- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; 1st edition (July 30, 1991)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679730249
- ISBN-13: 978-0679730248
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,489,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Diary of a Mad Old Man Paperback – July 30, 1991
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"The diarist [is] an absolutely convincing creation ... funny and ultimately appealing." -- The Atlantic
"[A] lean, taut book ... excellently put into English."
-- Saturday Review
From the Inside Flap
Diary of a Mad Old Man is the journal of Utsugi, a seventy-seven-year-old man of refined tastes who is recovering from a stroke. He discovers that, while his body is decaying, his libido still rages on -- unwittingly sparked by the gentle, kindly attentions of his daughter-in-law Satsuko, a chic, flashy dancer with a shady past. Pitiful and ridiculous as he is, Utsugi is without a trace of self-pity, and his diary shines with self-effacing good humor. At once hilarious and of a sadness, Diary of a Mad Old Man is a brilliant depiction of the relationship between eros and the will to live -- a novel of the tragicomedy of human existence.
Translated from the Japanese by Howard Hibbett
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The culture in this story and others is both completely alien yet the people are easy to relate to.
I'd recommend this writer to everyone.
The Diary of an Mad Old Man is kept by 77-year-old Utsugi as he is recovering from an earlier stroke which left him impotent with countless ailments that the elderly experience. Impossibly, he does find a way to have a sex life. His daughter, Satsuko, just happens to be young and beautiful, and Utsugi begins to lust for her more and more. He even tries to live out his fantasy by allowing Satsuko to rendezvous with her lover in his house, concealing the affair from his own son. By allowing Utsugi certain liberties with her body, Satsuko begins to replace his own family. For example, his daughter asks for a loan so that she can buy a house and Utsugi refuses her. He turns around and buys Satsuko a ring worth millions of yen. What follows is a slow dance, almost a tango of give and take in which neither Utsugi or Satsuko is the villain of the piece. They seem to actually GAIN by the immoral situation. They both get what they want.
Diary was a really good novel but it wasn't a great one compared with previous novels by Tanizaki that I have read. Sometimes the narrative dwells on boring details, but once it gets moving it picks up some power. To me, one of the hardest modes to write in is first person but the author really keeps the diary interesting. While I don't know if I would compare the characterization to that of Shakespeare, there is something of his comedy and tragedy in Tanizaki. Also seek out The Key and Quicksand.
"Diary of a Mad Old Man" was the first book by him I read (figuring that it was very short, less than a hundred pages, and concluding that - even if it was terrible - it would not take me all that long to read).
It tells the story of Utsugi (the mad old man of the title) and his relationship with his son's neglected wife, a former dancing girl called Satsuko. Now, on the surface at least, it appears that Satsuko, tired of the neglect imposed by Utsugi's son, decides to torment (perhaps torment is too strong a word - perhaps I mean tease - perhaps I mean something halfway between teasing and torment) Utsugi, inviting him into her shower, letting him kiss her bare foot.
The thing is. That title. "Diary of a Mad Old Man." We are reading the old man's diary and the old man is mad. Or at least, that is what the title would have us presume. And yet, the old man (our narrator after all) does not SEEM mad. Yes, okay, he is consumed by lust, at times, for Satsuko (but what old man wouldn't be?), but madness? The title leads me to doubt what I read. I wonder at times if we are inhabiting the dream world of a certain old man. (It would certainly account for why Satsuko is hot and cold and hot and cold.)
Still. There is a cool sensuality to the writing and it is without doubt a good introduction to an old master.