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The Key & Diary of a Mad Old Man

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  259 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
These two modern classics by the great Japanese novelist Junichiro Tanizaki, both utilize the diary form to explore the authority that love and sex have over all.

In The Key, a middle-aged professor plies his wife of thirty years with any number of stimulants, from brandy to a handsome young lover, in order to reach new heights of pleasure. Their alternating diaries record
Paperback, 368 pages
Published September 14th 2004 by Vintage (first published 1961)
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Oct 21, 2009 Kimley rated it really liked it
Longing and desire are at the heart of these two short novels, each utilizing a diary format in which the characters write their deepest, darkest & yes, kinkiest yearnings. This is nothing if not a sexy book in a perverse Tanizaki way (i.e. not for everyone). There is a great deal of pathos here (a 77 year old man obsessively longing for his beautiful daughter-in-law, a long-married couple who seem to have no true intimacy - in bed or elsewhere) but there are also several strong doses of dar ...more
Antonius Block
The Key is perhaps the ideal point of entry to the world of Tanizaki; the perfect encapsulation of his themes and style. Employing a twin diary format, The Key oscillates between the private diaries of a middle-aged man (Kenmochi) and his beautiful wife (Ikuko), revealing the perverse relationship they share, along with that of their comparatively unattractive adult daughter (Toshiko) and her would-be lover (Kimura), the true love interest of Ikuko. Kenmochi is getting on in years and no longer ...more
Maureen Lo
Apr 08, 2016 Maureen Lo rated it it was ok
Shelves: japanese-authors
Sorry...I just don't like the old man and his weird and disgusting thoughts.
Nov 18, 2014 Kurt rated it really liked it
One book, two novellas. Certainly not a unique format, but finding two equally powerful novellas in the same volume is a little out of the ordinary. Junichiro Tanizaki's "The Key and "Diary of a Mad Old Man" are subtlety disturbing psychological portraits of two separate, postwar Japanese families in the throes of sexual metamorphosis and strange, complicit betrayals. The key word here is "complicit."

In “The Key,” Ikuko and her husband (unnamed) keep diaries that they suspect each other to be re
Feb 23, 2013 Fuka-chan rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-challenge
The Key : by time, passions dimmed out. Upon picking up this book, i understand this is about an old man with a certain kinks on sexual stuff. nothing too explicit though, you have to understand that this book is written in the 1900s, where tradition are still being held close to heart. forgot all the sex stuff, there are none of it, which by the way, all these modern books nowadays portrays it in excruciatingly detailed scenes. The author talks about sex and affair, but saying nothing too expli ...more
Phill Melton
Jul 28, 2014 Phill Melton rated it liked it
Shelves: modernism
The usual Tanizaki bag of tricks—unreliable, bumbling narrators with unusual fetishes obsessing over women who play them for fools—told through a diary frame. "The Key" has the advantage of being told by two unreliable narrators on opposite ends of the relationship—something similar to what he did in "A Man, A Cat, and Two Women"—but loses something by having a coda that explains everything ambiguous, all the tensions that were deliciously implied. The Mad Old Man only has half the ambiguity, ye ...more
Jul 24, 2014 Amanda rated it liked it
When I picked up "The Key" and "Diary of a Mad Old Man" at the Strand, it was because the plotline sounded vaguely like a post-WWII Japanese novel that I read when I was about 13 or 14, that I have been trying to find ever since. I have a feeling the novel I am looking for is probably by Tanizaki, but these were not the droids I was looking for. Realizing that early in my reading probably put these stories at a disadvantage with me.

Nonetheless, I found both stories enjoyable, especially in thei
Apr 22, 2008 Ali rated it liked it
Shelves: japanreads
Everyone who saw me reading this book commented on its difficulty. It was anything but difficult. Perhaps people are mislead because it was written a long time ago by an exstremely sex-crazed old man. It is an interesting writting technique, though. A husband and a wife each writting their own diaries in "secret" as they stretch their limits of sexual exploration. Both stories prompt the question: who do we write for? Is it really possible to only write for one's self in a purely unbiases form? ...more
Nov 07, 2007 Adam rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: voyeurs
Two short and bleak, but blackly humorous novels by Tanizaki involving obsession, voyeurism, Eros and Thanatos, and fetishism, but way more subtle than those themes would imply. Both make good use of the diary form (The Key doing it best with the man and wife both writing diary entries) which reminds me a little of Harry Mathew’s The Journalist and Nabokov’s Pale Fire (annotations taking place of the diary), but these might be superficial similarities.
Wendy G
Aug 07, 2010 Wendy G rated it it was amazing
I finally finished "The Key" and "Diary of a Mad Old Man." Both Japanese novellas are about human relationships, power, sexuality, and culture. I loved both stories. They were written (and translated) beautifully, and the characters are subtle, funny, and clever. I also really liked the fact that both novellas are written in a diary format. I'd like to read more of his work.
Aug 11, 2010 Vogisland added it
Shelves: fiction
I read the Key last year and finally got around to Diary. The Key was somewhat stronger overall, though the ending didn't work for me. The dual-diary structure was put to good use. Diary of a Mad Old Man was fun. Ultimately it's more about Utsugi's (fully realized) character and coping with old age than his *madness* or perversions, which, in the end, don't go very far.
Jul 26, 2010 Christine rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is a pair of gorgeously written short novels with ailing, lecherous patriarchs as their protagonists. Tanizaki uses shifts in point-of-view to great advantage as he explores the sexual politics of 20th-century Japan.
Miles Ungar
Sep 18, 2011 Miles Ungar rated it really liked it
Two novels, both told via diaries. While somewhat metaphorical (both taking place in postwar Japan and containing themes contrasting traditional Japan with newer western culture) the stories on the surface alone are a delight. Straightforward and rich, some good ol' readin'.

Also sexual deviancy.
Livio Oboti
Feb 27, 2016 Livio Oboti rated it really liked it
Tanizaki captivates for his subtlety, his untold hints.
The stories themselves are not that special... the way through them might be.
Sep 16, 2012 Reese rated it liked it
Typical Tanizaki. After reading Naomi I knew what to expect but these two short novels were just too much. Men are fools for women.
Digi Munoz
Feb 02, 2011 Digi Munoz marked it as to-read
Excellent novellas. Mostly dealt with romance, lust, deceit, cruelty and aging. Like a Japanese Bukowski with more structure.
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Jun'ichiro Tanizaki (谷崎 潤一郎) was a Japanese author, one of the major writers of modern Japanese literature, and perhaps the most popular Japanese novelist after Natsume Sōseki.

Some of his works present a rather shocking world of sexuality and destructive erotic obsessions; others, less sensational, subtly portray the dynamics of family life in the context of the rapid changes in 20th-century Japa
More about Jun'ichirō Tanizaki...

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“After looking at myself in the mirror, I looked at Satsuko. I could not believe that we were creatures of the same species. The uglier the face in the mirror, the more extraordinarily beautiful Satsuko seemed. If that ugly face were only uglier, I thought regretfully, Satsuko would look even more beautiful.” 6 likes
“It’s odd, but even when I am in pain I have a sexual urge. Perhaps especially when I am in pain I have a sexual urge. Or should I say that I am more attracted, more fascinated by women who cause me pain?” 5 likes
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