Four disparate short stories by one of Japan's greatest writers make up this collection. Written between 1917 and 1926, they're told with a blend of realism and fabulism. And in all four Tanizaki explores from different angles the pursuits and pitfalls of pleasure. The first story, “The Strange Case of Tomoda and Matsunaga,” is similar in a way to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and well crafted. Next is “A Night in Qinhuai,” which seems like a personal essay and takes us on a late-night search for a suitable brothel. Again a craving for the exotic pushes the narrative forward, and it's rather disturbing in its descriptions of dismal endless backstreets and a man's hunger to satiate his desire. Then in “The Magician” things get weird. I like this one for how bizarre and intense it gets, unlike anything I'd read before by the author. The final story, “Red Roofs,” brings the reader back to realism, and it's unique in that it revolves around a woman, whereas most of Tanizaki's works are centered on male characters. The story felt somewhat aimless at the beginning, but it comes together by the end. Felt, too, a bit like Haruki Murakami, or Tanazaki's novel Quicksand. Overall, the collection is great writing with a variety of narrative styles and compelling characters.
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