(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Nine-tenths of Diary of a Mad Old Man is composed of entries from the protagonist’s diary (from June 16 to November 18, 1960) up to the point at which a series of seizures incapacitate Tokusuke and bring an end to his written autobiographical introspection, in which he has engaged for many years. The work’s remainder is composed of respective extracts from Nurse Sasaki’s report (November 20), Dr. Katsumi’s clinical record (from December 15, 1960, to February 7, 1961), and notes by the protagonist’s widowed elder daughter, Itsuko Shiroyama, which bring the story up to Tokusuke’s recuperation in mid-April, 1961.

Basically, the novel chronicles Tokusuke’s increasing obsession with Satsuko while his health and his relationships with the rest of his household and family deteriorate. The sexually impotent Tokusuke constantly schemes to be alone with Satsuko, and then, with her encouragement, to obtain a caress or kiss; Satsuko exacts material rewards for these favors: an automobile, an expensive beige suede handbag, and finally a fifteen-carat cat’s-eye ring costing three million yen (roughly $17,000), this last item perhaps symbolizing her feline predacity. Tokusuke’s wife (never named in the diary, suggesting the protagonist’s estrangement), younger daughter, Kugako, and elder daughter are increasingly chagrined by Tokusuke’s preferment of Satsuko and the callousness, spitefulness, and niggardliness he shows to them.


(The entire section is 519 words.)