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Wind and Stone – Masaaki Tachihara

Wind and Stone

 

 

“You are a stone”, said Kase, smoking a cigarette after they had made love.
“I think you are the stone”, replies Mizue without opening her eyes.
“No, I’m more like the wind. I could never be a stone.”

Rapt in wonder the stone deliberates the lightness of the wind. The subtle windy caress arouses a sense of vitality. The stone sewed up in permanence yearns for an escape from its prosaic settings, rousing at the existence of the wind. The imminent chaos blowing over the passage of the wind, gusts through the tranquil garden calling forth nature’s dualistic predicament – transience and permanence. What is it to feel ‘truly cleansed’? To feel alive – the very sentiment entranced by the proverbial elan vital, sprouts an iota of change in the dormant despair of mediocrity. The brevity of the nascent bud awakens the lush green foliage; the manifestation of change erupting a sense of vitality from the tree. The blossoming flower harmonizes the impression of liveliness in the perceptive observer trying to escape the mundane, its echoic gratification consoling the depths of desolation.

Gardens, they say, are the chief marker of time. The rhythmic seasonal cycles alter the landscapes replacing the new with the old. In the yearly cycle of change and continuity, the garden in some mysterious ways fleeting from its mediocrity, matches the rhythms of nature with the flow of time.

“For me”, he then said quietly, “building a garden is a struggle against mediocrity.”

Yusaku Kase’s meticulously crafted garden seeps in irony delineating the tranquil exterior and the internal chaos of both, its creator and its owners. The freedom of aesthetics colliding with burdens of morality forms a limitless extension of human emotions haunted by the kinks of change and consistency. The perpetual ‘struggle against mediocrity’ is the potential dilemma, prevalent in this Tachihara narration. The escape from the mundane animates an invisible force enabling the characters (of this book) to seek out their freedom hidden in a dark lonely place.

In every small, closed world, there is the same quality of complacency and exclusiveness.

Prolonged periods of peace often give rise to stagnation. Peace and Stagnation are not precisely opposites, but, one is desirable while the other is deplored. (The I Ching or Book of Changes ). The need to be loved, to feel desired, overrides the substance of ecstasy, the aspiration of self-indulgence stems from the psychological stagnation fixed in the fears of abandonment. The realization of inner desolation elevated the suffering within the defined portrayal of the four individuals tangled in perturbed relationships, each facing the obvious anxiety of being ‘detached from life’. The garden takes a life of its own demarcating each phase of turmoil and harmony of a man-made landscape scattered in a balanced histories and an imbalanced future of a heart’s non-conformists desires.

Again she had the fleeting feeling that the stones were Kase’s eyes watching her…………Still, Mizue could not help feeling they were composed of invisible colours and empty spaces. She did not know what to make of this feeling. What was this invisible colour?

Mizue , a daughter ,a wife, mother and a lover ; the life-roles confronted Mizue with the dilemma of moral conventions, abandonment and a ‘thirst for love’ ; seeking a sense of vitality to feel alive and “completely cleansed”. Similar to Kase, Mizue struggles against herself. Her significance in an evolving sphere called life. Tachihara puts forth a simmering question, whether we are detached from the universality of nature? The man-made garden meshing with the language of the wild, precisely marking metamorphosing milieu influencing the imbedded stones and yet the timelessness of the stone remain unchanged. An entity on its own, the ever transforming garden, becomes the pathway to ruination. In Tachihara’s subtle narrative symbolisms, Mizue resembles the immutable stone, wondering is a strong gust of wind could uproot her from the prosaic settings, and, Kase, the nomad wind pursuing for a sanctuary which could restrict its flow and purify the turmoil within.

Can ‘lust’ purify ‘lust’, if it takes one beyond the tussle of commonplace? Is ‘love’ an immutable factor among capricious lust or a mere matter of self-indulgence of inner thirst that needs to find self-fulfilment, a sense of wholesomeness? Change and consistency are not reciprocally absolute in the flow of time. Is then in the monochromatic array of transience and permanence, the struggle against mediocrity will seek the exact shade of the invisible colour, everlastingly? The hue that defines monotony.

 

4/5****

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Quicksand – Jun’ichirō Tanizaki

Quicksand

 

What is to be a fool? What is to play the fool, bewitched into becoming a mere cat’s paw used to draw amorous carnality from the flames of passion? What is to feel powerless, ridiculed in love when appreciation veils subtle humiliation, to be a clay pigeon in the game of love? What is the sine qua non of love? Wherein, the human universals of shame and humiliation circumvent the existent perplexity of self-justification. Dubious emotions casting shadows creating a vivid portrait of a hypersensitive inner-world sheathed in the depths by humility of love and arrogance of lust. The immoralities of an imagination seducing the moralities of human nature. What is it to sense an illicit love that has yet to take a definite form, looming in the heart of sheer lust?


….And even of if it was wrong to be secretly in love with another man, what was so bad about being in love with a woman, someone of my own sex?”….

