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Highsmith, Gavell, Mason, Messud

Fiction Of August

August 12, 2001|By Donna Rifkind | Donna Rifkind,Special to the Sun

Jun'ichiro Tanizaki (1886-1965) was a master of Japanese fiction whose major novels are available in English but whose equally fine short stories have gone mostly untranslated. Now, six of his erotic, eccentric stories have been translated by Anthony H. Chambers and Paul McCarthy and collected in The Gourmet Club (Kodansha International, 240 pages, $24).

Tanizaki's precise sensuality glitters in "The Children," a tale about sadomasochism among four Tokyo schoolchildren, and in "The Secret," in which a man dressed in women's clothing conducts a mysterious sexual affair. "The Two Acolytes" is a fable about the worldly temptation of two young Buddhist monks in medieval Kyoto, while the title story illustrates the dangers of excessive gluttony. These are dazzling stories, spanning 45 years of a remarkable literary career.

Samrat Upadhyay is a young author from Kathmandu who bills himself as the first Nepali author writing in English to be published in the West. His new book, Arresting God in Kathmandu (Mariner Books, 191 pages, $12), contains nine stories written with more aplomb than many veterans.

"The Good Shopkeeper" features a married, middle-class Kathmandu accountant whose humiliation upon losing his job nudges him into an affair with a lower-class servant. "The Limping Bride," about an alcoholic ne'er-do-well whose father forces him to marry a crippled girl, then falls in love with her himself, is full of sex and shame; while the best story here, "Deepak Misra's Secretary," tracks the disintegration of a marriage between a Nepali man and his American wife. Upadhyay's writing is complex and delicate, and full of grown-up subjects. Let's hope to see a novel from him before too long.

Donna Rifkind is a former literary agent and magazine editor whose writing has been published by Commentary, the American Scholar, the New Criterion, The Wall Street Journal, the Times Literary Supplement, The Washington Post and The New York Times.

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