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3.69  ·  Rating details ·  2,389 ratings  ·  205 reviews
Masks takes its name from the Noh masks of Japanese dramas, and much is made of spirit possession. This is a curiously elegant and scandalous tale of sexual deception and revenge. Ibuki loves widow Yasuko who is young, charming and sparkling with intelligence as well as beauty. His friend, Mikame, desires her too but that is not the difficulty. What troubles Ibuki is the c ...more
Paperback, 141 pages
Published September 12th 1983 by Vintage (first published 1958)
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Average rating 3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,389 ratings  ·  205 reviews

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Jim Fonseca
Oct 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: japanese-authors
All the world's a stage, and the main character of this book - even though she is often behind the scenes - is a vicious, manipulative woman who controls those around her. All those she comes in contact with are in her theater. She approaches life as if she wrote the script, designed the set, and directed the play.


Her son has died and now she is controlling her daughter-in-law and her daughter-in-law’s male admirers. She eventually manipulates everyone, including a woman who is intellectually c
No longer mere object, no longer prey.
No longer the one who wouldn't dare,
No more stung by the prick of infidelity.
Yet no less woman than she was yesterday.

No more the unloved girlchild of yore.
No longer pushed aside to a lesser role.
No more just the wronged one -
Who dons her mantle of victimhood,
And channels her impotent fury at the world.

She has her Noh masks now -
To wear like second skins at this masquerade ball.
Do you know the real her?
She who lays out her cards and plays her hand well -
Apr 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It was late at night, past midnight, that moment of silent serenity coupled with the magical sounds of nightlife, when I finished this book; a night not so blue as the night I finished Didion's Blue Nights, nor a night as sensational as the one I recall when I think of how I read A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain cover to cover, but a unique night nonetheless. I'll remember the strange solemnity of that night because the mood around me seemed to embrace the mood of the book, making it an even ...more
Jan 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Two parts of rice powder + one part of Cetaphil lotion, softening in the reluctant warmth of my palm, on a droning afternoon. Not a single Noh mask in sight. The docile wintry wind was hardening the gummy paste onto my fingers; restricting the imminent bastardization of the Kabuki splendour about to take place in front of an ignorant mirror. Two streaks on the cheeks, one pat on the nose, then the forehead and remaining three strokes on the neck. The wheatish dermal stretch steadily concealed wi ...more
Jan 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japanese-lit
“The secrets inside her mind are like flowers in a garden at nighttime, filling the darkness with perfume.”- Fumiko Enchi, Masks

This is my first book by a female Japanese author. The ones that come after Enchi will have a lot to live up to. The book started off slowly but it soon held my interest and was quite surprising in some ways despite its subtle tone.

I don’t know much about Noh plays but it was clear that the use of masks was a metaphor for hiding one’s true self. In this case, the secre
Caro the Helmet Lady
If you look for fuckery intrigue, especially tagged with such words as "women", "revenge", "manipulation" and "wtf is going on here" - pick Japanese! They mastered all the aforementioned subjects.

Well, I've got a very mixed feelings about this book. On one hand I enjoyed it, the writing style and the main idea, but I got lost about "why?" and "so?...". Anyway, 3.5 stars is pretty fair, it seems to me.
A man may try as hard as he likes but he'll never know what schemes a woman may be slowly and quietly carrying out behind his back.

The Tale of Enchi-
Fumiko Enchi started her career as a dramatist; she was influenced by Ibsen and Strindberg, and cultivated an interest in kabuki. She emerged in the early 50's as "a novelist of the fates of women both past and contemporary." Between 1967 and 1972 , she translated Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji into modern Japanese. It is with this most enduri
Apr 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: only your dreams
Recommended to Mariel by: playing dead
I don't know (another goodreader already made the noh/know pun or I would do it right noh) much about noh dramas, apart from tinges hinging on other stories (rather than the colors lens of the storytelling itself, I mean. The door itself?). Tosh (a most excellent goodreads reviewer) wrote in a review of another book (I think it was a Yukio Mishima book of noh plays?) comparing it as part filmmaker Robert Bresson. I am going to absorb that like I do for all mysterious poetry, art, nature, human b ...more
"'Your feelings seems to take hold of me. This is not just some crazy excuse; so many times I've found myself doing things that don't make sense - and every time, without fail, I feel you there in the background, manipulating me like a puppet."'
From MASKS by Fumiko Enchi, translated from the Japanese by Juliet Winter Carpenter / 1958 Japanese, 1983 English translation

