Tuesday 27 July 2021

Book Review: Longing and Other Stories by Tanizaki Jun'ichirou (Modern Classics/Short Stories)

Title: Longing and Other Stories
Author: Tanizaki Jun'ichirou
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication Date: 4 January 2022
Pages: 160
Format: eBook - PDF
Genre: Modern Classics / Short Stories
Source: ARC via NetGalley

Jun'ichirĊ Tanizaki is one of the most prominent Japanese writers of the twentieth century, renowned for his investigations of family dynamics, eroticism, and cultural identity. Most acclaimed for his postwar novels such as The Makioka Sisters and The Key, Tanizaki made his literary debut in 1910. This book presents three powerful stories of family life from the first decade of Tanizaki's career that foreshadow the themes the great writer would go on to explore.

"Longing" recounts the fantastic journey of a precocious young boy through an eerie nighttime landscape. Replete with striking natural images and uncanny human encounters, it ends with a striking revelation. "Sorrows of a Heretic" follows a university student and aspiring novelist who lives in degrading poverty in a Tokyo tenement. Ambitious and tormented, the young man rebels against his family against a backdrop of sickness and death. "The Story of an Unhappy Mother" describes a vivacious but self-centered woman's drastic transformation after a freak accident involving her son and daughter-in-law. Written in different genres, the three stories are united by a focus on mothers and sons and a concern for Japan's traditional culture in the face of Westernization. The longtime Tanizaki translators Anthony H. Chambers and Paul McCarthy masterfully bring these important works to an Anglophone audience.

Longing and Other Stories is my first time reading Tanizaki, and on the basis of this short story collection, I would definitely like to read some of his novels in the future. All three stories had something interesting to offer, not least in their varied styles, taking us from romantic, fantasy-tinged lyricism to gritty realism and then to a kind of morality tale that assessed changing family values due to the advent of Westernisation. Although I enjoyed all three stories, I think the first, 'Longing', was my favourite, as I loved its beautiful descriptive language and the wonderful atmosphere Tanizaki created. If you are a fan of early 20th century Japanese literature, I can highly recommend giving these stories a read. This book gets 5 stars from me.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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