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Life of an Amorous Man Paperback – 1964

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"Foodies and those who love contemporary literature will devour this novel that is being compared to Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge. A standout." --Library Journal Learn more
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 233 pages
  • Publisher: Charles E. Tuttle Co. (1964)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804810699
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804810692
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 4.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,962,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By wiredweird HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a long, drifting story of Yonosuke's fictional life. It starts with the man as a young boy, the kind who would spy on the female servants in their bath. The story winds from one seedy, bawdy vignette to another, until the aged Yonosuke sails into the sunset. The times between cycle from one courtesan to another (or to occasional tries at celibacy), from money to poverty, from honest work to the edge of the law, from one bowl of sake to the next, and always back again. There is very little real plot or dramatic buildup, there is very little moral. In fact, we last see Yonosuke sailing happily off with some friends, in search of whatever pleasures their old bones can still support.

Yonosuke is often shown as an unpleasant man. His debts tend to go bad, he is given to cruel pranks, and is hardly a model husband in his few tries at domesticity. He is openly disdainful of many of the women he pursues, even as he expects them to provide his enjoyment. Still, when he has money, he will sometimes buy a courtesan's freedom for her. His family disowns him early on, but this prodigal son is later welcomed back. It is never quite clear what the author wants us to think of Yonosuke, if anything at all.

The author, Saikau Ihara, was once a successful merchant himself. The story is said to be a composite of his own experiences and those of his friends, as they spent their way across the red light districts of 17th century Japan. It is curious that Ihara wrote about this perpetual hunt for pleasure after suffering deep personal losses and retreating into monastic life. There is no explanation for this apparent contradiction, it is simply left as a puzzle for the reader.

This is a translation to be read for enjoyment, not as an academic rendering.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Zack Davisson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
Ihara Saikaku is one of Japan's most important early writers. He created the genre known as Ukiyo-zoshi, a written companion to the famous Japanese Ukiyo-e prints, showcasing the "floating world" and decadent lifestyles of the Japanese pleasure quarters of the 16th century.

As a book, "The Life of an Amorous Man" is the story of Yonosuke ("man of the world"), an alternately wealthy and poor dilettante, who seeks the pleasures of woman and wine, living wholly for sensuality. His story is told in a sequence of short stories, with each segment being some new romantic adventure. Yonosuke journeys throughout Japan, experiencing the delights of the pleasure quarters of the far away places of Edo, Kyoto, Osaka and many, many small towns and islands in between. The book offers an incredible insight into this particular vanished Japanese culture, displaying the social rules and attitudes prevalent at the time. Ihara is a writer noted for his realism, and you can be sure that this is a true portrait of the times.

Those expecting anything "naughty" will be disappointed, as the intimacies are more implied than anything else. All the prostitutes and pleasure seekers are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their station in life. It is interesting to note that the translator chose the term "Gay Quarters" for the pleasure quarters of Japan. This does not mean homosexuality, which is translated using different terms. However, at the time in Japan sex between men was not frowned upon, and there is some in here as well.

"The Life of an Amorous Man" is an enjoyable read, with good characters and great insights into an interesting period of Japan and Japanese culture. One can still see the reflection of these pleasure districts in Japan today, with their social rules and delights.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By James W. Fonseca on December 30, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a translation of a Japanese classic written in the late 1600's about 50 years after Shakespeare's death. We are transported to a different time and different culture. Our hero, the amorous man, leaves home to sow his wild oats with women, and the occasional man, but that time of sowing lasts his entire life. He wanders through Japan taking odd jobs and at times living hand-to-mouth. Once he foreswears his life of dissipation and goes into a monastery but that only lasts a year. He eventually inherits great wealth and then he can carry on his chosen way of life in grand style, "amorous" to the end. This book truly transports the reader to another time, another place, another culture - almost a different planet. Although an entertaining read, it is almost a thesis on the elaborately evolved culture of prostitution and "pleasure houses" in 17th Century Japan. There were female impersonators and male prostitutes traveling as bands of "perfume salesmen." There is almost no graphic sex despite that being the focus of the work.
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