challenge 14

My  readings  for JL14 2021 so far

  1. “Peony Lanterns” a Short Story by Aoko Matsuda - translated from the Japanese by Polly Barton -2020 - a delightful story you can read online. Linked to traditional stories of Ghosts
  2. Before The Coffee Gets Cold by TOSHIKAZU KAWAGUCHI -2020- an international bestseller
  3. The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa - 1998
  4. The Lady Killer by Masako Togawa - 1968
  5. The Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata - 2016 - cult favorite
  6. UNDER RECONSTRUCTION - A short story by Ōgai Mori - first published 1910 - translated from the Japanese by Ivan  Morris 1968
  7. Dream Pictures  - A Short Story by Kenzaburo Óe - 1996

I first begun reading Junichiro Tanazaki in 2009, The first year I participated in The Japanese Literature Challenge.  

Junichiro Tanizaki (1886 to 1965) is now  one of my “read all I can” writers.  Were he writing now, his every new  novel would be a bestseller, made into an international movie.  Among my favourite of his novels are Naomi, Some Prefer Nettles and his most now read book, The Makioka Sisters, about four upper Class Japanese sisters in search of a husband, Austen fans love this book.  (Viking Press has  recently published his The Maids, told from the point of views of the maids of the four sisters.  As soon as this is out on Kindle I will read it!). 

The Story of Tomoda and Matsunaga, as is a common theme in Tanazaki, treats Janus like attitude of Japan between wars to European and American influences.  It is part a mystery story, as well as a memoir of a Japanese man’s obsession with western prostitutes, his marked preference for them sexually to Japanese women, including his wife.

There are themes of sexual obsession in a number of his works, few depictions of happy enduring marriages.  

The story is narrated by a famous writer, much like the author.  He gets lots of letters, many from aspiring writers seeking his help and also from people seeking advise on personal issues.  One letter from a woman intrigues him.  She has seen in a news paper a picture of the author with a man identified as his friend. She says the man seems to resemble her husband.  He left home three years ago and she has not heard from him.  She says in the letter her husband of many years will disappear peridically for periods of three or four years, never communicating.  Then he returns, looking haggard, and acts the model husband.  Then in a couple of years, announcing his plans, he tells his wife he is leaving and Will be back in three years or so.  He tells her you can try to find me but you never Will.  She lives from his famlies acricultural holdings. She asks the author to tell the  man his daughter is very ill and he needs to return.  The man says the woman is crazy but he seems disturbed.

We learn man is very into brothels stocked with European women. He spends most of his nights in brothels  and seems an owner of one place.  He tells the author of a beautiful Portuguese woman just arrived he should experience.  He speaks French and English.  We along on the brothel visit. Owners of brothels contact him when they get in a new worker they feel he might like.

There is a lot of time in brothels in the story. The man denigrates the sexual interest of Japanese women, saying they  are very dull and plain.

The woman keeps up her contact, insisting new photographs of man the author sent her do look like her husband.  She tells him to see if the man has a certain ring.  When asked about the ring, the man gets very irrate.

The story takes a very interesting turn. 

To those new to Tanazaki i suggest you start with The Makioka Sisters.



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