 

Tanizaki brings forth an enticing work of fiction steeped in delirious pathology of eroticism and psychological obscurities in the quest for an obsessive longing. The lesbian affair mutually affecting Mitsuko and more so Sonoko, prevails with the conquest of sexual pleasures; supple bodies become a constructive and destructive force of subliminal mind, insatiable for sensuous stimuli.

The torrid liaison sexually and emotionally manipulates Sonoko and Mitsuko invading along the lives of Watanuki and Kotaro, distressing and disrupting the very inadequacies of individualistic disposition. Tanizaki explores the ambiguities of love and marriage delineating the fervid mystification of the sinister bend ingrained in the core of human nature. The sensual arc centring eroticism tainted by hysteria bypasses the aspects of perversion sketching out human frailty encompassing the aesthetics of Mitsuko’s virtuous beauty. The need to ‘cling onto love’ culminates in mortification with the ‘pretence to love’, bona fide revelations still lingering in a rigid state of denial. Watanuki’s sexual impotency masked within his embolden physical dishonesty stands in contrast to Kotaro’s sexually potent yet impassioned libido curdling tangible neurotic regression of complex relationships changing the entire course of basic psychosomatic make-up of human physicality. Profoundly intertwined in the web of envy, violence, adultery, malice, animosity and other ensuing emotional incitements, the four keyed up protagonists ravenously cling onto the vanity of love; Mitsuko becoming the core link in the catastrophic game of love and eroticism , the two men and Sonoko mere pawns of manipulation. Love, an intoxicating blend of lust and devotion, serene yet unstable when disturbed by surplus stress equates to the quicksand phenomenon, a static human fallibility sinking in the deep well of chaotic pith.


So I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into the quicksand, and although I said to myself I had to escape, by this time, I was helpless. I knew I was being used by Mitsuko and that all the while she was calling me her dear sister she was actually making a fool of me.

 

Tanizaki’s exploration of women thriving in naturalistic societal milieu, women whose lives are confined to the workings of their inner-self, is subtle yet provocative. Tanizaki perceives the external human equation as an artistic portrait wherein the bare truth lies buried in its shadowy depths, abstracted from the customary kaleidoscopic visible exterior. The female characters be it Sonoko or Mitsuko are sexual aggressors; the unrestrained sexual needs clashing with the emotional displacement are emphasized by jaded manipulative passions stimulated by forlorn hearts. The brattish demeanour fading in the virginal splendour of supple chaste body; sex being the prime tangible deriving force of commotion. Being a frequent Tanizaki reader, the literary configuration is structured with a definite beginning and an end; the journey in between either fascinating or mundane transforms imagination into impending authenticity; the enabled truth which is not ethical but psychological. The masked flaws of a virtuous beauty self-contained in a manipulative world fixated on force rein. The Japanese titular connotation “Manji” symbolizing the four pronged Buddhist Swastika, epitomize four harmonious lovers immersed in the whirling force of passion, fantasizing the certitude of love.

…..I kept pretending to be confident of her love…..

 

 

3/5 ♥♥♥

The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa – Yasunari Kawabata

The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa

 

Beggars are people too……Crazy people are women too……” Fallen women” were once naïve young girls……Men who indulge in ‘flesh trade’ aren’t called “fallen men”……As I scribble these words, my pen comes to a grinding halt. The notebook laid there crammed with the vestiges of my thoughts. The flux of my words was at the mercy of an inaccessible sheet of paper. No matter where landing stage of the wordy compositions deviates, words always appear to be imperfect when expressing the inexpressible. The voyeur within me now precedes Kawabata’s voyeuristic world attempting to comprehend human incidents through an impartial lens, the accomplices to my silence aiding to unearth the truth veiled in the allusive reflection of the transient beauty. The unassuming moon silently floating on the water mirrors the unreal within the real; the reflections on the windows ceasing to exist upon a whiff of wind, the window opening into a bargained emptiness. A tiny drop of water is competent to epitomize the reflection of the moon and the window oblivious to its crystalline pictorial pushes forward committing perjury. Life is a mingled yarn of all things echoic and nonechoic , pure and impure, sincerity and deceit ; the vitality of a perishable life holding onto the wispy filaments of pure longing. The world of nothingness steadily awakens with the melodious sound of the bells of the Senso Temple, the rhythmic choreographed long legs tapping to the blues of the jazz, the murmur of the piano from the dimly lit geisha house, the chatter of the rickshaw pullers, the tranquility of the Sumida River colliding with the exhilaration of the Casino Foiles ; the fragrance of the camellia oil soothing the incoherence of the streets of Asakusa.

