Diary of a Mad Old Man
Howard Hibbert (Translator)
Tanizaki appears to have liked the diary style that he played with in The Key and returns to it here again. The Key worked as a dueling set of diaries, which both participants suspected of being viewed by other, leaving us with doubts of the whether these portrayals were more honest, or more conniving. Here, we have only one diary, and there is no doubt it is honest, although some doubt whether or not it's sane.
Utsugi is 77 in 1960, when that meant something. Sometimes it's hard to imagine in today's world, but 50 years ago reaching towards 80 years of age was an applauded accomplishment that most didn't reach. As expected, with age Utsugi has slowed of speed, but not yet, or ever, of desire.
Utsugi needs stimulation to give him the reason to live and wake everyday. He can't run, can't chase, so he finds his prey close to home. Maybe his nurses weren't his type, because our old man becomes infatuated with his eldest son's wife, Satsuko.
So, in many ways we have an examination of the old pervert and as with The Key, it's especially interesting to approach this kind of confession in today's world. However, unlike The Key, which I think was a fair tit-for-tat between the sexes, this story is harder to judge. At times it appears that Satsuko is taking advantage of an elderly feeble minded and bodied man, but then later information shows that maybe she was actually following doctors orders to give the old man something to love.
The numerous shower scenes are seductive, while perverse, while, maybe, just maybe, understandable if you are willing to allow yourself to enter Utsugi's mind, and isn't that the point to choosing a confessional diary style. I don't know if Satsuko's point of view is approachable, as she never puts pen to paper to offer a counter the stories we read. When she pushes for expensive presents in exchange for a touch, or peak, or kiss, but again, in today's world would she be seen as a pure victim, a shared perpetrator or extortionist, or as a woman in this male dominated situation who is taking advantage of her disadvantage. I honestly can't say I know the best answer to this inquiry.
And therefore we have hear a great book to discuss, if you get enough people open enough to discuss it without being offended or shy at offering opinions on taboo subjects. Overall, it is an enjoyable, unusual book, not quite as good as The Key, but worth reading. Recommended.
Need more Tanizaki? Check these out!
The Makioka Sisters
In Black and White
Grab you own copy;