"Anyone who is even vaguely interested in Japanese literature should definitely read this book."

The Modern Novel reviews The Book of the Dead.

The Book of the Dead (Orikuchi Shinobu)The ghost story is a key element of Japanese literature. We can find ghosts in the Tale of Genji and Konjaku Monogatari (Tales of Times Now Past). They are to be found in Ueda Akinari‘s Ugetsu Monogatari, made into a famous film by the great Kenji Mizoguchi. They are still found in modern Japanese literature and, in particular, in manga and anime, as well as in Japanese cinema and drama. On this website, we have Chiya Fujino’s ルート225 [Route 225]Fumiko Enchi’s Masks and Murakami’s 世界の終りとハードボイルド・ワンダーランド (Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World), though modern writers such as Kobo Abe, Natsume Soseki, Yasunari Kawabata and Kenji Nakagami have all written what we would call ghost stories.

This novel was first published in serial form in 1939 and only issued in book form in 1943. This is in itself surprising, given the date, but particularly surprising as, at least for those familiar with ancient Japanese history, it could be seen as critical of the royal family, something which was not accepted in 1943. Orikuchi was an authority on early Japanese history, literature and religion and this can be seen very much in this novel.

Read the full review.

Published in: The Modern Novel
By: John Alvey