Jun’ichirō 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.
"These three early works by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki explore family bonds—the mother-son relationship in particular—using different angles and styles: dreamy and lyrical, painfully realistic, tragically fraught. In stories rendered with elegant precision by the veterans Anthony H. Chambers and Paul McCarthy, Tanizaki masterfully probes the complexities of the human heart."
—Juliet Winters Carpenter, translator of Minae Mizumura’s An I-Novel
"Among the most original and insightful novelists of twentieth-century world literature, Tanizaki creates richly idiosyncratic characters embodying the paradoxes of modern life. As deftly translated by veteran Tanizaki specialists Chambers and McCarthy, his short fiction will fascinate and delight readers."
—Keiichiro Hirano, award-winning author of A Man
"Chambers and McCarthy capture well distinctly different voices in these early Tanizaki stories exploring three modes of storytelling. Lyrical dream-memory, naturalistic fictionalized self-revelation, and ironic commentary on conventional social morality presage the author’s later writing. The Afterword draws on the translators’ deep knowledge of Tanizaki’s work to enhance our pleasure and understanding."
—Phyllis Lyons, translator of In Black and White: A Novel
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Longing and Other Stories collects three stories by the Japanese writer Jun'ichirō Tanizaki (1886-1965). I've been meaning to read Tanizaki's most famous novel, The Makioka Sisters, for some time, but Longing and Other Stories is much shorter and seemed more accessible, so I began with it instead. The three stories have themes in common—all deal with family relationships, particularly between mother and son, and all touch on the tension between Japanese and Western cultures. Yet each story is written in a distinctive style. "Longing" is a surreal recollection of a childhood dream, "Sorrows of a Heretic" a cynical, realist depiction of a dysfunctional, downwardly-mobile family, and "The Story of an Unhappy Mother" a haunting, dramatic portrait of the unraveling of the relationship between a mother and son. "The Story of an Unhappy Mother," the last story, was my favorite of the three, but I enjoyed all of them. I also appreciated the afterword by the translators, which added cultural and critical context to the stories. I definitely want to read more of Tanizaki's work in the future!
In <i>Longing</i> the narrator reminisces of their earlier life, a seemingly simpler times but deeply influential on the young man as he narrates. Longing is for home, for warmth, for belonging and he wants it all from one person. Longing is a simple story of a young boy's longing and its also a study in the encompassing feeling of <i>longing</i> in itself; to see reflection of lost affection in a stranger's face, or in an animate object like moon and gentleness of moon beams, it is both a story and en emotional outage. <i>Longing</i> is a dream, and the object of the dream is long gone. There is much to dislike about <i>Sorrows of a heretic</i>, with the unlikable protagonist, the heretic, and the life he pursues. There is less sorrow and much selfishness, there is more self-awareness and less regret on the condescension of his behavior; it is perhaps somewhere in the middle, his character evolves as the story ends. Is being self aware of the boundaries and of lack of morality of ones own life choices enough for a purposeful life? the underlying question meditates by exposing his behavior in various situation as he cheats and parties his way out of situations without care for anyone but himself. But the author subtly nudges - is he caring for himself? is that selfish part of him in action? Realistic in its approach, the dysfunctional family including the protagonist appears to be out of touch with reality or seem to be so. <i>The story of an unhappy mother</i> is an interesting contrast to the previous story. A family that is superficially perfect struggles with the matriarch's bouts of melancholy and the odds she is with, with her eldest son. A secret, a new daughter-in-law, and a death, brings the story to its head and leaves the reader, well, underwhelmed. The three stories have families as their central themes especially moral obligations towards mother, father, parents and filial duties. The author explores the change in relationships between parents and their children as they grown up and forge their own new relationships which can sometime clash with the parental ones. This is my first time reading Tanizaki-san and this was a great experience. <i>Thank you to Netgalley and Columbia University Press for providing me with a free copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review. </i>
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 had very high hopes for Longing And Other Stories as I've wanted to delve into Jun'ichirō Tanizaki for quite some time now, and I was not disappointed. Each story brought its own kind of heartbreak and pain, a longing for something just out of reach. I found the translations to be faultless and evocative of what the intended message of the original brought through. While I did find myself struggling to connect with the protagonist in Sorrows Of A Heretic, the overarching themes of family and loss made for a heartwrenching read. I found the translator's afterword to be incredibly helpful, allowing the reader to gain context of the works. Overall, I'd seek out other works by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki without a moment of hesitation.
