Though virtually unknown in the States, the 70-year-old Kono Taeko has won many of Japan's top literary prizes. Her writing from the '60s offers Americans a rare voyeuristic peep into the private lives of the famously guarded Japanese. Most of the protagonists (all female) have a penchant for sadomasochistic sex. One story tells of a young woman, estranged from her husband, who becomes entangled in the master/servant games of a hunchback and his beautiful wife, while in two others, the heroines express their conflicts over being childless by fetishizing little boys. "Snow" is a beautiful account of a woman who gets migraines whenever it snows, the legacy of a childhood trauma, and "Ants Swarm" is the story of a woman who dreads having children, but imagines how she might someday abuse a daughter to her own advantage. Taeko's intimate descriptions of unhappy relationships are not only unexpectedly frank, but often genuinely shocking and always intriguing.

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