Hell Screen.

Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Author, Will Petersen, Translator, Cid Corman, Translator Eridanos Press $21 (145p) ISBN 978-0-941419-02-4
In the first of three nightmarishly disquieting tales by the Japanese fictionist Akutagawa (1892-1927),known in this country not for his grotesque, exotic stories but for the celebrated movie Rashomon, based on his tale of that namean old master painter, reputed to be the greatest in all Japan, is commanded by his feudal lord to paint Hell itself. Art is of consuming importance to him; and in order to paint it truly he must endure the anguish of witnessing the flames that incinerate his adored daughter and will kill him. By analogy, the story can serve as Akutagawa's autobiography, and, indeed, the other two tales refer directly to the doomed author's life. Both come out of desperate circumstances; both reveal the growing, enveloping madness that plagued him when he came to regard ""everything as a lie'' and the world as unremittingly evil and dangerous. As he writes in the dark, menacing ``Cogwheels,'' life became ``more hellish than hell itself.'' Art alone remained for this delusional, death-haunted, drug-ridden writer, whose only remaining reason for existence was, he wrote, the ``life that flowed from my pen.'' And then, even art was not sufficient. Very deliberately he planned his suicide, wrote about the impending event and took an overdose of drugs. This volume marks the launch of The Eridanos Library, to be devoted to publishing 20th century books regarded as classics abroad but largely unknown here. Unhappily, the translations here do not always do justice to these works. (March)
Reviewed on: 12/01/1988
Release date: 12/01/1988
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