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on 15 December 2000
The old husband keeps a diary. He writes about his physical and emotional relationship with his wife, and would really like his wife to read it whenever he is away because that seems to be the only way he can communicate certain things to her. At least that's what he writes in his diary.
The younger and more energetic wife keeps a diary. She writes about her physical and emotional relationship with her husband. She does not want her husband to know that she keeps a diary, and certainly she does not want him to read it because she writes certain things she rather not let her husband know about. At least that's what she writes in her diary.
The Key is a short novel about a couple who have reached a certain point in their marriage where they have to try radically new things in order to feel that they love each other. It is written in the format of diary entries, a format which in Tanizaki's hands is used to craft a beautifully written novel. When I reviewed Ben Elton's Inconceivable I said that this format can be very powerful if used well. Tanizaki proved this point in this novel over 40 years ago.
This novel is unpredictable and full of twists and turns and kept me wondering what's going to happen next. Since both husband and wife know that their partner may be reading their diary, it is hard to tell how honest they are in their writing. Both funny and tragic, it is great fun to read.
The Key is a well written novel about individuals and relationships. I recommend it to all of you.
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VINE VOICEon 9 March 2006
Synopsis: The diary extracts of a middle-aged man and his slightly younger wife. They secretly read each other's diaries, using them to make up for their lack of face-to-face communication, possibly brought on by reticence, although the book leaves several other possibilities open to speculation.
Written beautifully, 'The Key' is a pleasure to read from the first page to the last. Can be read on numerous levels, although anyone with an interest in psychoanalysis will probably find more than your average reader.
Taniazaki's most stunning achievement with this book is the way he takes a complex web of relationships, a lot of bizzare sexual and mental traits, ill health and death, and wraps them all into one reader-friendly ball.
Even as things seem to come to some sort of resolution in the last 30 pages, the smallest of threads are left dangling by Tanizaki, who leaves it up to the reader whether to paw them like a cat or leave them alone.
Although a concrete conclusion is suggested, many other conclusions remain equally valid. I won't say more here for fear of ruining the book.
One thing I will say is that, while one of the central themes of the novel is sex, it is not particularly explicit. 'The Key' seemed to be more about a middle-aged couple's relationship in general (and their relationship with their daughter), rather than specifically about their sex life (but then maybe sex is 'The Key' to the door of love?). Yes, there is a lot of sex, but the author does not flim-flam all over it in the way that Anais Nin does. If you are a bit prissy, I wouldn't imagine that you would be massively offended by this; if you want erotica, you'll probably feel pretty unsatisfied after this.
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on 9 February 2009
The Key is an erotic masterpiece by Tanizaki. Erotic but not explicit.

It is written in diary form, detailing the daily lives and thoughts of a husband and his younger wife....Also it speaks of their desires, loves and lusts. When the wife Ikuko discovers her husbands dairy she finds the "key" to his soul and what exactly he thinks of her. Then the psychological games begin....does he know she reads his diary? That he loves her so much? That he gets so jealous? Who is being honest? There are so many complex relationships and odd sexual fetishes in this slim novel, it gives you a lot to mull over. Even the end could be read in different ways, as you are never quite sure with all the mind games being played. So many lies, or is it the truth?

This is a great Japanese author at his finest, Worthwhile looking at his other novels.
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on 30 November 1997
This is something of a demented romance novel (which is not the description of a novel that I would have expected myself to enjoy). However, the plot is so deceptively complex, and turns back on itself so deftly, that it is impossible not to be caught up in the deceit of the characters themselves. The apparent simplicity of the characters motivations and actions lead the reader into the same state of confusion that the characters appear to be experiencing. The ambivalence and ambiguity (two things that smack of a lack of conviction on the author's part in most novels) work marvelously in getting the reader as lost as possible in this ostensibly banal domestic story. Bet it's pretty cool in Japanese.
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on 24 May 2007
I really liked this book. I thought it was well crafted, well paced and smart. It has you making assumptions and re-evaluating assumptions in the same breath. I would reccomend this as it's a very decent book.
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on 20 September 2015
This is a very fascinating book, beautifully written, absolutely love it.
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on 28 December 2014
This book was an awesome read in a really obscure way.
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on 14 April 2015
Good book. To me a but sad and erotic.
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on 17 January 2016
Interesting but not riveting
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on 11 January 2007
This, Naomi and Diary of A Mad Old Man, can be seen as Tanizaki's trilogy of perverted, sexually-explicit novels. This one isn't quite as good as those two, but it's still something special. This one is the most voyeuristic of the three and perhaps the most twisted.
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