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Devils in Daylight: 09/02/19
Devils in Daylight by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki is a horror novella recently translated by Keith Vincent. He further explains the pun of the original Japanese title (白昼鬼語) and how he did his best to render it in English.
New media inspires re-examination of older media. Keeping in mind that this is a 1918 novel, the new media here is cinema. It had a late introduction to Japan but once it did, it took off.
Takahashi, a salaryman, has pulled an all-nighter and is surprised to receive a phone call from an old friend, Sonomara. Sonomara in a long, rambling monolog tells how he has cracked a cryptographic code based on Edgar Allan Poe's "Gold Bug." At the end of this long tale he invites Takahasmi to witness a murder. He says if he's wrong, they'll have a good laugh over it.
This is the point where Takahashi could have and should have said no. It would have been a really short, weird short story. Instead, he says yes. He leaves the safety of his life and his job and begins to lose himself in Sonomara's obsession.
The murder they go to view is something they watch in secret. They're watching through a peephole, like voyeurs. Back in 1918, the word voyeur would bring to mind men watching through holes at brothels. As cinema matured, it would come to mean men watching women on screen with a sexual gaze.
Again Takahashi could cut off ties with Sonomara but the trap has been set and he's now trapped in the same spiral of obsession as his friend. The narrator will become the next one obsessed with the code as Sonomara. Then as Sonomara becomes more and more involved in this murder plot, so will Takahashi.
It's a delightfully creepy and modern story that holds up a century later and in translation.