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Don Yang
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Full moon.
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2019/01/19
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2019/01/19
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Waxing gibbous.
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2019/01/18
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2019/01/18
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"Shisei / Himitsu" (The Tattooer / The Secret) by Tanizaki Junichiro. A collection of 7 short and deviant stories.

"Shisei" is the story of how an accomplished and sadistic tattooer has sought after the perfect female skin, to engrave his soul onto this canvas. The story starts off describing the tattooer's sadistic tendencies, followed by elaborate scenes of how this tattooer transformed his perfect girl physically and mentally while creating his masterpiece work, and ends with the girl proclaiming dominance of all men, with the tattooer as her first victim. This is a very short story, but comes with vivid imagery that leaves a lasting impression. It's especially impressive considering that this is Tanizaki Junichiro's first published work.

"Himitsu" is about a man who is constantly looking for new stimulus to his life, and loses interest in any hobby he had picked up once the sense of mystery is gone. His latest hobby involves finding and visiting obscure alleys while wearing various disguises, which turned into a hobby where he continuously improve his skill in disguising as a woman. This sense of maintaining a "secret" identity became his new stimulus, hence the title. This hobby lasted until one day he is discovered by a woman who he had abandoned years ago. They agreed to restart their relationship on the condition that he never tries to find out her secret, but eventually he did find out, and promptly lost interest in her. It was refreshing to read in the sense that each scene is written in fine level of detail, and gets replaced by a new perspective of the world as soon as the narrator loses interest. It's like browsing a catalog of narratives.

The other five stories are written with the same masterful use of language and similar level of deviancy, and all fairly fun to read. One particular story worth highlighting was "Itansha no Kanashimi" (Melancholy of a Heretic), which describes the life of a very poor and lazy student, one's flawed personality did not give him much sense of guilt in borrowing money from his friends and never returning them. Somehow, this poor student became a great author with a distinctive writing style few months after his sister died. Moreover, this is meant to be a biographical story of Tanizaki Junichiro. I am not sure if Tanizaki Junichiro really is a disagreeable person, as vividly portrayed in his own story.

The deviant content might be something you find in certain age-restricted doujin works, but since most of the stories here have aged about a century now, they can safely appear in high school English classes as "classical literature". I did first read "The Tattooer" in my high school English class many years ago, and I get a sense of deja vu when I write this review. I don't remember my impressions back then other than having written a lot despite having read very little (because word count factored into my grades). These days I read a lot but write very little. I finally got the idea to read the original text after so many years, and I got to enjoy the slightly archaic Japanese with the occasional English and Chinese snippets.

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2019/01/14
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2019/01/13
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