Friday, February 3, 2017

Lou-lan by Yasushi Inoue

Author: Yasushi Inoue
Original title: Rōran
Pages: 254
Edition Language: Russian
Series: no
Format:  Hardback
Genres: Short Stories, Myths, History

About the author:
Inoue Yasushi is considered to be the last of the Japanese masters, heir to the traditions of classical Chinese and Japanese literature. This journalist-turned-novelist writes poetry, historical fiction set in China and old Japan, and novels of modern Japan. His first fiction was published in 1948, and his choice of settings continues to reveal a superb feel for other times, places, and peoples. 

My thoughts:
       Lou-lan is a collection of stories by Inoue Yasushi. I realized that different editions of the book have different stories. Mine has eight. All of them are situated in ancient China. The first, the title story, Lou-lan, traces the history of a remote kingdom in Central Asia known as Lou-lan (or Kroran) in some sources, beginning around 130 years BC. The kingdom is caught between many local conflicts. The expanding Han Empire sees Lou-Ian as a possible stronghold for the western borders and tries to get influence by force and by sending various emissaries and generals to the area intending to expand the empire. At the end caught between two fires Lou-lan temporarily moved to a different location and the graduate desolation of the old city starts. Later in the centuries the city and even the lake disappear and are re-discovered only in early 20th century. Inoue Yasushi tells the story of the city, twisting it with legends and facts mentioned in ancient manuscripts.
     The following 4 stories of the book reveal different tales from Han Empire history entwining Lou-Ian in them. I have discovered what a huge role superstitions, traditions and conventionalities played in regular life and the war. The scene from the second story "Deluge" is a masterpiece: the troops were attacking day and night the affluent river to pacify the demons of the water, so the leader did not need to scarify his woman to the river. Just brilliant!
    Three more stories from the book are based on myths. Particularly, I like the one about the foundation of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). According to the legend the original population of Sri Lanka are descendants of the man who was half human and half tiger. During later centuries the image of a tiger was replaced by a lion, which became the country's emblem.
      The Yasushi’s narration is really enchanting, though not easy. There are a lot of names and dates and footnotes. But I liked the way dry history comes to life with a colorful mythical touch, and random characters introductions whom we can empathize with.

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