Posts Tagged ‘junichiro tanizaki’
New Year’s Day
This year I intend to begin writing freely about a topic which, in the past, I have hesitated even to mention here. I have always avoided commenting on my sexual relationships with Ikuko, for fear that she might surreptitiously read my diary and be offended. I dare say she knows exactly where to find it. Of course, her old-fashioned Kyoto upbringing has left her with a good deal of antiquated morality; indeed, she rather prides herself on it. It seems unlikely that she would dip into her husband’s private writings. However, that is not altogether out of the question. If now, for the first time, my diary becomes chiefly concerned with our sexual life, will she be able to resist the temptation? By nature she is furtive, fond of secrets, constantly holding back and pretending ignorance; worst of all, she regards that as feminine modesty. Even though I have several hiding places for the key to the locked drawer where I keep this book, such a woman may well have searched out all of them. For that matter, you could easily buy a duplicate of the key.
……….I have just said I’ve decided not to worry, but to think. . . . Still, if I were asked whether I dislike it, I would have to say no, quite the opposite. My response to her is by no means reluctant; I never have to whip up my desire out of a sense of duty. For better or worse, I am passionately in love with her. And here I must make a disclosure that she will find abhorrent. I must tell her that she possesses a certain natural gift, of which she is completely unaware. Had I lacked experience with many other women I might have failed to recognize it. But I have been accustomed to such pleasure since my youth, and I know that her physical endowment for it is equalled by very few women. If she had been sold to one of those elegant brothels in the old Shimabara quarter, she would have been a sensation, a great celebrity; all the rakes in town would have clustered around her. (Perhaps I shouldn’t mention this. At the very least, it may put me at a disadvantage. But will knowing about it please her, or make her feel ashamed, or perhaps insulted? Isn’t she likely to feign anger, while secretly feeling proud?) The mere thought of that gift of hers arouses my jealousy. If by any chance another man knew of it, and knew that I am an unworthy partner, what would happen?
……….Thoughts of that kind disturb me, increase my sense of guilt towards her, till the feeling of self-reproach becomes intolerable. Then I do all I can to be more ardent. I ask her to kiss my eyelids, for example, since I am peculiarly sensitive to stimulation there. For my part, I do anything she seems to like — kiss her under the arms, or whatever — in order to stimulate her, and thus excite myself even more. But she doesn’t respond. She stubbornly resists these ‘unnatural games,’ as if they had no place in conventional love-making. Although I try to explain that there is nothing wrong with this sort of foreplay, she clings to her ‘feminine modesty’ and refuses to yield.
………Moreover, she knows that I am something of a foot-fetishist, and that I admire her extraordinarily shapely feel — one can hardly think of them as belonging to a middle-aged woman. Still — or therefore — she seldom lets me see them. Even in the heat of summer she won’t leave them bare. If I want to kiss her instep, she says ‘How filthy!’ or ‘You shouldn’t touch a place like that!’ All in all, I find it harder than ever to deal with her.
……….To start off the New Year by recording my grievances seems rather petty of me, but I think it is best to put these things in writing. Tomorrow will be the ‘First Auspicious Night.’ Doubtless she will want us to be orthodox, to follow the time-honoured custom. She will insist on a solemn observance of the annual rite.
translated from the Japanese by Howard Hibbett