This was my first book by the Junichiro Tanizaki, one of the great Japanese authors of the 20th century. I thought a collection of three short stories could be a good place to start, especially given they explore themes Tanizaki would go on to develop in his future work. And it was. First story: 2,5 stars Second: 4 stars Third: 4 stars Average: 3,5 rounded up to 4. The first story is much more dreamlike than the other two, a child wandering around in a strange landscape looking for his mother - I did not connect at all and was ready to give up. The second story is very realistic, about a pretty horrible student mistreating his family and fellow students. Very well build-up. The third story is about an unhappy mother who changes after her eldest son marries. Also a very intriguing read. As often with classical authors, the afterword by the translator is real added value. It places the stories in the historical context (e.g. Meiji period) and highlights the cultural references (e.g. honouring Confucian principles) hidden in the text. I am sure that the better one is versed in Japanese history and culture the more they will enjoy this collection. But even for a complete layman as myself it was interesting.
Wow, this is an important translation! Based on the translator's afterword, these three stories are semi-autobiographical, and all explore the family dynamics of Jun'ichirō Tanizaki. This review will avoid revealing much about the stories (as per the publisher's request), but instead will delve more into the context of why I think this book is going to be a really great release. I think beyond their aesthetic and biographical interest, these stories will be important for a cultural analysis of existentialism in twentieth century literary fiction. When I was reading them they did remind me very much of Dostoyevsky's 'Notes From The Underground', which the translator then also referenced in the afterword! This is interesting, because in the West, we normally attribute existential philosophy/fiction to Nietzsche's pronouncement that 'God is Dead' in the late 1800s (and the preceding philosophical work before this), but this was always largely in a Christian, Western (European and American) context. Here instead the translators suggest these stories show that in Japan, around a similar time frame (these stories published around 1910), Tanizaki's writing and real-life experiences had existential-like themes, except these were vying against Confucian and Buddhist norms of family values. This could be one of the first parallels to 'the anti-hero' in Eastern literature and culture, and it makes me doubtful of just how relevant 'God Is Dead' might be to the timing of existentialism as a movement. Ok, so getting back to earth, I have not yet read Jun'ichirō Tanizaki before. Like some readers, I do know he has written a book about the aesthetics of shadows. All 3 stories in this collection feature a son as a main character feeling somewhat detached from one of more family members (usually the mother). In this way the stories read as a cycle and seem connected, yet they do vary differently in writing style. Story 1: 5* I really loved story 1. It is the most 'dream-like' reading experience I have ever read, it feels like a flashback, and it has a powerful ending that made me cry. Story 2: 3* This story is the most important of the collection, but it is hard to love because the anti-hero is notoriously wretched. Like Notes From The Underground, I appreciate it but struggle to find it comfortable to read! I did think the ending seemed to go on too long. As the translator suggested, the final chapter which Tanizaki originally removed might have weakened it. Story 3: 3* This story is dark and twisted, it feels more like psychological horror and moves closer to family abuse as a theme than the others. It develops well structurally, but it's hard to really like this story because of the abuse in it. Of course, this is more down to personal taste as well, and people who like dark, shocking stories (horror) will find this more appealing than Story 1. Overall: 4* I'll make a video review about this soon, but for now, anyone interested in Japanese classics/literary fiction should consider finding these when they are released in January 2022. Thank you Netgalley & Columbia University Press for providing this excellent ARC, and I wish its success on its release. The translation is fluid, and the translator's note is excellent. This is the first NetGalley ARCs I've read without a single typographical or grammatical error, so clearly a lot of care has been taken with the editing, too! — This is my 14th advanced reader copy (ARC) review. This means I received this ebook for free, and read it on my old Amazon Kindle, in exchange for this review which I have also published on Netgalley. I'm not financially motivated, as I read library books, so I only read ARCs I actually think will be good enough for me to rate and review honestly.
