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Longing and Other Stories

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Member Reviews

Three stories that have been translated from original Japanese capture the essence of Tanazaki. 
I enjoyed reading the three stories centered around a son's relationship to his mother;
Longing, Sorrows of a Heretic and the Story of an Unhappy Mother.
A valuable translator's afterword provides much-needed detail on the life and works of Tanazaki and completes this excellent volume that will interest both readers familiar with the writer or new readers unfamiliar with his works.
I am very grateful to have been given this arc by Columbia University Press.
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This is a wonderful collection of stories, and beautifully presented too. Translations are crisp and lovely. If I ever do a course on Japanese musical history in context, I will be sure to add this to the syllabus as recommended reading. Thank you, Columbia UP and Netgalley, for the advanced review copy.
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Longing and Other Stories by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki is a powerful translation of three stories about family and identity. Each story is a fascinating examination of mothers and sons and the changes in Japanese traditional culture. The first story ‘Longing’ is a sorrowful, dreamlike account of a young boy travelling in a nighttime environment. ‘Sorrows of a Heretic’ follows a young university student living in poverty in a Tokyo tenement as he rebels against his family. And ‘The Story of an Unhappy Mother’ a discomforting story which follows a self centred woman’s dramatic transformation after an accident involving her son and daughter in law. The writing is strong and striking but for all of them I was more intrigued than emotionally moved. This is an important translation of work about family life that foreshadows Tanizaki’s future writing and themes. A book I would recommend for fans of literary fiction 3.5 Stars ✨.
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Three stories about family life and the often vexed relationship between mothers and sons. Melancholy and a sense of loss and longing pervade all three, and I found them an enjoyable if not a particularly engaging read. The first story in particular didn’t appeal to me. “Longing” is a dream sequence of a child wandering through an eerie night time landscape looking for his mother and although atmospheric and with some vivid imagery it really didn’t work for me. The second story “Sorrows of a Young Heretic” is about an impoverished but ambitious young man who neglects his family due his own self-centredness. I enjoyed the third story the most. “The Story of an Unhappy Mother” tells of a self-centred woman who is forced to confront some uncomfortable truths after an accident involving her son and daughter-in-law. So the focus is on mothers and sons and in particular the clash between traditional cultural norms and what is expected from children and evolving modernism that calls some of those traditions into question. The stories are very different one from another and are a good introduction to Tanizaki’s writing. A very helpful afterword helps with our comprehension and is well worth reading.
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"Longing and Other Stories" contains three long-short stories by Tanizaki, all of which focus on the relationships between mothers and sons, and family. I've always enjoyed reading Tanizaki's works, and his beautiful, clear, and lyrical prose doesn't disappoint in this story collection either. It was a lovely surprise and is rather an amazing treat to have a new Tanizaki translation in 2022 for the Tanizaki lovers like me. I really enjoyed reading it.

Many thanks to Columbia University Press and Netgalley for the advance copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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Three stories from a master Japanese novelist, set in the early 20th century - two in their first English translation. While the stories all deal with aspects of mother-son relationships and are emotionally rather than narratively driven, stylistically each is quite different and in sum they demonstrate the author's range.

In addition to the stories, there is a fine afterword that gives some details of Tanizaki's life and provides context for where the stories fit in Japanese society as well as in Tanizaki's body of work.
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Tanizaki’s collection of two stories and a novella involves tales of mothers and sons and then move beyond to other family members relationships. There are dream segments with gauzy atmosphere, realistic segments where interactions seem hateful, and others where you’re left to wonder at these people and how they interpret their lives and each event as it occurs. I particularly liked “The Longing,” written as a dream, a child searching for his mother while walking on a forest path at night. The imagery was so perfect. “Sorrows of the Heretic” is a more harsh story of a son in conflict with his family. “The Story of an Unhappy Mother “ is again a mother and son story but far more complicated.

In an enlightening afterword, these stories are linked to the changes in Japanese society of the time and the impact of these changes on the Confucian ideas of family. This helped my understanding quite a bit. I have previously read The Makioka Sisters which I enjoyed and which also deals with a family going through social change.

