Hell Screen has ratings and 63 reviews. Paquita Maria said: Somebody turn the lights on, please. My brain is a dark and dreary place after reading th. A review, and links to other information about and reviews of Hell Screen by Akutagawa Ryunosuke. HELL SCREEN. BY RYUNOSUKE AKUTAGAWA 1. I am certain there has never been anyone lie o!r “reat #or$ o% &oria’a(an$ I $o!bt there ever ‘ill be another).
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I am certain there has never been anyone like our great Lord of Horikawa, and I doubt there ever will be another. In any case, His Lordship seemed to have innate qualities that distinguished him from ordinary human beings. And because of this, his accomplishments never ceased to amaze us. You need only glance at his mansion in the Capital’s Horikawa district to sense the boldness of its conception. Its — how shall I put it? Some have questioned the wisdom of His Lordship’s undertaking such a project, comparing him to China’s First Emperor, whose subjects were forced to build the Great Wall, or to the Sui emperor Yang, who made his people erect lofty palaces; but such critics might be likened to the proverbial blind men who described the elephant according only to the parts they could feel.
It was never His Lordship’s intention to seek splendor and glory for himself alone. He was always a man of great magnanimity who shared his joys with the wider world, so to speak, and kept in mind even the lowliest of his subjects.
Surely this is why he was left unscathed by his encounter with that midnight procession of goblins so often seen at the lonely intersection of Nijo-Omiya in the Capital; it is also why, when rumor had it that the ghost of Toru, Minister of the Left, was appearing night after night at the site of his ruined mansion by the river at Higashi-Sanjo you must know it: In the face of such resplendent majesty, no wonder all residents of the Capital — old and young, men and women — revered His Lordship as a reincarnation of the Buddha.
One time, it is said, His Lordship was returning from a plum-blossom banquet at the Palace when the ox pulling his carriage got loose and injured an old man who happened to be passing by. The old fellow knelt and clasped his hands in prayerful thanks for having been caught on the horns of His Lordship’s own ox! So many, many stories about His Lordship have been handed down.
His Imperial Majesty himself once presented His Lordship with thirty pure white horses on the occasion of a New Year’s banquet. Another time, when construction of the Nagara Bridge seemed to be running counter to the will of the local deity, His Lordship offered up a favorite boy attendant as a human sacrifice to be buried at the foot of a pillar. And then there was the time when, to have a growth cut from his thigh, he summoned the Chinese monk who had brought the art of surgery to our country.
Oh, there’s no end to the tales! For sheer horror, though, none of them measures up to the story of the screen depicting scenes of hell which is now a prized family heirloom.
Even His Lordship, normally so imperturbable, was horrified by what happened, and those of us who waited upon him — well, it goes without saying that we were shocked out of our minds. I myself had served as one of His Lordship’s men for a full twenty years, but what I witnessed then was more terrible than anything I had ever — or have ever — experienced. In order to tell you the story of the hell screen, however, I must first tell you about the painter who created it.
His name was Yoshihide. He dressed normally enough for his appearances at His Lordship’s mansion — in a reddish-brown, broad-sleeved silk robe and a tall black hat with a soft bend to the right — but as a person he was anything but normal. You could see he had a mean streak, and his lips, unnaturally red for such an old man, gave a disturbing, bestial impression. Some people said the redness came from his moistening his paint brush with his lips, but I wonder about that.
Ah, that nickname reminds me of an episode. Yoshihide had a daughter, his only child — a sweet, lovely girl utterly unlike her father.
She had been taken into the Horikawa mansion as a junior lady-in-waiting for His Lordship’s own daughter, the Young Mistress. Oh, if only they had been satisfied just to laugh! The animal was running with a limp and seemed unable to climb a post as it often did when frightened.
Then who should appear chasing after it but the Young Master, brandishing a switch and shouting, ‘Come back here, you tangerine thief! This must have aroused her compassion, for, still holding the plum branch in one hand, she swept the monkey up in the soft folds of her lavender sleeve. Then, giving a little bow to the Young Master, she said with cool clarity, ‘Forgive me for interfering, my young lord, but he is just an animal.
Temper still up from the chase, the Young Master scowled and stamped his foot several times.
# LITERATURE /// The Faustian Pact of the Artist: Hell Screen by Ryunosuku Akutagawa
After this incident, Yoshihide’s daughter and the little monkey grew close. The girl had a golden bell that her young mistress had given her, which she hung from the monkey’s neck on a pretty crimson cord. And he, for his part, would almost never leave her side. Once, when she was in bed with a cold, the monkey spent hours by her pillow, biting its nails, and I swear it had a worried look on its face. Then, strangely enough, people stopped teasing the monkey.
In fact, they began treating it with special kindness, until even the Young Master would occasionally throw it a persimmon or a chestnut, and I heard he once flew into a rage when one of the samurai kicked the animal.
Soon after that, His Lordship himself ordered the girl to appear before him with the monkey in her arms — all because, in hearing about the Young Master’s tantrum, I am told, he naturally also heard about how the girl had come to care for the monkey.
They tell me that his Lordship was especially pleased when the monkey, imitating the girl’s expression of gratitude, bowed low before him, holding the robe aloft. And so His Lordship’s partiality for the girl was born entirely from his wish to commend her filial devotion to her father and not, as rumor had it, from any physical attraction he might have felt for her.
