The House of Sleeping Beauties
(Included in the volume FOB AND THE HOUSE OF SLEEPING BEAUTIES)
THE STORY: A well-known novelist, Kawabata, visits a brothel in order to learn why older men frequent it. However this establishment is quite different from what he expected. Here the men simply sleep in the same bed with the beautiful young women provided, and the women never awaken or see them. The madam who runs the home carefully screens all of her potential guests and only accepts men who she deems worthy. Kawabata intends to write about the house, but slowly falls under its spell and finds himself unable to write the piece. He is troubled by thoughts of his own mortality and the suicide of his friend, the author Mishima. But the madam soothes him and with the aid of a mild sleeping potion, Kawabata finally sleeps. In the end he is able to write the story and has achieved an inner peace. With his newfound tranquillity, he asks the madam to make him some tea, but instead of the sleeping powder, he wants her to add a poison to it. Both the novelist and the madam drink the tea and slowly drift off to sleep.
Based on a short story by the famed Japanese novelist Yasunari Kawabata. Set in a very different kind of brothel, this brilliant fantasy is both touching and revealing as it probes gently, but ever deeper, into the needs and emotions of its characters.