I do recommend this collection but definitely read to the end. The remarks are helpful and add layers of meaning.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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This collection of three longish short stories are themed around dysfunctional families and “bad” sons in particular. Tanizaki is one of Japan’s great 20th century writers, known primarily for dealing with issues of class in the first half of the century, and these stories highlight the range of his talent as well as his humour: the second story, “Sorrows of a Heretic” is a dark satire that had me laughing aloud at the end. Not necessarily the place to start with Tanizaki but a welcome addition to the shelf.
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The kindle version of this is unreadable. I would have loved to read it, but I was unable to due to this. If you have another kindle version, please let me know.
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This book unfortunately wasn't the best start to Tanazaki for me. I really enjoyed the writing style of the first story - very atmospheric and surreal, but the second story just fell flat and dragged along for a quite sometime - the writing style (or in this case the translation) of this story just didn't hit a chord. I was expecting to love this but unfortunately I had to DNF it.
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I liked the first and last story. I could not get through the second, maybe because it had a different translator or maybe it just wasn’t for me. The style of writing is very unique. You feel like it is you in the setting. The theme of motherly love was through out these stories. Presented in a way which makes you think about things from all sides. A good read to shake things up.
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A thoughtful and thorough translator’s afterword provides careful analysis of the stories’ shared features. Attributed to both Chambers and McCarthy, it is for an excellent addition—and makes up almost 10% of the volume’s content. The translators identify, for example, the shared theme of sons and their changing relationships with their mothers: in “Longing,” a young boy embarks on a fever dream search for his mother; in “Sorrows of a Heretic,” Shōzaburō continually horrifies his mother with his unfilial and selfish behavior; and in “The Story of an Unhappy Mother”, a tale with Oedipal undertones, the narrator’s older brother blames himself for his mother’s unnecessary death.

See my full review at Asian Review of Books:
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This was more serious than I expected. Felt like the world was darker while reading this 3 story collection.   But still interesting.  I like the first story  best.
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these are beautiful stories that feel timeless and magical. I especially love and recommend the first story, Longing. This translation felt really natural and flowed beautifully. I definitely recommend!
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Three magnificent novelas from one of the most talented writers of the 20th century, Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, and one of Japan's greatest wordsmiths ever. 

Three delicate tales written at the beginning of a long and fruitful literary career and the first elaboration of Tanizaki's decades-long quest to reconciliate Japanese traditions and 
their inevitable encounters with the Western World.

A captivating collection for the psychologically attuned reader full of beautifully nuanced emotions and blessed with a marvellous cast of exquisitely drawn characters. 

A delightful literary treasure that deserves to be enjoyed without any moderation whatsoever!

Many thanks to Netgalley and Columbia University Press for this terrific ARC
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Longing and Other Stories is a collection of three stories from Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, a prominent twentieth century Japanese writer. At only 148 pages, this collection is a short and breezy read that transports you to late 19th century and early 20th century Japan. Though all three stories explore the relationships between mothers and sons and the tensions of rapid modernization on a closely held culture, the stories are each distinct in genre and content.

The title story “Longing” was my favorite of the trio, an account of a young boy’s walk home at night, replete with rich descriptions of nature. Tanizaki’s writing, and the accompanying translation, is particularly poetic and dreamy in this story, with the frequent use of repeated adjectives (“long long,” “slowly slowly,” “white, white,” etc) creating a sense of rhythm and emphasis. A repeated motif throughout the story is the long row of pine trees that lines the boy’s path. In the notes from the translator at the end of the book, it is stated that the pine trees have the same double meaning in Japanese as in English (“pine” can mean “to long” in addition to referring to a specific type of tree)-- this is just one example of the cleverness and beauty of Tanizaki’s work. Reading this story felt like seeing traditional Japanese prints in motion.

The second story “Sorrows of a Heretic” follows an impoverished university student, who feels beaten down by his circumstances and unable to improvise his position.The narrator is profoundly unlikable and immoral, which is perhaps notable given that the translator notes emphasize the many autobiographical details of the story. In this manner, Tanizaki seems to exaggerate his own qualities that he deemed to be unfavorable, such as laziness, self-indulgent behavior, and apathy, as a way of engaging in self-reflection.

The final story “The Story of an Unhappy Mother” explores the theme of filial responsibility within the traditions of Confucianism, culminating in a conflict of loyalties between blood and marriage. Of the three stories, this one was the most driven by both plot and character. Though this story felt especially brief, the mother was depicted vividly with several anecdotes demonstrating the depth to which she experienced emotion, both the joys of life prior to and deep sorrow following a pivotal boating incident. This story succeeds in creating space for what is unsaid. By posing the direct conflict between a mother and spouse, Tanizaki created an unsettling moral dilemma that calls into question the cultural values we’ve each accepted as operable.