Not that such suspicions were entirely groundless, but there will be time for me to tell you about that later. For now, suffice it to say that His Lordship was not the sort of person to lavish his affections on the daughter of a mere painter, however beautiful she might be.
Well, then, having been singled out for praise this way, Yoshihideis daughter withdrew from His Lordship’s presence, but she knew how to avoid provoking the envy of the household’s other, less modest, ladies-inwaiting. Indeed, people grew fonder than ever of her and the monkey, and the Young Mistress almost never let them leave her side, even bringing them with her in her ox-drawn carriage when she went to observe shrine rituals and the like.
But enough about the girl for now. Let me continue with my story of her father, Yoshihide. And not only in the Horikawa mansion. Even such an eminent Buddhist prelate as the Abbot of Yokawa hated Yoshihide so much that the very mention of his name was enough to make him turn purple as if he had seen a devil.
Some said this was because Yoshihide had drawn a caricature ridiculing certain aspects of the Abbot’s behavior, but this was merely a rumor that circulated among the lower classes and as such can hardly be credited. In any case, Yoshihide’s reputation was so bad that anyone you asked would have told you the same thing. If there were those who spoke kindly of Yoshihide, they were either a handful of the brotherhood of painters or else people who knew his work but not the man himself.
His appearance was not the only thing that people hated about Yoshihide. In fact, he had many evil traits that repelled them even more, and for which he had only himself to blame. For one thing, Yoshihide was a terrible miser; he was harsh in his dealings with people; he had no shame; he was lazy and greedy. But worst of all, he was insolent and arrogant.
He never let you forget that he was ‘the greatest painter in the land. He could not be satisfied till he displayed his contempt for every custom and convention that ordinary people practiced. A man who was his apprentice for many years once told me this story: Yoshihide was present one day in the mansion of a certain gentleman when the celebrated Shamaness of the Cypress Enclosure was there, undergoing spirit possession.
The woman delivered a horrifying message from the spirit, but Yoshihide was unimpressed. He took up a handy ink brush and did a detailed sketch of her wild expression as if he viewed spirit possession as mere trickery.
No wonder, then, that such a man would commit acts of sacrilege in his work: If you tried to warn him that he was flirting with danger, he would respond with feigned innocence. I myself knew several of them who, fearing for their own punishment in the afterlife, wasted no time in leaving akutgaawa employ.
The man’s arrogance simply knew no bounds.
The Weird – The Hell Screen – Ryunosuke Akutagawa
He was convinced that he was the greatest human being under heaven. It scredn without saying that Yoshihide lorded it over the other painters of his time. True, his brushwork and colors were utterly different from theirs, and so the many painters with whom he was on bad terms tended to speak of him as a charlatan. Take his Five Levels of Rebirth on the Screne temple gate, for example. Every single woman he painted fell ill and died within three years.
It was as if he had snatched their very souls from them. But Yoshihide was so perverse, as I’ve said, that remarks like this only filled him with pride. When His Lordship joked to him one time, ‘For you, it seems, the uglier the better,’ old Yoshihide’s far-too-red lips spread in helo eerie grin and he replied imperiously, ‘Yes, My Lord, it’s true.
Hell Screen by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa
Other painters are such mediocrities, they cannot appreciate the beauty of ugliness. No wonder his apprentices called him Chira Eiju behind his back! Chira Eiju, the long-nosed goblin who crossed over from China long ago to spread the sin of arrogance. But still, even Yoshihide, in all his incredible perversity — yes, even Yoshihide displayed human tenderness when it came to one thing.
By this I mean that Yoshihide was truly mad about his only daughter, the young lady-in-waiting. The girl was, as I said before, a wonderfully kind-hearted young creature deeply devoted to her father, and his love for her was no less strong than hers for him.
I gather that scren provided for her every need — every robe, every hair ornament — without the slightest objection. Don’t you find this incredible for a man who had never made a single contribution to a temple? Yoshihide’s love for his daughter, however, remained just that: It never occurred to him that he should be trying to find her a good husband someday.
So even when His Lordship honored her with the position of junior lady-in-waiting in his own household, Yoshihide was far from happy about it, and for a while he always wore a sour expression whenever he was in His Lordship’s presence.
I have no doubt that people who witnessed this display were the ones who began speculating that His Lordship had been attracted to the girl’s beauty when he ordered her into service despite her father’s objections. Such rumors were entirely false, of course. It was nothing but Yoshihide’s obsessive love for his daughter that kept him wishing to have her step down from service, that is certain.
I remember the time His Lordship ordered Yoshihide to do a painting of Monju as a child, and Yoshihide pleased him greatly with a marvelous work that used one of His Lordship’s own boy favorites as a model.
Hell Screen, by Ryunosuke Akutagawa | Blogging for a Good Book
Yoshihide should have been awestruck to hear such praise from His Lordship’s own lips, and he did in fact prostrate himself in thanks before him, but can you imagine what he asked?
This was no ordinary household, after all. No matter how much he loved his daughter, to beg for her release from service in privileged proximity to the great Lord of Horikawa himself — where in the world does one find such audacity?
Not even a man as grandly magnanimous as His Lordship could screeen feeling some small annoyance at such a request, as was evident from the way he stared at Yoshihide for a while in silence.
This was not the first nor the last such incident: I think there might have been four or five in all. And with each repetition, it seemed to me, His Lordship gazed on Yoshihide with increasing uell. The girl, for her part, seemed to fear for her father’s welfare.