“Asakusa is Asakusa is for everyone. In Asakusa, everything is flung out in the raw. Desires dance naked. All races, all classes, all jumbled together forming a bottomless, endless current, flowing day and night, no beginning, no end. Asakusa is alive…….”(Azenbō Soeda)

Akin to the many and various algae proliferating on a summer’s day stretching put a lush emerald carpet over the stagnant waters of the Gourd Pond, Asakusa comes alive with the vibrant hustle and bustle on the streets. The lyrical verses of Soeda resonates the wonders of Asakusa. A home for the homeless, a love for the loveless, a source of food for the famished; a world of leftovers of leftovers. Asakusa, a melting pot to amalgamating all races and classes equating to any thriving city on the face of this earth and yet, Asakusa finds distinctiveness in the allure of its design. How or rather who creates the infrastructure of a city? How are places resurrected from their own ruins? People nurture the land and the land in turns fashions the prevailing communities. Among the elderly delinquents of time, Asakusa was a “young punk”. It exudes an energetic charm seeking the genuine vitality of life, positivity through the purity of wild. Asakusa was a lost piece found through its very own people.

Kawabata generates a fascinating dais for Asakusa as a “human market”, attracting all and sundry from hobos , prostitutes, juvenile delinquents, geishas, shop girls, flappers, vagabonds, artists and the entire artistic shenanigans rough plays where the ornate dressings rooms of the “ero-queens” are as amusing as the man feeding wheat crackers to the carp in the pool while munching on few of from the pack.“But essentially Asakusa is like a specimen in the Bug House …… something completely different from today’s world, like a remote island or some African village led by a chief , a whole net of time-honored codes over it”

Originally published as a miscellaneous series in news dailies, the Asakusa chronicles finds it titular derivations in the wanderings of the Scarlet Gang. The self-christened theatrical group – The Scarlet Troupe publicized their hope of performing something spectacular in the kitschy votive stickers plastered all over the vacant walls in the city. Over the years, embarrassed by this modernist work of his, Kawabata once had said, “All I did was walk. I never became acquainted with any of the young delinquents. I never addressed a word to the vagrants either….. but I took notes…”. A young man with a baggage of just a pen and a notebook wayfaring through the heart of Tokyo in the aftermath of the 1923 The Great Kanto Earthquake investigated lonesome demimonde lives existing on the societal periphery. Kawabata being a silent flâneur preserves a certain sense of objectivity and distancing in his reportage, and yet ironically the acute perceptions are cryptic evaluation in their abstractions. The trajectory of the narrative rocks back and forth amid three distinct articulations accompanied by multifaceted active and passive vocalizations. Kawabata takes the reader along with him through the alleys of Asakusa. Kawabata devotedly address ….”Dear Reader….just take a walk along the alleys…”…..”Dear Reader…..as you knows”……” …..” what would you do if you were in their place……”……. The subtle prod eventually turns the reader into a loyal companion to the narrator. The “I” of the reader dissolving in the “I” of the narrator.

With its evenly matched pictorial illustrations denoting the aspects of materialistically cultural grandeur capturing one of Tokyo’s fascinating socio-cultural era of history and social relationships; this book registers a certain ‘pop-fic’ ambience . Nevertheless, Kawabata the literary master that he is stays true to his art, astutely conveying the philosophical totality of mono no aware allying the quintessence of transience beauty with the subsequent sadness. The melodrama budding within the printed pages leaps through the loops of subtle humour, economic recession, resistance to convention and the idea of love mingled with eroticism and vengeful crudity encumbered with the emptiness of longing. The dregs of Asakusa. But as long as she can still run, she’s still a woman. Because most of the bums are no longer human enough to run………… The weathered folks no longer talk. They live amid the hustle and bustle of the commercial district without saying a word. The malleable “taste of the backstreets” was sexy and absurd. The impish labyrinth of Asakusa is an inconclusive world of nothingness, but it is not nihilistic.

“When I’m with a man, I’m always sizing myself up- weighing the part of me that wants to become a woman against the part of me that is afraid to. Then I fell miserable and even more lonely” The yen for fulfilling the ideals of womanly dwells within the fragile beauty of Yumiko and Oharu. Yumiko’s desire to be viewed as a man pulsates through the memories of her being the fateful “daughter of the earthquake”; the vengeance of the kittenish arsenic kiss sailing on the Sumida River. Umekichi’s confessions of love residing the idea of love on the lips of a middle-aged woman. The radiance of red and purple sashes blending in the fated hues of the “fallen women”. The transparency of Ochiyo’s lunacy contrasting the rouge of the Okin on the bank. The emptiness offalseness of the varied protagonists is forged ahead surviving the customs of their incompleteness.

