Review of The Dark Room by Junnosuke Yoshiyuki

This slim novel is quintessentially enjoyable in the same way that the author’s stories are. It is also easy to criticize. 

Like Oscar Wilde said: “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all.”

This book is beautiful and grotesque, and I believe that it is an effective psychological condensation, a profound depiction of narcissism and an eerie tale of obsession. It is not surprising that this author was a translator of Henry Miller. It is a shame few of his works have found their way into English.

Many people will dislike this book and the main character. Reading Paul Auster and even Orhan Pamuk will reveal similar characters embodying perversions, or at least dwelling in this frame of mind for protracted periods of time, but in this simple novel, the sensuality is far more palpable to me. I found this work moving and do not think it is necessary to justify the standpoint of the writer or the fictional persona.

It has the sensibility of a Tanizaki novel and the narrative distance is incredibly close. Whereas Tanizaki can still be mentioned in polite conversation, it’s risky to bring up Yoshiyuki. But Junnosuke’s scenarios are just as memorable. They have a wonderful consistency. I found myself unable to stop turning pages. That was why I finished the novel in only a couple sittings. If only there was more of this author’s work in English! One gets a sense of the times while really sinking into the plight of the main character, who only knows one way to live. By being a womanizer he is portrayed as a sad individual, but one that does not grate on my patience. He is almost as trapped by his flaws as the females he uses. They are all human and real. I sensed that the author labored over this book, that it took him many months to get the feel right, and to perfectly capture the aura of decadence he was going for. It could be true, but what it became was a powerful document dredged from the depths of his soul.

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