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THE GOURMET CLUB by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki


A Sextet

by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki & translated by Anthony H. Chambers & Paul McCarthy

Pub Date: Aug. 14th, 2001
ISBN: 4-7700-2690-0
Publisher: Kodansha

Six previously untranslated, wickedly warped stories, all but one originally published before 1927, from the acclaimed Japanese master of bizarre and erotic fiction (Quicksand, 1994, etc.).

Tanizaki, who died in 1965, gives the phrase “child's play” a new twist in “The Children” (1911), which shows a young schoolboy becoming a willing participant in the sadomasochistic sport of his wealthy, spoiled classmate. After school they concoct new torments for each other on the grounds of the rich kid’s estate, drawing his older sister and the son of the family groom into the fun. But the forbidden pleasure of the piano studio, which only the sister may enter, proves an irresistible lure, ultimately giving her the upper hand to devise her own forms of depredation. In a somewhat later story, “Mr. Bluemound,” a beautiful movie actress whose young husband and director has succumbed to a mysterious illness makes a startling discovery while reading his will. There she finds the story of her husband's life-altering encounter with a middle-aged man so obsessed with her that he's purchased pieces of her films so as to exactly reproduce her body parts, which then become part of a collection of life-sized rubber dolls he uses around his house. Perhaps the most memorable erotic innovation here, however, involves something done with food. The title story describes the search of an aristocratic gourmand throughout Tokyo for yet-unimagined delectables, a search that brings him by chance to a private Chinese club where he is permitted to observe (through a hole in the wall) but not to taste; from there he brings back to his own gourmet group, among other things, an experience with bok choi and a woman's hand that is truly a classic moment in world literature.

Not all of this collection matches that high level, but there's more than enough here to enhance Tanizaki's still-substantial reputation.