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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Scandal by Endo Shusaku 
5th-Nov-2007 10:02 pm
Endo, Shusaku. Scandal. Trans. Van C. Gessel. Boston: Tuttle, 1988.
          Summary: Acclaimed Catholic novelist Suguro peaceful descent into dotage is rudely interrupted by the revelation that there is another version of him partaking in the steamy underbelly of Tokyo nightlife. Is this other Suguro a doppelganger or the author himself? Either way, with the assistance of the sadist Ms. Naruse, Suguro confronts the dark side of human nature.
          Comments: Gee, whaddaya know? Yet another book all about the gross sexual perversion of a Japanese man! From Naomi to Welcome to the N.H.K.!...we just can't ever get enough of them, can we? Suffice to say that this is definitely not my favorite literary topic; I've already seen way too many old guys slobbering all over the naked bodies of young girls in hentai manga (many not coincidentally dating from the mid- to late-eighties). Besides that, I don't know what made me more impatient: Suguro's bemoaning of his advanced age (because 65 is really so close to the end...?), or his constant moral bellyaching. In fact, I've become so jaded when it comes to the levels Japanese "literature" will stoop to in order to shock that the image of a young Japanese woman getting her rocks off of the tale of her husband setting fire to innocent women and children during wartime barely fazed me. (Perhaps less experienced readers were more impressed.) In all honesty, the only thing that gave my mind the slightest enjoyable exercise was wondering how much of Suguro was really Endo. Was the great Endo Shusaku ever known to haunt S/M orgies in the red light district?
          The novel itself is easy to read and goes by quite quickly, though it never achieved any particular urgency that made it impossible to put down. Nor does it aspire to a can't-miss, unforgettable resolution. Don't mistake this for the Japanese version of The Picture of Dorian Gray or anything. Gessel's translation, such as it is, is competent and reads like reasonably natural English...however, I was disappointed by the general limpness of the prose and surprised by occasional British-isms. Odd choices from a man teaching in an American university for a novel that is not marked for UK sale. Besides, isn't Tuttle an American publisher? I think their home base is Rutland, Vermont of all places. Ah well. I suppose a person with lots of time to waste could do worse than Scandal, but said person could definitely do a lot better--and should, were it up to me.
          Notes: trade paperback, 1st American edition, 3rd printing; first published in Japan in 1986
          Rating: 4.5/10 - A reasonably well-written and thought-out novel, but I feel absolutely nothing for it. Besides, hidden, sexualized perversity is a common (dare I say banal?) theme in Japanese literature.
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