A CAT, A MAN, AND TWO WOMEN by Junichio Tanizaki


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A welcome first appearance in English of a novella and two short stories by one of Japan's greatest writers of the 20th century (Naomi, 1985; The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi and Arrowroot, 1982). Like Henry James, Tanizaki writes about those deceptively quiet flaws and weaknesses that compass the downfall of men and women. In the novella of the title, a beautiful but aging cat, Lily, becomes the focus of the struggle between two women and a man, Shozo, the cat's owner--an amiable but ineffective young man who has let his mother run his life. His cat Lily is his greatest joy. When his mother persuades him to divorce Shinako so that he can marry the rich Fukoku, Shozo goes along with the idea. Shinako, though jealous of the affection her husband had showed the cat during their marriage, then plots to use Lily to get back at him and asks for the cat--a sort of custody suit as it were. Shozo grieves but hasn't the guts to defy anyone, and when he finally visits the cat, she spurns him. Lily has become Shinako's cat--revenge could hardly be sweeter. The second story (""The Little Kingdom"") is about a poor teacher, with a sick family, who makes a deal with a pupil, who then--to the teacher's horror--begins to rule the school like an authoritarian dictator; and in ""Professor Rado,"" the least successful of the trio here, a well-known professor is undone by his unusual sexual tastes. Tanizaki's marvellous writing--with wise sympathies and never a word wasted--transform these bare outlines of apparently minor problems into moving stories about the endless and terrible vulnerabilities of the human heart.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Kodansha--dist. by Farrar, Straus & Giroux