Longing and Other Stories features three short stories by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, focusing on the relationships between mother and son. In the first story, "Longing“, a child is lost looking for his mother in the wilderness. This story was my favorite. It used very descriptive language and felt very mystical. The second story, "Sorrows of a Heretic,” surrounds a university student living in poverty with his dysfunctional family. This story was my least favorite as I struggled to connect with the protagonist; he was very unlikeable! The third story, "The Story of an Unhappy Mother,” describes a disintegrating relationship between a mother and son. I loved how the plot unfolded to reveal secrets as to the real reason for the mother’s melancholy. Overall I enjoyed all three stories and found them to be a very compelling and emotional read. I recommend reading the translator's afterword as it provides deeper insights into all three stories. Many thanks to Netgalley and Columbia University Press for providing an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
Thank you Netgalley for the e - ARC in exchange for an honest review! This is one of the most valuable pieces of translated fiction available to us and I'm so glad that I have had the chance to read it! Jun'ichirō Tanizaki puts mother-son relationships under a microscope over the span of three poignant short stories. I am awed by how connected I felt to the characters and how vividly the themes of insecurity and self-criticism were touched upon in this book. Absolutely loved all three of them, but The Story Of An Unhappy Mother is my personal favorite! [my rating: 4.5/5]
It was a real pleasure to me to read these amazing stories that deal with mother-son relationships. And how this kind of relationship can be different, so are the stories. But they will not leave anybody indifferent. Plus, it was great to immerse yourself in the Japanese culture and philosophy. The translator's afterword is a very important thing that can help everyone to get all the author's ideas and , maybe, reread the stories to acquire the different level of perception. Many thanks to Netgalley and Columbia University Press for a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I had been meaning to read something by this author for a while so when I had the chance to review this book, I leaped at the opportunity. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. Despite being written in different styles, all three stories drew me in. They were all beautifully written, excellently translated, and effectively portrayed emotions that can still be appreciated even now, a hundred years (give or take) after their original publications. I really appreciate writing that can sweep you along regardless of what happens in the story and this was definitely one of those cases. In each story, I was never entirely sure where the plot was going, but I was content to let myself enjoy the language and the emotions that it carried. I will say, though, that these stories are not for everyone. The protagonist in the second story "Sorrows of a Heretic" for example, is extremely unlikeable. I still enjoyed the story personally because, despite his flaws, the young man still struck me as someone with potential. If he could have stopped being so self-centered he could have been a good person. This was enough to keep me engaged. I kept reading in the hope of seeing some redemption (I even like to think there was a glimmer of that towards the end), but I can also see where this character would quickly get tiresome. It also bears mentioning that the third story, "The Story of an Unhappy Mother," includes suicide. I would advise caution for anyone triggered by that. Ultimately, I gave this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars. It's a short read that makes a big impact, but I think some knowledge of Tanizaki and the time he lived in would have increased my enjoyment. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the stories, I definitely did. However, I was undeniably viewing them from my 21st-century lens and while that has its own appeal, there were still times that I felt I was missing something. The afterword confirmed this by offering new details which would never have even occurred to me. I'd like to learn more on the subject and return for a second read. My thanks to NetGalley and Columbia University Press for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Three interesting stories of mother and son relations, all based on the live of the author, that show the strain a modernising society put on confucian morals I have portrayed honestly and unreservedly, to the extent possible and justifiable, matters that struck my heart as fact s at the time. In this sense, this is my only confessional work. - Jun'ichirō Tanizaki about Sorrows of a Heretic, the longest story included in Longing and Other Stories The bundle contains three distinct stories, with titular Longing kicking off the collection. That voice - though it was less a voice than a profound silence - created a melancholy music that made the quietness of the night still more mysterious…. A boy lost in the dark pine woods after relocating from Tokyo ends up in an almost dreamlike voyage through the rural landscape. In terms of alienation it reminded me of Sylvia Plath her novella Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom. The narrator in no way feels childlike, a hint to quite an emotive tale in terms of environmental depiction. Quite uncanny. Sorrows of a heretic You were born with a defective spirit An unlikeable main character who has lucid dreams and speaks unconsciously out loud, with a dying sister at home. The discussion and backstory of a gramophone at the start of the novel was rather excessive in my view. Then we have some lending gone wrong, and even more character flaws in the narrator, however his fellow students are not much better, only wanting to visit a grieving family because they think the sister of the deceased hot. Egotistical, lazy, indulgent, unreliable - the main character is drawn by Tanizaki in an unflattering manner, beaten down by circumstances with no way out, but also at his core no true morality. The ending is very sudden; apparently autobiographical, and a very unflinching character study The story of an unhappy mother Younger brother narrating a family’s tragedy, befallen to his mother and eldest brother. Again a spoiled child character in the spotlight, this time a mother instead of a son. Confucian morals maxed out, coming into the spotlight due to a freak boat incident. I am sure Mother will go on living in my heart forever, uttered at the end of the story feels almost like a threat. An interesting collection of uncanny, uncomfortable tales from a great Japanese writer.
Junichiro Tanizaki does not shy away from anything and puts it all on the line in a beautiful way. The stories are at their center about the human condition as it relates to love and yearning.
