This story was written in 1926, 3 years after Tanizaki moved to Kyoto. The narrator, a writer called “K”, one day receives a letter written by a woman named Shigeko living in the countryside. According to the letter, her husband disappears every 3 or 4 years and is now missing again. She asks K to find out his whereabouts. That’s how the quest of K for her husband begins. This is such a page-turner with Tanizaki’s masterful story telling craft being at its highest. You can find a variety of juxtapositions as in between the city and country, the carnivorous and vegetarians, and above all the West and Japan. Japan is represented by Shigeko, who is well educated and cultivated by the family tradition. As opposed to that, the West is portrayed through characters of prostitutes who reside in Yokohama. The main character who admires the West is witty, fluent in both French and English, and a great dancer of Tango. What these three have in common is their almost unlikely and farfetched characterizations.
“Maybe Tomoda and Matsunaga are really two different people after all. In terms of personality, they could hardly be more different. When one of them is around, the other is nowhere to be seen. They take turns possessing this fellow we call ‘me’”.
I can see the dilemma Tanizaki was in between two poles, which makes the story intriguing all the more. If you’re a Tanizaki fan, this is a must-read! Now that I finished reading this superb story, it’s time for me to embark on my quest for Tanizaki’s works again. What an appropriate author and story to finish the 2022 sessions for Americas with. 2023 will begin with Murakami!