A darkly enchanting and sensual tale of revenge, destruction, sex, secrets, power, and legacy. Enchi wrote one he
I'm not going to pretend I know what exactly was going on here, or that my main motivation for rewarding this four stars is anything more complicated than the thrills of fear and lust. Woman as mother, woman as horror, woman as the womb of the tomb. It's all be done before, and so long as rapists are viewed as delicate unjailable flowers who could not possible survive the chance of being raped themselves, it will continue. The intrigue, then, is a matter of how involved an artist is in complicat ...more
Parthiban Sekar
For people who love a weird plot with a bit of drama, romance, suspense, and good-prose...
A mysterious novella that begins in a quiet humble way as we meet the young widow Yasuko whose husband, the only son of Meiko Togano, was killed tragically in an avalanche.

Yasuko has stayed close to her mother-in-law who is like a peripheral character, but as the story ventures further, it becomes apparent she is manipulating events and that this is not the first time in her life she has done so. Yasuko wants to move on with her life and the two men who are in love with her become part of the tr
Aug 23, 2016 rated it liked it
This review is next to impossible. Because I don't know enough about Noh / Classical Japanese drama to fully understand all the asides and references. But I will give my take in reaction.

I do know that it was creepy. For valid reasons. It's about spirit possession in the sense that is used within the Tales of Genji. Fully comprehensive of a Japanese definitive for the inward controlled and focused power of women. In this sense the daughter-in-law was the medium and her mother-in-law the controll
Jan 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bewitching and original plot with gripping characters – though all troubled and troubling in their own right – presented in an outstanding modern translation. Simply a joy to read, while the developments long linger in the mind afterwards. Mishima was right: Masks is an esoteric masterpiece.
Nov 04, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction

Seriously, this story could put Valium out of business. You know those books that you read a page or two (or a hundred), and you look down and go, "Wait a second, what did I just read?" Yeah, that's pretty much what happened. Word after word, paragraph after paragraph passed through my gelatin orbs, squirted through some neural pathways, and the message kept coming up the same: Does not compute. Read something good.

Basic problems: no conflict, no clear characters, endless 'on-the-nose'
Masks is a tale of deception, revenge and punishment. It is a tale that will whisk the readers away, thoroughly transporting them to its era (even if they aren’t really familiar with all the cultural references), tangling them up into an invisible thread that will start desolving only after they have reached the very last page.

Enchi’s writing and the beliefs she has instilled in her characters might be considered conservative or outdated for the modern reader, but I have to admit I found this no
J.M. Hushour
May 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A novel that is disturbing, weird, and disturbingly inexplicable. And weird. A cultured mother-in-law poet manipulates her widowed daughter-in-law, the mentally retarded twin of the dead son/husband and a pair of older suitors for sinister purposes. It sounds straightforward on the surface, but there is a running vein of that inexplicable I just mentioned: dark shamanesses, "living possession", and the masks of the title, here noh masks that represent the different stages of corruption and darkn ...more
Dec 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The relationships in this story do not have a chance in succeeding. You could say for each character they are deeply in love with someone who is not exactly there.

There is an amazing essay on The Tale of Genji within that helps explain the "spirit possession" angle, an opening scene where the main characters attempt to communicate with the dead, which will undoubtedly be off-putting to some.

It is written into it not as a typical modern or postmodern indulgence though. It is about one of Murasa
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
"When a man and a woman have a physical relationship, it never ends there, does it? Even if there are no children, I think both people are forever changed."

This 1950s novella by a major Japanese woman author is an elegantly spare narrative of sexual deception and conspiracy, unfolding through a minimalist series of scenes, flashbacks, and conversations. The "what" of the story could be summed up in a few sentences, but the "why" yawns, darkly and at length, like some stray black cat hung with th
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
It was...fine. An interesting take on the metaphors of The Tale of Genji, but ultimately since I had to overanalyze this for a class, it fell short of being enjoyable.
Jan 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japanese-lit
As is usually true at the beginning of the year, I have quite a few books I received for Christmas that I would have probably never known about otherwise. After ranting and raving about Japanese literature to my parents for a good portion of the year, I was gifted with several additions to my collection- granted, they're much more modern than what I had read before. Obviously, Masks was one of these novels; as well as being formerly unknown to me, this novel is proof that being given random book ...more
Oct 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Masks, by Fumiko Enchi, is about two psychologically twisted women. One woman, widowed, and her mother-in-law, play a twisted game of seduction and sex, using people for their own purposes, and using each other too.

