While recovering from a stroke, seventy-seven-year-old Utsugi turns to his diary to wryly record his struggle with his ageing body and his growing desire for his beautiful daughter-in-law Satsuko, a chic, Westernised dancer with a shady past. Shining with a self-effacing humour, Tanizaki's last novel is a tragicomedy about desire and the will to survive.
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(198mm x 129mm x 13mm)
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
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US Kirkus Review »
The Key (1961), as those who read it will unquestionably remember, was the diary of a middled-aged man's fetishistic pursuit of passion and it had a very definite (some found distasteful) aberrant fascination. This again, while told in the first person, manages to achieve the tone of the third - one of startling detachment, and it is concerned with the complete sexual aridity of an old man whose devil in the flesh still prods him with vicarious fantasies. He is 77, and from his toothless mouth to his prostate, with a severe neuralgic condition and high blood pressure in between, his many physical disabilities are recorded here with as great fidelity as is awarded his diminishing erotic returns. The latter are achieved through his daughter-in-law, Satsuko, a former chorus dancer, who indulges him deliberately; sometimes she lets the old man kiss her feet in order to secure a 15 carat cat's eye ring. This dangerously stimulates his blood pressure and finally leads to his total destruction .... Tanizaki is one of Japan's notable writers and his mad old man's self-induced pleasure-pain is charted with a precise, perverse authority. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Jun'ichiro Tanizaki
Junichiro Tanizaki was born in 1886 in Tokyo, where his family owned a printing establishment. He studied Japanese literature at Tokyo Imperial University, and his first published work, a one-act play, appeared in 1910 in a literary magazine he helped to found. Tanizaki lived in the cosmopolitan Tokyo area until the earthquake of 1923, when he moved to the gentler and more cultivated Kyoto-Osaka region. There he became absorbed in the Japanese past and abandoned his superficial Westernisation. All his most important works were written after 1923, among them Naomi (1924) Some Prefer Nettles (1929), Arrowroot (1931), Ashikari (The Reed Cutter) (1932), A Portrait of Shunkin (1932), The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi (1935), several modern versions of The Tale of Genji (1941, 1954 and 1965), The Makioka Sisters (1943-48), Captain Shigemoto's Mother (1949), The Key (1956) and Diary of a Mad Old Man (1961). By 1930 he had gained such renown that an edition of his complete works was published and he was awarded an Imperial Award for Cultural Merit in 1949. In 1964 he was elected an honorary Member of the American Academy and the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the first Japanese citizen ever to receive this honour. Tanizaki died in 1965.