The title story of this collection is a careful, sensual description of the visits old man Enuchi (67) pays to a house where men who are no longer men can spend the night—on appointment and against payment—with a girl who has been artificially put into a comatose sleep. Where in the face of their inevitable demise they can find solace next to a warm, naked body in order to surrender themselves more intensely to their memories from the past, when they were still real men, which crop up ever more frequently these last few years. The main house rules: no alcohol, no penetration. But old Mr. Enuchi is still in denial. In every chapter he asserts he has not yet lost it and conversing with the lady caretaker (the only dialogues in the story) he gently, slyly probes what other rules, read possibilities there are for him. Each time he visits the house he sleeps beside another girl. Their smells stir up long forgotten images and associations in him. So does what he hears (their breathing, the roaring ocean outside, falling flakes of wet snow on quiet nights). Even what old Mr. Enuchi sees, tastes and feels in the darkened causes a flood of memories, musings and conjectures. The house provides two sleeping pills to its guests, but they do not give Mr. Enuchi the deep sleep of his bedfellows and he is resentful of his suffering bad dreams, visions and nightmares. How should such a story end? In 1968, Yasunari Kawabata (1899-1972) became the first Japanese to win the Nobel prize for literature. This reader finds this book utterly Japanese. It is full of images from this and the nether world, youth and old age, eros and death, beautifully written and paced, but also full of mystery about the Japanese worldview. Some readers may find some of old Mr. Enuchi’s thoughts and actions occasionally distasteful, even shocking. Given its content, this story is an unlikely choice for reading groups.
These are the most beautiful and most moving stories I have ever read. You need to be an 'old man' to really appreciate them and understand and feeling and the tactileness of them - and prepared to weep