 
Asakusa had perhaps been for him (Kawabata) as it was for me – a place that allowed anonymity, freedom, where life flowed on no matter what, where you could pick up pleasure, and where small rooms with paper flowers were rented by the hour. ( Donald Richie , Afterword)

Wading through an interminable picturesque lattice of memories and dewy-eyed faces ; the rawness of dreams drifting though an endless ebb and flow of desires and pleasures strewn with snippets and snapshots floating in a stoic air , this chronicled narrative resembles a fragmented puzzle. And, you find yourself plucking these coquettishly naïve and seductively sinister wanderings, assembling it piece by piece into a significant portrait, an art illuminated in its own abstraction by its own peculiarities. Richie’s accuracy in his noteworthy inferences about Asakusa being a pathway of anonymity to an uninterrupted freedom resonates in the sensory perceptions captured amongst the echoes of “dear reader”. The human flow aggressive in survival and passionate in expression pulsates throughout my cerebral silence bringing Asakusa alive within the spiritless walls of my room; an absurd persuasion enticing me to seize the floating moon amid the nimble watery ripples. The yearning to obtain the unobtainable. The need to discover the sincerity and beauty in the depths of nothingness. Luminescent in the aureate sun, the urge to grab the ephemeral beauty of a piece of glass before it being engulfed by the shadows of the passing day; is how Kawabata’s Asakusa chronicles captivates me. And, I certainly do not need a new notebook for my words as my thoughts are no longer at the mercy of neither the pen nor the paper.

4/5 ****

Grass for My Pillow – Saiichi Maruya

Grass for My Pillow

What has your country offered you? What has it done for you?…… What have you accomplished for your country? What have you given back to your birth land? The notion of ‘patriotism’ charred in the rebuttals and accusatory insinuations; the double-edged sword seeped in the ironies of free will conflicting patriotic legitimacy probing the sovereignty of allegiance v/s rebellion. The devout ready to defend his or her country, does it signify blind devotion without having to question the socio-political dogma? The status of Patriotism positioned on shaky grounds during war-time. Is it criminal to raise scepticism over the transgressions of one’s motherland, the land on which freedom must breathe? Are we, the honouree of domicile identities become vulnerable pall bearers of humanity clashing into the stoic walls of fragmented patriotism? Where do the institutions of human rights survive in this pandemonium; the major causality of the war? Is being anti-war the sign of a deserter? Is the rebellion against the nationalistic doctrine of a total entity, an act of cowardice? The nationalistic ideologies favourably tipping the war-time scales. The societal product (individual) disseminating in it very own organic design; the man being the eventual scapegoat of history.


“Scattered like blossoms, down the soldiers fall.” Had he been a coward? Had he been afraid? Was he still afraid, even now it was over? No, nothing was ever over.

Saiichi Maruya’s sublime, conscientious contention travel beyond the socio-political assumption and implications of war , looking deeper into the multifaceted coherent societal constitution shifting in time, grasping the reality of a pre- and post-war Japanese society , the history of a nation state and the repercussions on its populace flowing in continuity dissolving dual societal disparities. The validity of free will v/s patriotic obligations enclosed in a foreseeable rebellion negating the virtues of social mores. The truth of a country’s war, the dissension society v/s man, the flotsam and jetsam of human rights v/s annihilation and the impenetrability of war v/s anti-war jingoistic ethos during war-time tumbling into disconcerting nostalgic restraints of human demeanour and compensated beliefs.


But how could one die in a meaningless war? How could one go about killing people for no reason? Regret was useless. Regret was a bottomless swamp, a quicksand……

To those trapped amid a neurotic wheel of recovery and revaluation, the analysis of the past becomes the worst punishment sentenced by the howls of time. Nothing is ever over. Death of the past elements slowly unlocks the shackled melancholia of the present, the ghastly anguish of panic unleashed through a single black-bordered postcard. The quagmire of regret festering in gritty waters of ignominy, self-inflicted torment and alienation dragged the 45 yr old registry clerk- Shokichi Hamada, the past clinging onto the pervasiveness of his guilt , the feeling of relief a far-fetched dream, the puppetry of Hamada’s clandestine past manipulating his pugnacious present; suffering had become his entire being.

A draft-resister, Hamada successfully evaded the Japanese military conscription at the height of the Pacific War ( WWII), the act of resistance and rebellion had bestowed upon Hamada , a life of a vagrant perpetually on run for five long years ( Oct’ 1940-Aug’1945). The consequences of the clandestine lifestyle Hamada inhabited in his 20s nagged the resisting conscious two decades later in a society that in spite of adopting anti-militaristic regime as a diplomatic post-war approach, perceived the act of rejection to enlist during war-time, a dishonourable conduct. Maruya accentuates the martial atmosphere predominant in Japan under the Meiji constitution and the nationalistic vehemence intensifying the war-time attitudes in the Japanese society. Contradictory to numerous other esteemed Japanese literary conjectures of Japan being two segregated entities(pre- and post-war) , Maruya explicates the continuity of Japanese society as a whole ,flowing from militaristic to anti-militaristic era and then later to booming socio-economic prosperity , the peripheral objective war long ended but the influential war still operational within the terrains of civilization. An analogy glimpsed in Osamu Dazai’s erudite literature.


He must never forget that he’d broken the most powerful of all the commandments our society imposes, stronger than the commandment not to steal, stronger even than the commandment not to kill. He was a man who had gone against the stream………..

