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Diary of a Mad Old Man [Paperback]

Junichiro Tanizaki , Howard Hibbett
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 1991
The last novel by one of the best-known Japanese writers, Junichiro Tanizaki who died in 1965 at the age of 79. Tanizaki studied Japanese literature at Tokyo Imperial University and in his youth he was strongly influenced by Poe, Baudelaire and Oscar Wilde, but after the earthquake of 1923 he moved to the gentler, more cultured Kyoto region and there became absorbed in the Japanese past and abandoned his superficial Westernization. By 1930 he had gained such recognition that his "Complete works" were published. In spite of illness in the last years of his life, his mind remained as alert as ever, and during this period he wrote of unusual sexual and psychological problems in "The key" (published in this country in 1961) and "Diary of a mad old man". This book has been accepted in the Japanese Translations Series of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Tanizaki was awarded the Imperial Award for Cultural Merit in 1949 and was elected an Honorary Member of the American Academy and the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1964.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Review

"The diarist [is] an absolutely convincing creation ... funny and ultimately appealing." -- The Atlantic

"[A] lean, taut book ... excellently put into English."

-- Saturday Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

"The diarist [is] an absolutely convincing creation ... funny and ultimately appealing." -- The Atlantic

"[A] lean, taut book ... excellently put into English."

-- Saturday Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars too spare and too short of ideas. Aug. 13 2003
By madhu m
Format:Paperback
tanizaki continues with his favorite form of the novel, a journal, which in itself is very trite today. the sad thing is that the diary of a mad old man really has very little in it. half the time he is sick and visiting the doctor, and frankly one doesnt care much about his health. the other half which is about his infatuation with his daughter in law is extremely interesting and their interplay is the stuff of magic. while it is exciting and titillating it is also strangely disappointing, for there is hardly any insight into the characters of the people inhabiting the old mans life to make whatever is happening seem plausible. and the little explanation at the end is exceedingly disappointing. a sort of hark back to the moralistic and righteous way of life. (*** mild spoiler ahead ***) the daughter in law character who was a joy as a vamp is turned into a saint who endured the old man's attentions and frankly that was such a let down.
surely, tanizaki is capable of more as his brilliant "Key" proves. skip ahead to that one.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Thankyou Richard Brautigan Jan. 25 2002
Format:Paperback
Aside of his novels, I have Richard Brautigan to thank for introducing me to Junichiro Tanizaki (he dedicated "Sombrero Fallout" to Tanizaki).
"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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very Entertaining July 10 2001
Format:Paperback
Like I've said before, one of the things the world lacks is a good supply of well-written, funny books. This fits the bill. The diary is being kept by a tiny, dying old man. The old man finds that bizarre sexual encounters with his daughter-in-law bring him a strangely pleasing vitality. His enjoyment of life increases with his bizarre sexual deviations. One of the funniest parts is where the old man goes around town buying supplies so he can have Bhudda-like cement footprints made of his daughter-in-law so they can hover over his grave for all eternity. This old dude's got himself quite a foot fetish! Mingled in with his sexual thoughts & encounters are listings of medications he's taking & reports of doctor exams. The book balances the sex & the details of his deteriorating condition well. A very interesting juxtapositioning of concepts & actions. Sex being linked to man's vitality is a recurring theme in Tanizaki's works & is the central theme of this very entertaining & well-written book. Get it. You'll love it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining comedy about sex and old age Sept. 13 1998
Format:Paperback
Diary of a Mad Old Man is one of the best of Tanizaki's later works. It takes up where earlier Tanizaki novels such as Naomi and Whirlpool left off. Like them, it is a book about absurd sexual obsessions, and like them it is subtle and intelligent and lacks the heavy-breathing solemnity of much modern literary porn. In the Diary, the narrator is an aging man who is apparently impotent yet who nurses a wildly extravagant set of sexual fantasies. His fantasies end up making a mess of his life--as the characters' fantasies always do in Tanizaki's books--and they give us a vision of geriatric sexuality that is almost unique in literature. As usual, Tanizaki is at his most insightful when he is also at his funniest, and the novel is full of the usual Tanizaki complexities that become both more interesting and more amusing the longer you think about them. Tanizaki called himself a feminist (though he is the least polemical of novelists), and his work remains by far the best examination of the way that male sexual obsessions wreck the lives of the men and women who become involved in them.
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