“The Dream of Akinosuke”

This week’s piece of weird fiction being discussed over at LibraryThing is very strange indeed.

Review: “The Dream of Akinosuke”, Lafcaido Hearn, 1904.

Our story opens with Miyata Akinosuke, a goshi (a farmer-soldier, a freeholder like an English yeoman). One warm summer day he’s beneath an ancient cedar tree in his garden with a couple of his friends. Wine and the heat make him sleepy, and he excuses himself for a nap. He then has a dream. 

A “grand procession” shows up at his house with dignitaries from the Kokuo of Tokyo (in effect, the king). He is asked to travel with it to Tokyo. He is too astonished and embarassed to answer and his will seems “to melt away”.

He accompanies the procession, riding in a carriage (actually a palanquin), to Tokyo. He arrives in a surprisingly short time at an immense palace and is treated with great honor. He is told he is to be given the honor of an audience with Kokuo and dressed in regal garb. 

The king tells Akinosuke that he wants him to be the “adopted husband of Our only daughter”, and the wedding is to be performed immediately. The marriage goes off. The king’s daughter is as beautiful as “a maiden of heaven”. 

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“The Mummy’s Foot”

This week’s bit of weird fiction being discussed over at LibraryThing.

Review: “The Mummy’s Foot”, Théophile Gautier, trans. Lafcaido Hearn, 1908, 1840. 

This is a light, frothy bit of fiction.

A great deal of it is taken up with the narrator’s description of a Parisian antique shop where he comes across what he first takes to be the beautiful foot left over from some statue. He wants something cheap to use as a paperweight. He’s told that the foot is not from a statute. It’s the mummified foot of Princess Hermonthis. 

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Kaiki: Uncanny Tales from Japan: Vol. 1: Tales of Old Edo

My desultory ways are catching up with me, and the supply of retro reviews is getting sparse.

However, while I’m off writing up new stuff, here’s a retro review from November 4, 2013.

By the way, I reviewed a collection of Miyabe Miyuki’s fiction over at Innsmouth Free Press.

Review: Kaiki: Uncanny Tales from Japan: Vol. 1: Tales of Old Edo, ed. Masao Higashi, 2009.kaiki

With haunted houses and haunted fishing poles, sinister monks and a battle of wills with a ghost, samurais and serving girls, these nine stories and one short manga are not always horrific, often enigmatic, and always a delight. Add a Lafcaido Hearn essay on “The Value of the Supernatural in Fiction” and a very useful introduction on the permutations, tradition, and history of Japanese weird fiction, and this is a definite must read for those interested in the supernatural tale of Japan or even just non-Anglophone weird fiction.

The tales all have some connection with Edo – though many stories are not set there – and range in age from 1776 to 2005. Some are retellings of classic Japanese ghost stories, some are influenced by European and American horror stories, and some are entirely original.

In a Cup of Tea“, Lafcaido Hearn – Hearn’s retelling of the Japanese tale “A Young Man’s Face Appears in a Cup at a Tea Shop”. Masao notes Hearn brought out the “tale’s fantastic and nonsensical nature by editing out the last parts”. Continue reading