THE REED CUTTER and CAPTAIN SHIGEMOTO'S MOTHER by Junichiro Tanizaki

THE REED CUTTER and CAPTAIN SHIGEMOTO'S MOTHER

Two Novellas
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A new translation of The Reed Cutter (1932) and the debut of Captain Shigemoto's Mother mark a recognition of the late Tanizaki's continuing literary importance (see above). Both novellas are filled with poignant reminders of Japan's past, particularly its literary past, as the respective narrators frequently quote from famous poems, plays, and stories. These quotations reinforce the mood of time passing, of ``the transience of humanity, whose endeavors fade without a trace,'' and of a deep longing for a brighter past. In The Reed Cutter, the narrator-- ``the sadness of autumn pressing in upon him''--takes a walk one September afternoon to the site of a famous palace, now in ruins. He visits the ruins, eats dinner in a local inn, and then decides to cross the river by ferry, recalling that this is the night of the famous autumnal full moon. When the ferry reaches a sandbar in the middle of the river, he disembarks. Here, he meets a reed cutter, also out moon-viewing. As the two share a gourd of sakÇ, the reed cutter tells the story of his father, who on this night would take him as a small boy to watch through a hedge the annual moon-viewing party of the beautiful Lady Oyu, the woman his father really loved. The second novella is a more discursive and allusive work in which the narrator quotes from the classics as he tells the well-known tale of Captain Shigemoto's mother--a beautiful woman who'd married an aging nobleman; she gave birth to one son, but then her husband one night in a drunken fit gave her as a gift to an important Minister, who was a guest in his house. Years later, the now middle-aged son is finally reunited with his mother, a nun at a remote shrine. Elegiac evocations of mood and time, all in luminous prose.

Pub Date: Feb. 2nd, 1994
ISBN: 0-679-42010-X
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1993




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