LONDON – The manuscript of an unpublished critical biography of Lafcadio Hearn, who was influential in shaping Western views on Japan through his writings, has been found in a secondhand book market in London.
June 27 will be the 150th anniversary of the birth of Hearn, who died in Japan in 1904. Commemorative events will be held mainly in the city of Kumamoto, where Hearn lived, and at the University of Tokyo, where he taught English literature until 1903.
The handwritten manuscript, penned by a Portuguese journalist in the 1950s, was purchased by Sammy Tsunematsu, curator of the Soseki Museum in London.
The author, Cesar dos Santos (1907-1974), became interested in Hearn because of research by another Portuguese who also lived in Japan.
The 191-page draft details Hearn’s life, mainly his personal background and experiences in Japan. Although it praises his “poetic imagination,” it also calls him “a tragic person who failed to be an Asian through and through.”
Takiko Okamura, a professor at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, said she found the content “quite heavy” for a book intended for Portuguese readers, but “One can detect how the writer had deeply immersed himself into the research.”
Born in Greece, Hearn took the Japanese name Yakumo Koizumi when he became a Japanese citizen after marrying the daughter of a samurai.
Hearn’s works on Japan include “Exotics and Retrospective” (1898), “In Ghostly Japan” (1899), “Shadowings” (1900), “A Japanese Miscellany” (1901), and “Kwaidan” (1904).