Two worlds, two divergent individualities assimilating in an illusion of a unified existence, the mirror-image polarized in dual identities grappling to find a niche in the desperation of resistance. Twenty-six year old Kenji Sugiura, the vagabond sand artist chose freedom from the authoritative nation state sacrificing his civil liberties. The rebellion against the highest societal establishment; the decisive farewell instigated the daunting dispute over citizen and its civil duty. Kenji Sugiura, the war-time alter-ego of Shokichi Hamada became a social prisoner of pledged virtues and time. The uncertainties of Sugiura contemplating over life and death coagulated within Hamada’s aspiration for a tranquil survival. The disbelieve in the workings of the Japanese society , the victor being the life-long prisoner, the free renegade will of a renegade , the remnant of a man haunted by the remnants of war , of his past.


……..There is no other path for him. There is no way back. All he can do, forever and ever, is continue on his perilous voyage, continue his restless journey, and lie down each night with only bamboo grass for a pillow…

Hamada/Sugiura was unable to recover from the illusion of being attuned to the changing world, a much evolved Japan, now feted for anti-war ideological propagandas. The existence of Shokichi Hamada trembling in self-pity and alienation, the guilt of being a draft resister rendering him to a life of vagrancy irrespective to the prosperous social environments. Maruya exemplifies philosophical scrutiny of the crude temperament of a society rooted in its history and succeeding social conduct, the problematical dogma inimitable in the virtue of chronic nostalgia dissipating in passage of time, irrevocably pushing the pigeonholed rebel into carrying the sins of the society along with his own sense of guilt. The divine clemency pleaded by the “mere remnants of a man”.

A country, its middling populace and a few fated ones, the hero of an anti-war and a war-time scoundrel, evolving from a treacherous past, perceiving a calm and untainted future by rectifying the afflicted sentient of the present , sharing the swaying bamboo grass for a pillow ,the conventional nomad resting the homeless head, a pictogram of transience . The doctrine of man and the society intertwined amongst the changing tides of time, embarking on an eternal restless journey.

…in this fitful
slumber bamboo
grass for my pillow
one night of dreams
alone to bind us

 

4/5 ****

Diary of a Mad Old Man – Junichiro Tanizaki

Diary of a Mad Old Man

I haven’t the slightest desire to cling to life, yet as long as I live, I cannot help feeling attracted to the opposite sex…..

Arousal, when the does the trickery of eroticism salvage the ironies of life? The seduction of youth stemmed from the perversion of old. The seduction of beauty leached on to the perversion of ugliness. The dichotomy of potent sexuality surpassing physical impotency cultivating a sovereign desire in pursuit of an alluring beauty. The aesthetics of romanticism nurtured by the unconventional social gestures cautiously recreated a psychological world of ambiguity. Pleasure, the prerogative of a vital stimulation, when does it stop terrifying the existing physiological banalities foreshadowing the vociferous artistic interpretations? The pleasure of eating, the pleasure of sexual stimulus, the pleasure of death and the gratification in the pervasiveness of dual worlds; Utsugi Tokusuke was man who created a spellbinding multifaceted world of stimulating beauty in the dusk of his life.

…..lately I never spend a day without thinking of my own death…….. Two or three times a day I think to myself – Maybe I’ll die today. Not that I am necessarily frightened by those thoughts. When I was young they did terrify me, but now they even give me certain pleasure……

I’m fascinated with the idea of death. Especially, the gradual disintegration of time feebly clutching the strings of a looming death. An incapable body satiated in the desirability of constructing a tombstone whereas the potency of the mind still lured by the stimulation of life. Encumbered by the agonising symptoms of neuralgia, Utsugi finds tranquillity in the thought of his death, synchronising an imaginative illustrations of his funeral service with his yearnings of an ideal Bodhisattva Stone for his cremated remains. The allure of his death brings a certain pleasure contrasting the monotony of the neck stretching Glisson’s Swing exercises applied for the betterment of Utsugi’s medical treatment, which he has no desire to pursue. The ambiguity of Utsugi’s existence exhibiting the premonitions of death and the desperation to enjoy the animated vigour of sexual stimulations signify the quintessential dichotomies of volte-face social and psychological ironies. When scrutinized through several Tanizaki’s literary sojourns, the recurring thematic design of cultural dualities prevalent in the 20th century Japanese society and the norm of pursuing beauty through the diabolical lens of eroticism become highly evident. Nonetheless, given the genius of Junichiro Tanizaki, the elemental premise is masterfully knitted into a diverse literary quilt with each thread vibrantly patterned within hemispheric socio-philosophical perceptions.

In this chronicled diary of a 77yr old man, Tanizaki maintains a sense of balance between the distortion of the old and new. The “pervert” Utsugi seems to be confused in his implementation of traditional values and his desperate sexual pursuit of the young ex-chorus girl Satsuko. Tanizaki comes in his narrative element depicting Utsugi’s pandemonium of the past and present as the universal quandary of desiring the avant-garde overshadowing the persisting traditionalism. Utsugi’s perceptive elaborations differentiating between his wife and Satsuko’s life-style choices highlight the flourishing concepts of Westernizations in the prevailing conservative core of the Japanese society. The duality of beauty v/s ugliness, cultural shock-values and illness v/s healthiness and the innate need to adhere to archaic superstitions and home grown cultural theology embodies the capricious nature of the altering society as a whole and the thriving civilians.

