Book Review: The Key & Diary of a Mad Old Man by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, Howard Hibbett (Translator)

“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?”

― Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, The Key & Diary of a Mad Old Man

Tanizaki, Japan's best contemporary author, devised a lifetime succession of clever variants on a diominan theme: the power of love to revitalize and ruin. Since Lady Chatterly's Lover, no other book about marriage and sex has been as graphic as this one.

Synopsis from Goodreads...

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 their separate adventures, but whether for themselves or each other becomes the question. 

In The Diary of a Mad Old Man records, with alternating humor and sadness, seventy-seven-year-old Utsugi’s discovery that even his stroke-ravaged body still contains a raging libido, especially in the unwitting presence of his chic, mysterious daughter-in-law.

My reaction to this novel...

I read this book out of curiosity. Actually, I had no idea what was in store for me in the narrative because I had not read any synopsis or reviews about it. It's only that I read the title and became intrigued. I've already read one of this author's books, and while I could tell that his subjects would not appeal to conservative readers, I still found his ideas and concepts to be well-integrated throughout each chapter. I am exposed to various mental health extremes while reading his books, particularly when it comes to desire and sexuality. I can tell that the plot is rather intrusive, especially if you don't enjoy such sorts of books as I do, but reading it offered me a rare insight into how I understand things.

I feel confident in stating that Tanizaki fearlessly exposes his soul through these unfavorable book stories. The journal format works wonderfully. We can observe in this novel how the characters are swiftly engulfed in these asexual illusions and deceptions by these short-lived illicit connections and desires. It is a strange collection of novels which reveals the thinking of civil and weak sexual offender slaves and how they are controlled by their fixation with sexuality.

The stories are quite disturbing. The dynamics of a marriage are extensively discussed, as is the way etiquette restricts freedom. Simply said, I'm intrigued as to why the author focused on older guys for the major cast. Does it make a statement about ambition and authority? Even though I didn't particularly enjoy reading disgusting stories like this, I still had a blast. I found it extremely perplexing that someone would be prepared to give in to their sexual urges and even risk their lives to do so. This book is definitely a sensuous trip to read. It's not a must-read for anyone since this book has an incredibly disturbing and quite offensive story, but it will be unlike anything you've ever read. 

My Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐(3/5)

Where to buy this book...


Disclaimer: Booksreadbyhannel is not a business website. The opinions expressed here are unbiased and based only on my own feelings and reactions while reading the books I featured here in my blog. My reviews reflect my utmost sincerity. I paid for the books I review here out of my own pocket. Books provided by authors and publishers are otherwise specified.