This is a short collection of stories by the Nobel Prize winning Japanese author Yasunari Kawabata who I have previously read and reviewed his novel The Master of Go and another collection of stories.
These stories are curious, and a little forgettable, and maybe that’s in part because the opening novella is both disturbing and unsatisfying. It will ultimately probably not stand the test of time because the ideas explored in it are both a little played out, but also gauche in their presentation. An older man goes to a kind of brothel, but rather sex, it is a place to sleep with (as in literally sleep beside) drugged nude women (the women are not drugged against their will, but their complete and total stillness is part of the offerings). The man is told from the very beginning not to do anything to the women and not to expect anything from them. This set up more or less works for him, but he increasingly finds various part of the set up disturbing and unsatisfying. For example, he is put off by one woman’s coming to work still with lingering traces of a milk smell from nursing her child before work.
The idea here seems to put the ways in which men wish women to be in their life to a kind of logical extension. It’s interesting in that way, but there’s a lot of other stories and novels that do the same, but add the necessary perspective of women into this exchange or wholly privilege their perspective and so this ends up not being a powerful as it should have been.