I intend to have a Buddha’s Footprint Stone carved on the model of your feet, Satsu. When I’m dead my ashes will lie under that stone. That will be my nirvana.

Tanizaki expertly puts the expression of ‘eroticism’ in an imperative twofold creativity exploring the dominion of sex. The focus in the meaning of sex / erotic pleasures widens the boundaries of perversion and the subsequent freedom. Utsugi’s incessant erotic fantasies about his daughter-in-law, his bizarre attraction to the cruel streak reflecting in the gorgeous feminine faces and the daintiness of the Kabuki ‘onnagata’ (men who play female roles their authentic personalities distilling in the feminine essence) , the gradual progression to his alternate versions of sexual reality, the indulgent crude act of kissing the delicate white foot of a bathing Satsuko and the haughtiness coming from his abnormal sexual urges, defines the character of Utsugi and his relationships with the surrounding manipulative collective milieu. Comparing the notion of Satusko’s sexual innuendos, it veers toward the scheming nature of creative eroticism employed by Satsuko as a path for materialistic gains and autonomy from a smothering exasperating marriage. Utsugi’s sexual enthralment in the grotesque obsession with Satsuko’s feet reveals the charade of an old man with confused societal values who uses Satsuko’s feet as a fulfilment of his erotic explorations while at the same time poetically revere them as a human model for Buddha’s footprint for his tombstone revealing the traditional cultural fidelity. Tanizaki, employs the reality of sex with the illusion of a seductive beauty that brings along greed, materialistic manipulation and concurrently profound freedom; a vague representation of the misinterpreted Western mores. The ailing artist perplexed in the erotic trance seeking the illusion of beauty from the alluring femininity of youth and the ambiguity of final deterioration is humorous and sympathetic as he is artfully perverted in his audacious pursuits and his daydreams of constructing a swimming pool for Satsuko.

—————–

#[The photographic illustrations are taken from the namesake movie}.

4/5 ****

The Stones Cry Out – Hikaru Okuizumi

The Stones Cry Out

From the outside the stone is a riddle:
No one knows how to answer it.
Yet within, it must be cool and quiet… (Simic)

Throughout my academic life, the numerous geographical travels or even during the simplest stroll down the lane, never once did I think about the pebbles I kicked clearing my serene path. Standing in the midst of an eternal shimmering sand dune, the golden grains escaping the strangeness of my fingers, only if these minute granular marvels could voice the ancestral tale of the cerulean ocean free flowing a long time ago, the current sand once submerged at the subterranean oceanic flooring. The immaculately inscribed grave stone, the tiny rocks at the cremation grounds, the inert debris of shattered homes, the comatose history silent within the darkness of a cave rising with the slight flicker of a candle light, the history of mankind crystallised in the muteness of the empathetic universe; no such celestial sensibilities mirrored within me, until the potent voice of the gangrene inflicted lance corporal resonated vociferously within the cherry red walls of my room quietening the cello rendition next door. You normally don’t pay much attention to the stones you see by the side of the road, do you? You just think of them as meaningless objects scattered in the mountains, rivers and fields. Even if they’re in the way, it doesn’t occur to you that they might be worth picking up and studying. Well, you’re wrong, you know. Even the most ordinary pebble has the history of this heavenly body we call earth written on it.”

When does the war truly leave a soldier? Or rather when is a soldier liberated from the mirage of a crystallized masked reality? When or rather where the does the healing begin? Can the promising notion of cure truly culminate into totality challenging the linearity of time and liberating humans from the troublesome sensory core in which the living and the dead crowd? Can the imminent dawn of life moisten the dullness of a delirious death? A WWII war veteran, the traumatic POW experiences calcified like the etchings in the dark cave, Manase become the impervious symbolic stone, the transparency of his nightmarish memories masking the opaque reality. Unable to adjust to the nitty-gritty of the civilian life, Manase submerges himself in his exploratory geological obsession of accumulating assorted stones. On a broader horizon, war stories emit the general melancholic sentiment submitting the dilemma of reception and repulsion. But, when microscopically view in a higher magnitude, similar to the rainbow of refractive indexes of each rock-forming mineral scattered in a petri-dish underneath the magnified lens variegated through miraculous hued combinations revealing a painstakingly elusive design of a world within a world, these war stories create a galaxy of their own, magnifying the stippled mélange of a young soldier devoted to the objectivity of authoritative devotion and later as a civilian baffled in the subjectivity of free will. The heart of a man accustomed to numbness unmoved by the cyclic salvation of life and death, the vestiges of a harrowing time gone by floating like phantoms in the dense streams of memory marred by the wartime massacres, festering corpses, the spliced carotid veins in the consciousness of the cave. Memories are nothing but events that have changed into landscapes, and for people who have reached a certain age, the past holds more variety than future because they can paint the landscapes of their past