Overall, the collection was an enjoyable read that piqued my interest in reading more works by Tanizaki or other Japanese writers of his time.. As perhaps suggested by my thoughts above, the translator notes following the three stories are also not to be missed– absolutely wonderful insight that provides additional context on the stories’ histories.

Thank you to Columbia University Press and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I chanced upon Longing and Other Stories when I was browsing NetGalley and since I like Japanese culture (this might be a bit of an understatement), I decided to request this book! I’ve not read anything by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki before, so this evocative work was an interesting experience for me.

Longing and Other Stories is a collection of three stories:

Longing – This might have been the titular story, but it was also my least favourite of the three. It’s basically about a boy taking a long, strange journey home. While the story is very atmospheric, the ending is one that, I feel, negates the journey because it’s so cliched.

Sorrows of a Heretic – According to the afterword, this is a semi-autobiographical story, but the narrator-protagonist is supposed to be more unlikeable than Tanizaki actually was. I don’t really know how much exaggeration there was, but the protagonist is extremely unlikeable – he’s arrogant, lazy, financially irresponsible, and he has no sympathy for his dying sister. He’s someone who basically lives for himself.

The ending here is interesting: originally, I really disliked the final paragraph because I didn’t think it connected to the story very well and it just reminded me of the disappointing ending of Longing. But, I read in the afterword that Tanizaki actually ended up deleting that paragraph, but they translated it so you could see the author’s original intention. I definitely agree with the deletion and I think the story was stronger when it ended one paragraph earlier.

The Story of an Unhappy Mother – This was my favourite story of the three, although it features another unlikeable protagonist. This time, the narrator is a younger son who is recounting the story of his mother and how she changed from a self-centred but cheerful and charming widow to a woman filled with sorrow and who passively punishes one of her children by withholding affection. It’s a fascinating exploration of family dynamics, and I actually enjoyed the ending, which hints at the possibility of the supernatural haunting (no spoilers but I’ll say that it reminded me of the Aoi chapter in Genji).

Overall, this was an interesting trio of stories that explore the human character. I had a bit of a rough start with this book, since I wasn’t fond of the first story, but now that I’ve finished, I would be interested in reading more from Tanizaki.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Columbia University Press for providing the ARC!

This was the first time where I read the works of Jun'ichirō Tanizaki and he did not disappoint! I don't typically read short stories, but I was moved by his profound work. I was surprised by his ability to create distinct personalities within each protagonist. It's impressive to see his works still being printed and being relevant to today.

In "Longing," I thought the images were very striking, creating a somber and scenic atmosphere. I think that had to be my favorite short story within this collection. I also thought that "Sorrows of a Heretic" was very well-written, and I loved seeing the dynamics within the main character's family. It was definitely a piece that jars people to their own thoughts. "The Story of an Unhappy Mother" was also felt complex, between the son, his mother, and his older brother. Throughout the entirety of these three short stories, we are also able to see his impressive writing technique, as well as the translators, moving from one topic seamlessly to the next.

Definitely going to read more of his writings!
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I went into this book, with no knowledge of the author of these three short stories. 

Each story is a tale of a mother and son, which admittedly was hard for me to connect with. But because I am trying to step outside my comfort zone I finished it. 

“The Longing,” is a very dreamlike story compared to the other two. This one felt almost like poetry in how it was written. Leading the reader down the road with them in a very hyptontic sort of manner with how the story is told. 

“Sorrows of the Heretic” is a very harsh and real feeling story. The son is in conflict with his family and those around them. I found the build-up of this particular story to be well-paced compared to the first story. 

“The Story of an Unhappy Mother “ is a story about how after her son marries, the mother of said son goes through some changes. This was for me the hardest one to connect with. 

What I really enjoyed was the afterwords from the translator. It gave me the historical context and cultural references that made the stories easier to digest. I honestly wish that it had been at the beginning of the book rather than at the end.

*Arc from NetGalley*
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This is my first read by this author and to say I was surprised would be an understatement. The narration is so descriptive and vivid that you feel like you re right beside the characters, experiencing it all. 

It has 3 short stories that are based around family, grief, and longing. Each one is pretty haunting. The vivid details will force you to feel all the emotions and misery the characters are feeling. I'll definitely try this author again.
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