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Scaaaaaary… Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination

November 3, 2010

Just in time for Halloween, I read Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination by Edogawa Rampo (a pen name that sounds like the Japanese pronunciation of “Edgar Allen Poe – isn’t that cool?). This book was part of my brother’s Japanese Literature class and we just had to read two of the short stories: The Human Chair and The Caterpillar. I liked them each, but they were very different stories:

The Human Chair was creepy rather than actually scary. The main character is a furniture maker who is, how should I say it, incredibly socially inept. While constructing a beautiful chair he realizes that it’s so large that a human could actually fit inside the chair fairly comfortably and live there unbeknownst to others, for some time. So he does just that. He hides himself in the chair and, oddly enough, then begins to feel a creepy social connection to those who sit on the chair. It gets creepier and weirder, but I’ll let them ending be a surprise. Although I will say I thought the final paragraphs were kind of the most bizarre part of the story since I felt like they didn’t really belong.

The Caterpillar wasn’t scary or creepy but rather very sad and lonely. A soldier is severely disabled during a war and is left without arms or legs and without the ability to hear or speak. His one mode of communication is via his eyes. His wife lives in dutiful solitude with him in the guest house of the military leader’s home. We quickly learn, though, that the wife is not as dutiful or adjusted as everyone seems to believe. In the end, I thought this story concluded in the only fashion it really could and didn’t ultimately feel saddened by the outcome. I guess that in itself is something to ponder.

We only have a few more books left on the Japanese Literature syllabus – stay tuned!

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