|About the Book|
Edogowa Rampo--just say his pen name quickly three times to discover how much he loved Edgar Allen Poe--is considered the first and foremost writer of Japanese mystery fiction. He is also much more.His stories, structured as popular entertainments, are designed to convey all the pleasures of genre, and yet they possess an elegance and intellectual complexity greater than mere popular works. In this Rampo resembles Borges, and yet the two writers are very different. Borges is more philosophical, Rampo more psychological- Borges teems with puzzle and paradox, Rampo with obsession and ratiocination, and yet each celebrates mans inventiveness while still being woefully aware of his limitations. Indeed, I think Rampos stories may be equal to Borges--which is a high compliment indeed--but I cannot be sure, for this translation often lacks the verbal elegance that would best communicate the formal beauty of these tales and give them the extra polish a first class work requires.All the nine tales here are very good, and The Caterpillar, The Hell of Mirrors, The Red Chamber and The Traveler with the Pasted Rag Picture are excellent, but I must single out The Human Chair for special mention. It is one of the most memorable pieces of short fiction I have ever read, containing an extraordinary first-person monologue which is pathetic, disgusting and horrifying at the same time. Read it if you read nothing else of Rampos. But I bet you wont stop there.