The Problem of Old Age in Japanese Literature of the 20th Century on the Example of Tanizaki Junichirō’s (1886–1965) Works
In Japanese prose of 20th century, especially post-war prose, there was great Tanizaki who developed in his literature the problem of old age together with such its aspects as aging - related diseases, senility, loss of vitality or fear of death. The aim of this article is to introduce and describe the problem of old age in Tanizaki’s literature by giving as example his essays and two novels. In The Key and Mad Old Man Tanizaki depicts in great detail old age, aging - related diseases, loss of sexual potential, fear of death, or attempts of pursuit for happiness in the old age days. The two novels are the most detailed, careful considerations about old age in Japanese literature, as well as the example of a very bold depiction of increasing sexual excitability in people who are facing old age. The novel’s diaristic form shows author’s very intimate and special attitude toward time and old age. Awareness of death is a privilege that can free an old man from all social and moral restrictions - Tanizaki sketches a boundary that can be reached in the last desires of life. The author is also asking a question: is it worth striving for unchanging, eternal ideals, even at the price of losing one’s life on the way to gain them? The creation of the two novels, was preceded by a series of autobiographical essays, written in 1957-1965, which were an invaluable source of information about the writer’s last period of his literary activity. These essays - cited in the article, can be considered as the material for starting the creation of the mentioned novels, in effect giving them a somewhat autobiographical character.