Blue Bamboo: Japanese Tales of Fantasy
Author: Osamu Dazai, Ralph F. McCarthy
Release Date: January 16, 2001
Blue Bamboo is a collection of seven short stories by one of Japan's preeminent postwar writers and prose stylists, Osamu Dazai. Not the typical romantic fantasies so often seen in Japanese writing, filled with water sprites and vengeful ghosts, these stories are a mixture of fantastic allegory, slightly skewed fables, and affecting romantic tales. Revealing the wide range of Dazai's imaginative powers, they also give a glimpse of his humane and idealistic side.
From the title story, about an impoverished, henpecked scholar who is transformed by the love of a voluptuous bird, to "The Chrysanthemum Spirit," about a passionate gardener who meets a brother and sister with extraordinary powers, Dazai creates a world of fantasy and romance that is infused with his own psychological concerns. Many readers may recall the poignancy of Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince or Han Christian Andersen.
The collection is capped by two delightful stories-within-a-story, in which the assorted members of a quirky family compose alternate episodes of a slightly gothic romance with hints of Poe and Saki (in "On Love and Beauty") and a wildly elaborate retelling of Rapunzel that is engaging, horrifying, and touching by turns (in "Lanterns of Romance").
All in all, these warm, inventive, and life-affirming stories will strike a deep, satisfying chord in many readers.