I wasn't expecting to love this book, but I was deeply drawn to it. When I was an undergraduate, our modern Japanese literature class had something horrible in store for everyone. There was Ōe Kenzaburō's "A Personal Matter", dealing with a man who was trying hard to kill his newborn son without getting blood on his hands, while drinking his life away; there was Yasunari Kawabata's "Sleeping Beauties", about a brothel where old, impotent men go to spend the night by the side of drugged women; there were more. One by one, each of the students in that class has a breakdown. My breaking point was reached when reading Tanizaki's "The Children", which dealt with the emergence of sexuality and sexual sadism. It wasn't graphic, if I recall correctly. It was probably a good story. But it was a tough semester, and it was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. It's funny, because I've gone back to most of the authors on that list and it's become quite clear that Ōe Kenzaburō is the one I'm happiest without. Tanizaki, though. I never dared read him again, until now. The volume opens with <b>"Longing"</b>, the story of a young boy from an impoverished, formerly rich family. It's night, and the boy walks down a long road, counting telegraph poles. But even as he does so, it becomes apparent that there's a disconnect between a child's mind and the narrator's voice; the story is told by an adult remembering that night with delicacy, a fine eye for detail and a poet's spirit. There's something supernatural and slightly terrible about the child walking close to the seaside on a seemingly timeless journey, meeting two women: one, an unpleasant crone who shuns him, the other a beautiful young woman playing a samisen. It's an enchanting story, delightful, a bit terrifying, and very beautiful. The second story in the volume is <b>"Sorrows of a Heretic"</b>, and the tone is shockingly different. A young man, a student from a poor family, supported by richer relatives to remain in university, leads a dissolute life. He borrows money from friends to spend on geishas and other pleasures, he skips classes, drinks to escape his anxieties (becoming such an alcoholic that at one point he drinks the cooking sake). He's a rascal, thoughtless, careless, but as we get to know him, he becomes almost relatable in his fears. I thought I was reminded of Dostoevsky because I had him on my mind lately, but it turns out - I'm not the only one seeing the resemblance. The third and final story of the volume is <b>"The Story of an Unhappy Mother"</b>. Another change of tone; and I'm more ambivalent towards this particular story. The narrator is a younger brother, talking about his mother: a woman who is young at heart, full of life, yet terrified of death, and very proud of the regard her children show her. When the older brother wishes to marry, he has to 'trick' her into thinking she chose the bride. Everything seems to proceed happily until a seemingly harmless accident happens. The moral implications of that accident, however, lead to the long, slow mental torture and eventual death of both mother and older son. The younger brother telling the story seems to be constantly apologizing on behalf of those involved in it. The blame cannot lie with the mother; it cannot lie with the older son. It's almost a tragedy in the ancient sense of the word, of a powerful collision between the forces of fate. It could not have been foreseen, but the younger son feels it might have been stopped if the younger children had put their foot down and been more sensible at just the right time. <b>What really makes me round up the rating to 5 stars</b> is the afterword. First of all, I love that it's an afterword, as it discusses plot points and more. Tanizaki's stories really stand on their own and I loved them, and the afterword enhances that by throwing a new perspective over them: are they in any way based on Tanizaki's life? What are their influences? It draws attention to traditional elements, to the tension between older generations and newer generations in early 20th century Japan (that might not be evident to a Western reader), to Western ideas that permeated Tanizaki's work. It's the best type of afterword: non-intrusive, broadening interpretations rather than narrowing them down, informing without overwhelming. And the translations are simply lovely. My Japanese is, alas, not up to the task of even trying to read these stories in the original, but their rendition in English was beautiful and enchanting. <i>Many thanks to Columbia University Press and NetGalley for offering an ARC in exchange for an honest review.</i>
Three short stories, quite different from each other, offer a perfect opportunity to get to know Tanizaki as a writer. The titular piece "Longing" captures an equally dream-like and muddy atmosphere, very lyrical and rich in imagery. Having said that it's probably my least favourite as the other two left a much greater impact on me. "The Story of an Unhappy Mother" felt a bit like an outlier in the sense that it felt like it centered more around a plot, however, it's still very much a study of a flawed family and their characters. I found the mother in this story very interesting. The story unravels bit by bit and holds a lot of soft intrigue. The second story "Sorrows of a Heretic" is undeniably my favourite and concerns a university student with questionable morals and decision-making. The character reads a little bit like a caricature, yet that doesn't mean it's out of touch with reality. It's also a portrait of a family under unfortunate circumstances. Crisp, refreshing and woeful.
