Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Getting this one out before the end of the day... I wanted to take a second to note that today marks the birthday of one of my absolute favorite authors, Edogawa Rampo. Dude is well-known and beloved in Japan as the godfather of mystery and detective fiction.

114 years ago today, he was born Hirai Taro in Mie Prefecture. As a young author, he turned his love of the macabre master (and America's favorite anti-transcendentalist) Edgar Allan Poe into his nom de plume, Edogawa Rampo. Hint: say it 5 times fast, let the syllables blur together and the verbal connection should become clear.

Rampo has long been one of my favorite authors, and even if you haven't read the translated stories collected in Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination or The Beast in the Shadows (And if so... what is wrong with you, lazypants?), most everyone reading this blog has surely felt the influence of his works via some of their favorite manga, film and fiction from Japan...

(Amazing flyer for a museum exhibiting celebrating Rampo's influence)

+ Do you like the kid detective manga, Conan? (His full name: Conan Edogawa!)
+ Do you like the nihilistic realism of contemporary detective fiction writers like Natsuo Kirino or Miyuki Miyabe?
+ Did you see the film Gemini by Shinya Tsukamoto? (Based on one of the short stories in JTOM&I)
+ Are you a Mishima nerd who checked out his cameo in the psychadelic, psycho-sexual film version of Rampo's Black Lizard?
+ Did you see the art horror film Rampo Noir (Adapting four of his short stories) or the fictional and fantastic biography film Rampo?

and most recently...

Remember the newest Suehiro Maruo manga, a sprawling and faithful adaptation of Rampo's The Strange Tale of Panorama Island?

(Homey's grave, with his given name Hirai Taro on the headstone.)

Rampo passed away on July 28, 1965, but his works are continually reprinted and collected in Japan. On a personal note, my first translation of a Japanese work was during my senior year of college, and the story I translated was his short mystery, "The Death of a Sleepwalker". My translation was not very deft or well-done, but I spend many weeks reading and living with Rampo's original texts and came to really love the dude and appreciate his gentle wit and writing craft.

Ending this on a high note... For English readers, the rad indie press Kurodahan is putting a brand new collection of translated short stories and critical essays, The Edogawa Rampo Reader, in 2009!

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