Okuizumi clutches the capricious masquerade of his protagonist haunting the decisive way of Manase’s war memories and his existing perplexities between schizophrenic hallucinations and a confronting lop-sided realism Resembling the sedimentary green chert demarcating two polarised era yet amalgamating the account of each of these times, Manase’s traumatic life is defined by his relationships each carving an eternal niche of two different worlds. The captain for whom Manase swore his blind devotion, served as a beginning for a long suffering inner dilemma of a governing fidelity to the valued supremacy and the subjectivity of exercising free will in a sovereign libertarian civilization. The illusion of lance corporal swarmed with flesh eating maggots in the inescapable sinister cave, embracing the guilt and loneliness serves the purpose of an eventual alternative reality aiding to unmask the fragmented mental instabilities. A tussle between an individual modernity and communal ideological adherence hampers Manase’s relationship with his two sons, thereby, weakening the already vulnerable bond with his wife. The trauma of repressed war experience develop into the metaphorical red-hot magma cooling and solidifying the bonds of a man to his surrounding under the influence of a changing environment regrettably acquiring only the impenetrable tangled opaqueness of the stone and not the evolving trait enhanced by the transient weather.

Time fits together in a peculiar way – fortune and misfortune, pleasure and pain, all are exiled to the past to form a landscape in monochrome. It is a mystery and a blessing. The Palaeozoic, the Mesozoic…….the sedimentary, igneous , metamorphic rocks dispersed in the continuum of time, the vivid hues of the rock formation crystallized peacefully within the loneliness of fossils and metallic ores awaiting the wind of change in the evident erosion compressing a tangled world refracting the condensed history of the earth intermingled in the subtle chemical design . Unlike, the metamorphosing stone embracing the wind of change, Manase was trapped in the fragments of time, unable to amend under the changing weather. The static physicality of Manase repelled the upheaval of deep-rooted emotions coursing for an imperceptible change, equating the vacillating path of the minerals inside the solidified rocks, eventually crumbling beneath the pressure of hallucinations of a sinister past. The psychosomatic predicament masking the quintessence of real human existence alienates the entire being of Manase as a man, a war veteran, uprooting the simplicity of an everyday civilian life polarising the reality from the ephemeral uniqueness of the rock, a geological diversion that had consumed Manase.

Okuizumi establishes the mislaid subsistence of human pandemonium through the universe of geological gradations. The idea of a man being born as a part of the universe, the body predominantly made up of water, the bones brimming with calcium and the inner flow of blood a steady stream of non-static minerals exacting the zenith of evolutionary cosmos is analogous to the metamorphosing constitution of rocks/stones crystallizing the past, surviving the present and ultimately discovering a way to look into the altering future. Manase’s masking of the reality and inability to accommodate the subjectivity of a civilian life beyond his nightmarish past ceremoniously draws the intricacies of human obligations as an institution traumatized by conception of an ethical life rooted within the philosophical perseverance unmasking the blind devotion of societal responsibility; a far cry from the multi-dimensional fragments of the chert. This green chert, for instance consists of the petrified bones of ancient organisms. One day or bones will be like this. This is how the dead come to life again.

Man. Revolution. Life. War. Death. Man. The winds of change transforming the subjectivity of human life along with cyclic environmental existence juxtaposing the multiple dimensions of magic realism with the fragmented reality infused within the alternation of time. The delirious ethical instability shrouded with the philosophical resolution of the unreliability of real human existence resounds the linearity of time and the emancipation of humans from the rigid cyclic order in which the dead and living swarm awaiting for the next gleam of life when moistened with the far-fetched magnitude of evolving time emulating the phenomenal traits of a green chert that sparkle with life when moistened radiating the splendour of a gold-rimmed sunrise.Even the plainest, most ordinary pebble has the history of the universe written on it.

I have seen sparks fly out
When two stones are rubbed,
So perhaps it is not dark inside after all;
Perhaps there is a moon shining
From somewhere, as though behind a hill—
Just enough light to make out
The strange writings, the star-charts
On the inner walls. (C.Simic)**

———–

** The verses are taken from Charles Simic’s poem Stone from What The Grass Says.

4/5****

Snakelust – Kenji Nakagami

Snakelust

Namu-myohorenge-kyo…..namu-myohorenge-kyo….

