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Both influential and deeply mysterious, “The Book of the Dead” (“Shisha no Sho,” 1943) is the most famous work of fiction by Shinobu Orikuchi (1887-1953), a pioneer of folklore studies in Japan and renowned poet. Orikuchi was fascinated with the origins of Japanese religion and the connections between spirit possession and the role of an emperor as a mediator between the gods and the Japanese people.

Inspired by the Egyptian myths of Osiris and Isis, “The Book of the Dead” is a short but complex web of interconnected narratives set in eighth-century Japan. The literary equivalent of a shining mandala, it transcends modern concepts of the novel and attempts to capture the mood and religious mindsets of the early Japanese nation.

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