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(05/06/2008) Diary Of A Mad Old Man by Junichiro Tanizaki. New York. 1965. Knopf. Translated From The Japanese By Howard Hibbett. keywords: Literature Translated Japan Asia. 182 pages. Jacket design by Ellen Raskin. August 1965.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   In this novel Tanizaki returns to the vein of The Key, and to a theme that has dominated much of his work: the relationship of sexual desire to the will to live. It tells the story of a seventy-seven-year-old man of exquisite tastes who suffers a stroke, and then discovers that even while his body is breaking down, his sexual urges are far from diminished. Satsuko, his flashy, modern daughter-in-law, a dancer with a murky past, senses this and follows a psychiatrist's orders to give 'her father-in-law gentle, kindly attention, not exciting him unnecessarily but not ignoring his wishes either. ' As she comes strutting in to her ringside seat at a fight, jingling the keys to her English car, flashing her expensive jewelry, with her American permanent, her French lace gloves, she is the last word in cosmopolitanism. And Utsugi is Everyman close to his end, all pretenses and reticences gone. Pitiful as he is, his diary is without self-pity; ridiculous as he is, he is never without self-mockery. Much of the novel, especially the scene in which Satsuko explains the difference between necking and petting, shines with humor. Here in a short novel is much of the tragicomedy of human existence. 'I am convinced that Tanizaki is one of the few great writers of our time. He is an author of outstanding stature and deserves to be far better known outside Japan than he is.' - IVAN MORRIS.

 

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