The book “Ghost Stories from Japan” brings together ten stories collected by Patrick Lafcádio Hearn (1850-1904), with illustrations by Benjamin Lacombe, and reveals the fantastic that “deeply permeates Japanese life”, writes the organizer of the anthology.
“The fantastic deeply permeates Japanese life, the supernatural from which it emanates is nothing more than one of the surprises that nature has in store for man”, writes, in the preface, Patrick Lafcádio Hearn, born Greek on the island of Lefkas, but naturalized Japanese in the 1890s, when he settled in the country, adopting the name Koizumi Yakumo. The naturalization of Lafcádio Hearn demonstrates his admiration for Japanese culture and customs. His second marriage was to a Japanese woman, daughter of a samurai.
Having left for the empire of the rising sun as a journalist correspondent for a North American newspaper, he soon became interested in the country’s culture, having collected and fixed on paper the ghost stories of Japanese folklore, ten of them published in this book, with translation, the from French, by João Cardoso, with the approval of Editorial Presença.
Patrick Lafcádio Hearn had already shown an interest in the traditions of the territories where he worked. A year before setting sail for Japan, he was a correspondent for the North American magazine Harper’s Monthly, on the island of Martinique, and transcribed the tales of the Caribbean island’s Creole oral tradition.
In the preface to “Ghost Stories of Japan”, Lafcádio Hearn attests that “the fantastic was always present” in Japan. “The fantastic is too associated with the Japanese for them to be bothered by the mysterious and insidious ceremony designed to intimidate Westerners and to condition too Cartesian imaginations”.
Marking the difference between Western and Far Eastern thought, Lafcádio Hearn talks about how death is viewed. “Death itself stripped itself of the sinister and frightening trappings that characterize it in the West and became an intermediary accepted by all of us with the ability to willingly open the doors to the beyond, both on one side and on the other.” .
In addition to the ten selected stories, including “A Midsummer Day’s Dream” and “The Ghost Without a Face”, the book includes explanatory notes for a better conceptual understanding.
One of the examples is the explanation that “ikiryõ” means: “literally, ‘living spirit’ that is, the ghost of a still living person”, which “can separate from the body under the influence of hatred; [algo que] haunts and torments the hated person.”
The work also includes games with “Yõkai”, a tradition that dates back to the end of the Edo period (1603–1868), and biographies of Lafcádio Hearn and illustrator Benjamin Lacombe, born in Paris in 1982.
Lacombe enrolled at the National School of Decorative Arts in Paris in 2001. Parallel to his studies, he worked in advertising and animation. She made her debut in publishing at the age of 19, when she wrote her first comic book and illustrated several books. Her final course project, “Cerise Griotte”, which she wrote and illustrated entirely, is her first book for young people, published by Éditions du Seuil in March 2006, and published the following year in the United States.
Benjamin Lacombe has already written and illustrated around twenty books, such as “Les Amants Papillons”, “Généalogie d’une Sorcière” and “Les Contes Macabres”. The artist regularly exhibits his work in Paris, New York, Rome, Los Angeles and Tokyo, among other cities.
The list of ten short stories selected for this Portuguese edition also includes “The Boy Who Drawn Cats”, “The Dream Eater”, “The Porcelain Shop Haunted by Hatred”, “On the Mountain of Human Skulls”, “Yuji-Onna, the Snow Woman”, “The Decapitated Ghost”, “The Message of the Fly” and “The Legend of the Koto Players’ Village”, which refers to a musical instrument composed of a resonance box with several plucked strings.