The rhythmic tones of this Buddhist chant had stuck in my throat, the varying pitch of repetitious syllables jumping in a melodious intonation. The sluggish hours of daylight ripe with the stench of decaying flesh, the raven seeking the dried bloody trail of a dead vermin. Swinging back and forth on the wooden plank, my legs oscillating to the ticking of the pendulum stuck within the clock halt at the screeching of a black kite flapping towards a mealy blind pigeon cooped next to me. The hostility of the sparrows and the spring mynahs for nesting beneath the iron bars erupted in a wild frenzy knocking down couple birds. Such misfortune! Such cruel fate! The cloudy white eyeball of the pigeon resting on the wooden swing hark back the white albino finch drowned in its own blindness perched within the stoic pages of Nakagami’s tome indifferent to its fragility , praying for something. Calling the “gentle giant” to strangle its dainty neck, crushing the life out with the burly hands, a sort of euthanasia to liberate the bird from its desolation. “ Kill me! I wanna die!”, the pigeon screaming through its frequent cooing, the shiny raven now perched on my balcony , a call of an avian euthanasia. Was it all a dream? Or was it real? The teachings of Amida, the chants of Lotus Sutra humming in cavernous gullet reciting profound scriptures swirling within the saga of an disorderly Kumano man.


Why am I walking through these mountains without proper preparations and provisions ? What is it that drives me on?
The mirage of his dead brother seeping through the festering wounds of arrows pierced in the legs of a worn-out man uncertain of the guilt hovering over twin parallels of life and death. The salvation of death and the burden of life interchanging places within human spirituality amid the transference of suffering and pain rapt with a tortuous past , the memory of the blind finch collapsing with the breathing injured chick nestled in an half open egg. The philosophy of Kamo no Chōmei echoing the lessons of Hossinshu through the passage of the wind and the light, a falconer crumbles down with remorse seeking deliverance for the immaculate life squirming within the torn womb. The message of a violent sin eluding the fulfilment of salvation. The mountain ascetic is swallowed by the enigmatic mountainous Nakagami reconciling with his misfortune and unmanageable delinquent past, tiresomely experiencing hallucinatory haunting.


Deformity and death were there, in those birdcages………Ignorance and idiocy were also there, in that simple, natural world in which the chicks lives and died.
Hundred budgerigars released, hundred birds eerily skirmishing in the egg-filled nest boxes, cannibalistic overtures brooding the hatchlings, little girls with painted nails, the peachy petals of the makeup flowers crushed within the palms, the coloured lacquer staring in the shadow of abnormality. Makeup made woman do strange things. The Kumano man contemplated, twitching to the fact that make-up less faces cultivates the nastiest cruelty inside him.


Is she really a snake?”, he asked himself.
The pent up rage ascending in his robust physicality, the decorum of the flower arrangement marred with the delusional fig tree, the envy of a mother stemming from the womb nurturing the cryptic deceit of marital abuse and adultery and the naked body of the delinquent son being devoured by the muffled snakelust flourished in the deafening voices of a unforgiving discomfiture of a ghetto. The absolute powerlessness of man kneeling before the vicious covetousness of female sexuality. The blood of the ladies-in-waiting surging beneath the raining leeches, the appendages of the noble cortege soaked in the vicious metallic fluid gushing through a soul brimming with sadness. The immense lust for the Princess piercing through the penis of a man beneath her rank ,his trepidations poised between brutality and the peacefulness of lingering silence. Who wants a new head dress? The bandit howls as he whirls a pair of white legs in the crimson waterfall. The idea of “happily ever after” a farce looming within the confines of a fairytale, the mêlée between love and lust wrecked like the neck of the Kannon statute. Is the passion of lust a dragon rising from the stagnant swamp of love, gobbling hideous reality threatening the beautification of an illusionary heroic bliss? Praise be to Kannon for her mercy……. tears of the Goddess of Mercy caught in the melancholic tale of a demon.


You, my bride vent your lust on me, who for so long pined for love in the cold back earth….
The fragility of human body hanging between shamanistic lust of the dead rotting within her body and the goading cruelty of breathing love, the overpowering sexual power, salvation echoing her obsessions. He fucked her again and again; she loved sex, the moans louder with every thrust buried in the blindness of love sweeping the purity of snow along with the silence of realism resounding in the chaotic parable in an erotically mystical Gravity’s Capital. The faceless ravishing lust reincarnated through a blindness of a mature realistic love.

The world of frail, restive souls fated to the tumultuous irrepressible circumstances of rape, domestic abuse, adultery, sadistic experiences, the ignominy endured by the working class populace, wounded personalities suspended in the chimerical happy endings slumbering through the ghettos, the burakumin, societal outcasts gaping through the contemporary window interconnecting mythical motifs with the absolution of spirituality culminating within the artistic canvass of Kenji Nakagami’s enthralling chronicled anthology. The raven patiently awaits the call of pigeon; the bird quietly perched on the swing, the vermin carcass now hanging from the tree top, I read to the delicate scent of the evening sun.


The sound of myriad cicadas swirls and echoes through the woods. You wonder. An image unfurls in your mind. A nameless monk lies dead in the hills- a heap of decaying bones and rotten flesh, his tongue still wriggling in his skull, repeating the holy scriptures. “Namu-myohorenge- kyo, namu-myohorenge- kyo…..”

4/5****