Enchi surrounds this novel with the paraphernalia of the Japanese Noh dramas. But you do not have to know about Noh (couldn't resist) to enjoy this book at all. The book, though a slim 141 pages, is deep and penetrating. The two women keep everyone they use guessing at their purposes,
Gertrude & Victoria
Jan 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japanese-library
With sly wit and sophisticated design, Masks is an extraordinary work of art. Enchi Fumiko's prose is deep, complex, and elegant, reminiscent of, and often compared to, Mishima Yukio.

This is a story of manipulation. The main actors are: a cultured woman in her mid-fifties, her beautiful daughter-in-law, and her two willing admirers. Here, the mask is used as a metaphor for hidden feelings of resentment, jealousy and bitterness, which the mother-in-law feels toward the others. This woman, who had
Dec 30, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: international
Masks is the first Japanese literature book I have read (on the recommendation of my husband who took a Japanese lit class in college, a long time ago), and it is an excellent book. It is the story of complex relationships and manipulation: a mother-in-law, whose son has died, manipulates the relationship between her daughter-in-law and two men who are in love with her for her own purposes. While the main story is fairly straightforward, the underlying layers make it even more interesting - espe ...more
If you wonder about Lady Rokujo after you finish reading The Tale of Genji, you might find this book of interest. Published and set during Japan's Showa-period, Fumiko Enchi's novella offers glimpses of the puzzling life of two generations of widows living in the Togano family home.
Sprinkled with literary allusions, this story wreaks havoc with the very heart of Japan's patrilineal tradition.
A warm thank you to Margie (such an insightful reader!) for buddy-reading both Waley's tradition of The T
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: witmonth
Tom A.
Jun 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Plague Review 15: Masks by Fumiko Enchi

A chance encounter between Ibuki and Mikame rekindles their shared love for the widowed Yasuko. But this also brings both of them into the clutches of Yasuko's mother-in-law Mieko, the Togano family matriarch with sinister motives. As the story progresses, both Ibuki and Mikame will find their destinies manipulated by Mieko. But how is Mieko accomplishing her plans, and what does it have to do with her endless fascination and obsession with Spirit Possess
Nicky Neko
Argh... I feel terrible. I've had a spate of books I'd been really looking forward to reading letting me down. Quite honestly, I skimmed the last half of this because it wasn't doing anything for me. I'm not saying it's bad, but it just wasn't my cup of tea. I was honestly falling asleep while reading the essay on The Tale of Genji written by one of the characters in the book, which is presented to us in its entirety.

It's quite honestly a tiny bit boring... I just found there were too many char
Dec 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Less of a review but more a random hodgepodge of thoughts.

Masks - takes place in post WWII Japan and has at its premise a very curious idea: spirit possession. I think that's what made this book initially strange to me- this near academic attitude towards spirit possession. Two main characters study spirit possession in a University and spirit possession is a hidden hand that guides some of the characters actions- it is a metaphor for unknowable emotional compulsions, perhaps. Extreme emotions a
Jun 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
I think it is actually a better book than I can give credit to - rife with allusions to classical Japanese literature - but it didn't resonate much with me. I thought the book was too short to give real depth to the characters, they are explained by the narrator rather than by their thoughts and actions. I realize, this also reflects classical Japanese storytelling, as in the Genji monogatari - however, it felt rather anachronistic than reverential.
Furthermore, the underlying suggestion that str
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See author 円地文子.

Fumiko Enchi was the pen name of the late Japanese Shōwa period playwright and novelist Fumiko Ueda.

The daughter of a linguist, Fumiko learned a lot about French, English, Japanese and Chinese literature through private tutorage.

Fumiko suffered from poor health as a child and spent most of her time at home. She was introduced to literature by her grandmother, who showed her to the

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