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A sentence towards the end of the book says it all:
"I become aware of striving and a fluttering in the abyssal part of my ghost - a sensation as of memories struggling to reach the light beyond the obscuration of a million and million deaths and births."
This is what you will get to feel from reading through this one. If I hadn't read it already, I'd take it on a longer flight, start with the 'Horai' story, as soon as I get clouds thicker beneath my feet.
All in all,
This is the perfectly strange book! Terrifically uncommon. And not just because the first two thirds of it is made up of well-chosen ghost stories. Taken from among Japanese folk tales, these are the kind that make you look twice towards the darker corners. A more impressionable soul might reach for the light switch too...
But this isn't all. The author provides a couple of personal essays putting his disappointment with the human race in finely wrought detail - not unlike the Japanese writings he so admired.
" - each tree and stone has been shaped by some old, old ideal which no longer exists in any living brain"
Including the author's, certainly. But his imaginary past seems well worth a visit, ghosts and all. It isn't difficult to imagine these pages staying hidden, perhaps often tinkered with, in their maker's drawer until, finally, they became pt of this memoir of thought. Decrying the westernization of Japan during the Meiji era - when this book was made - the sentiment is very much in tune with our times as well.