By Lafcadio Hearn

Printed: 1927

Publisher: Jonathan Cape. London

Edition: The Traveller's Library

Dimensions 13 × 18 × 2 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 13 x 18 x 2

Condition: Very good  (See explanation of ratings)

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Item information


Navy cloth binding with gilt title on the spine.

  • F.B.A. provides an in-depth photographic presentation of this item to stimulate your feeling and touch. More traditional book descriptions are immediately available.

A rare copy in near pristine condition.

This Japanese supernatural story is a classic work in the field of Japanese horror.

Known primarily as an early interpreter of Japanese culture and customs, the famous writer Lafcadio Hearn also wrote ghost stories―”delicate, transparent, ghostly sketches”―about his adopted land. Many of the stories found in Kwaidan, “stories and studies of strange things,” are based on Japanese tales told long ago to him by his wife; others possibly have a Chinese origin. All have been re-colored and reshaped by Hearn’s inimitable hand.

Some critics attribute Hearn’s fascination with eerie tales to his partial blindness. Whatever its roots, he was drawn to the hidden realms of the spirit world with its strange facts and marvels. In this collection of unforgettably haunting stories, Hearn brings together “the meeting of three ways”―the austere dreams of India, the subtle beauty of Japan and the relentless science of the Western world.

Review: Half-Irish, half Greek, Lafcadio Hearn lived as an adult in Japan and helped to ‘translate’ its 19th Century culture for the West. First published in 1904, Kwaidan is a collection of 17 ‘supernatural’ stories (some no more than four pages long). Most of these are drawn from Japanese folklore. Several feature buddhist priests who outsmart evil spirits that are typically characterised by their deceptive appearance. The persistence of love through reincarnation and an emphasis on psychology and morality rather than fear or shock is the keynote. Hearn’s limpid writing style gives all these stories currency and (although hugely less ambitious) Kwaidan hints at the cultural permanence of Grimm’s fairy tales. It is a pleasant 120-minute read although Hearn (like the Bros. Grimm) is writing for an audience unknown to the original folklorists and the result is as much artifice as artefact. Kwaidan lacks the more modern authorial standards of, say, Calvino’s ‘Italian Folk Tales’. The book also includes desultory essays on butterflies and ants whose speculative insights have long faded into charm – none of which is a wholly bad thing, of course.


Koizumi Yakumo (27 June 1850 – 26 September 1904), born Patrick Lafcadio Hearn was an Irish-Greek-Japanese writer, translator, and teacher who introduced the culture and literature of Japan to the West. His writings offered unprecedented insight into Japanese culture, especially his collections of legends and ghost stories, such as Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things. Before moving to Japan and becoming a Japanese citizen, he worked as a journalist in the United States, primarily in Cincinnati and New Orleans. His writings about New Orleans, based on his decade-long stay there, are also well-known.

Hearn was born on the Greek island of Lefkada, after which a complex series of conflicts and events led to his being moved to Dublin, where he was abandoned first by his mother, then his father, and finally by his father’s aunt (who had been appointed his official guardian). At the age of 19, he emigrated to the United States, where he found work as a newspaper reporter, first in Cincinnati and later in New Orleans. From there, he was sent as a correspondent to the French West Indies, where he stayed for two years, and then to Japan, where he would remain for the rest of his life.

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