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24May

Toddler Hunting and Other Stories by Taeko Kono review – sex lives of the quietly kinky

Written in the 60s, these disturbing but deft tales of Japanese women’s repressed desires are steeped in violence and masochism

This unignorably strange collection of stories evokes warring responses of admiration and disgust in the reader: Taeko Kono is a writer who puts the toxic into intoxicating. The selection, written between 1961 and 1971, is a brave choice for one of the launch titles in W&N’s new list of modern classics. (Though the publisher that first gave us Lolita in this country has never shirked controversy.)

The recurring motifs are sexual violence and masochism, the protagonists women who occupy mid-century Japanese society quietly, but conceal taboo longings. “Fukuko liked physical pain during sex,” we’re told of one character; of another, “Yuko had never been able to be satisfied by ordinary sex... she would demand violent methods of arousal.”

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