The Reed Cutter and Captain Shigemoto's Mother

The Reed Cutter and Captain Shigemoto's Mother
Junichiro Tanizaki
Anthony H. Chambers (Translator)

Taking a small break from Ariyoshi, we switch over to another wonderful writer and return again with our fourth look at a work by Tanizaki and second look at a collection of short stories. Compared to A man, a Cat and Two Women, this is a much less famous, and far less substantial.

At their best, these two short stories are enjoyable looks at old Japan (one mid 20th century and the other hundreds of years earlier).

The first short story, The Reed Cutter, is framed by a chance meeting on an Osaka River, where a mysterious old man tells the story of a beautiful woman who his father was immensely smitten with for decades. The old man expands and details the relationship of all the people involved, revealing some stunning connections and beautiful sacrifices.

The second story, Captain Shigemoto's Mother, is an old bed switch comedy of sorts, quite Shakespearean or Genji-an. The style is also interesting, with each chapter taking on the story of one of the characters involved, with some overlapping from differing points of view, revealing truths that were missed in the first glossing over.

However, despite these enjoyable points, far too much of both of these stories are clogged down by references that demand multiple footnotes, many of which do nothing to help any kind of simple understanding. This makes the stories feel much more like academic studies of other stories and less like original tales.

These last points make this book difficult to recommend and so this one is only for the Tanizaki completists, and even for those people, it is far down his list of other brilliant works.

Be Sure to check out all my other reviews of Tanizaki:

Makioka Sisters
Diary of a Mad Old Man
The Key
In Black and White