Wish we could get more translations of books like these. A well-written and well=put together book. Entertaining and literary.
i’m surprised by this collection of short stories! i loved the translations – the writing was very good, lyrical without being purple-prose. the emotions and the message of each story were conveyed in a great way – i particularly enjoyed how longing, the title story, had this dreamlike quality to it. the second story, sorrows of a heretic, was the one that stood out most to me – in a weird way, since it might be the one i liked the least. the main character is such an unlikeable protagonist, but he’s so well written – so selfish and seemingly out-of-touch with reality. it’s definitely an interesting story. the third one, the story of an unhappy mother is somewhat of a borderline horror story, with such an unsatisfying ending. i liked it until that ending left me wanting more. the build-up was so interesting, the question of what’s the relationship this mother has with each of her kids and how this seemingly perfect family was actually rotten to the core. overall, an interesting read. i’ll definitely check out the author’s other works. thank you to netgalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Pretty good stories here. I haven't read many Japanese stories, and I enjoyed these. I can see why the author is so well respected. I'm inspired to check out some other Japanese authors now. Recommended. Thanks very much for the free ARC for review!!
This book was fun to read. Tanizaki's narration is unique and moves in a winding pattern through the lives of his characters. And I am glad that this translated edition exists, because if it didn't, I would be missing out on some very interesting stories. All three stories in this collection are centred around familial ties and relationships (especially around ties between mother and son), but has varying perspectives about the same. Japanese culture, the influence Confucianism has on it and the struggle of the younger (modern) generation to overcome it are some themes that speak to the reader while perusing these stories. The usual brokenness and abrupt ending to dialogues when a work is translated does not make an appearance in this edition, which definitely is a credit to the translators. I am extremely grateful for the Translator's Afterword too, since it enlightened me about Tanizaki's style and life.
This collection of three lenghty short stories focuses on the relationship between sons and their mothers: The first introduces us to a child longing for his mother, the second portrays a selfish teenager with a terminally ill sister and a desperate mother, and the third is the story of a newlywed, thus adding the role of mother-in-law to his mother's repertoire. I really enjoyed the subtle way in which the themes are explored and Tanizaki's elegant, slow-moving language that gives weight to decisive details. The afterword explains how the stories correspond with the time they were written and set in, how Confucian thinking informs the narrators, and how some events relate to the author's own life - I won't spoil anything here, because going in blind will definitely alter the reading experience and allow you to shift perceptions after gathering more information. A wonderful collection - I need to read more Tanizaki.
A wonderful new translation that is readable and yet maintains the mystical tone of Tanizaki's writing.
"When I go out into the world, will I have to endure the same suffering and distress as my parents?" Three short stories about mothers and sons were written by Junichiro Tanizaki, a Japanese author of the 20th century. Longing translated by Paul McCarthy My favorite story is about a son looking for his lost mother on road in the moonlight. So a wonderful and touching story. It was like a poem, enjoyable read, very beautifully written and translated. Sorrows of a Heretic translated by Anthony H. Chambers hōzaburō is a university student living with his family. This was like his biography. The Story of an Unhappy Mother is translated by Paul McCarthy This was a story of an unhappy mother, who changed into a different person after her elder son’s marriage. The story is told by the younger son. He believed his brother killed his mother, and that it was his mother who killed his brother. Many thank Columbia University Press and NetGalley for an ARC, I have given my honest review. Pub Date 04 Jan 2022
I went into this blind unsure of what to expect, but was greatly surprised. Three short stories about the relationships between mothers and sons, all gripping and beautiful. The writing is like poetry. Beautiful descriptive and vivid. This is a unique read. Nothing I’ve ever come across before. It’s subtly moving and sad. People who enjoy “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry as children would like this collection. Thank you to Netgally and Columbia University Press for this arc in exchange for my honest review.
I majored in Japanese Literature in college so I was eager to read this translation of Tanizaki's work. I have read The Makioka Sisters and The Key and a few other translations many years ago. Reading these three stories rekindled my admiration for Tanizaki whose characters are presented in such great detail that we can feel them living amongst us. These are gritty stories and I enjoyed the settings and time period. The exploration of character is so intricate and descriptive that they could almost work as a textbook for an author trying to work on character depiction. This work is also a good juxtaposition between the modern women writers of Japan that are currently in the limelight. I'd urge anyone interested in Japanese literature to give Tanizaki a try.