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  • Lake
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4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Format: Paperback|Change
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on 15 December 2005
Japanese masters grow old disgracefully – no cosy respectable pearls of aged wisdom – just an unflinching stare into life’s abyss of abjection & perversity! This late novella from Kawabata is even more perverse than Tanizaki’s late novels like “Diary of a Mad Old Man” & “The Key” (also from the 1950s). If you like those you’ll love this.
“The Lake” begins with a woman bashing a man on the head with her bag. She runs off and he picks up the bag and finds it full of money. He was following her – or was she leading him on? Is he guilty of theft & stalking or is he basically an innocent whose behaviour is misinterpreted as criminal? Most of the ensuing narrative consists of the man’s delirious interior monologue, going over (in obsessive fetishistic detail) a series of memories concerning earlier pursuits of (female) objects of desire and the guilt/anxiety that always resulted. We also get the woman’s (only slightly less disturbed) memories & thoughts, mostly about how she is wasting her youth & beauty as mistress to a 70-year-old rich man (the money in the bag was from him). Characters and sub-plots from the various memory-scenes (of both man & woman) begin to link up as the narrative, very skilfully, switches back and forth between these various episodes and the present. How far the man’s projections of love and lust are real or imagined, genuinely reciprocated or a stalker’s fantasy, remains ambiguous. Although the novel is a black comedy, it is not safely ironic like McEwan’s “Enduring Love” but closer to Duras’ “Ravishing of Lol V.Stein” in drawing the reader into complicity with the perversity of the “mad love” reverie.
Some of the actual transitions between episodes towards the end of the novel are handled a little awkwardly which I think is due to the translation (from 1974), which also contains some howlers & too literal translations of very Japanese imagery. But the translation reads easily enough & shouldn’t put off any prospective readers.
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