House of the Sleeping Beauties: And Other Stories
, 2004 - Fiction
- 148 pages
From Japan's first Nobel laureate for literature, three superb stories exploring the interplay between erotic fantasy and reality in a loner's mind.
"He was not to do anything in bad taste, the woman of the house warned old Eguchi. He was not to put his finger into the mouth of the sleeping girl, or try anything else of that sort." With his promise to abide by the rules, Eguchi begins his life as a member of a secret club for elderly gentlemen who have lost their sexual powers. At an inn several hours from Tokyo they indulge in their last pleasure: lying with beautiful young girls who are sleeping nude when the men arrive. As "House of the Sleeping Beauties" unfolds in Kawabata's subtle prose, the horrified reader comes to see that the sexual excitement is a result not of rejuvenescence, but of a flirtation with death.
The three stories presented in this volume all center upon a lonely protagonist and his peculiar eroticism. In each, the author explores the interplay of fantasy and reality at work on a mind in solitude-in "House of the Sleeping Beauties," the elderly Eguchi and his clandestine trips to his club; in "One Arm," the bizarre dialogue of a man with the arm of a young girl; in "Of Birds and Beasts," a middle-aged man's memories of an affair with a dancer mingled with glimpses of his abnormal attachment to his pets.
All of these stories appear in English for the first time outside of Japan. "Of Birds and Beasts," written in the early 1930's, is one of Kawabata's earlier works, while "One Arm" and "House of the Sleeping Beauties," the latter hailed by novelist Yukio Mishima as the best of Kawabata's works, are among his later works.