Saturday, 17 June 2017

Four Rampos.

We return here to our old pal Edogawa Rampo, with four random entries from a long series of paperbacks collecting his stories, issued by Kadakawa Books during the 1970s. The superb cover illustrations are provided by paper-cut artist Masayuki Miyata (1926–1997), a framed example of whose work we previously saw displayed at Rampo’s house [see link above].

Each of these volumes contains several tales, but the names / title stories, in the order they are displayed above, are:

1. Kumo-Otoko (The Spider Man) (1974)
2. Panorama-to Kidan (The Strange Tale of Panorama Island) (1974)
3. Kage-Otoko (Man of Shadows) (1973)
4. Sankaku-kan no Kyohu (Fear of the Triangular House?) (1974)

The fifth image is a generic series illustration, repeated on the back cover of all four volumes. In common with many Japanese paperbacks, the artwork is printed on detachable, hardback-style dust jackets -- which is pretty cool.

Though I have been banging on about him occasionally on the blog for quite a while, it is only in the past year or so that I have actually made the effort to begin tracking down and reading Rampo’s stories in English translation, and, even more-so than I might have expected, they are absolutely extraordinary.

Though capsule biographies of Rampo often tend to paint him as a devotee of Western-style mystery and detective stories, the way in which he spikes the conventions of coldly logical, whodunit detection with the irrational perversity of human desire feels uniquely transgressive, unlocking fearful vistas of ambiguity and apprehension that place him within an aesthetic world that is entirely his own; a world that I feel is brilliantly captured by Miyata’s artwork.

I picked these books up for peanuts in Nakano Broadway, and now just wish that I could read them.


JRSM said...

These covers are amazing! Did you read the story about the man who has himself built into a chair?

Ben said...

Thanks for your comment JRSM.

Yes - 'The Human Chair' - a fantastic story. Such a simple idea, and yet... so packed with elegantly delineated thematic baggage.