Hearn Reviews

Reviews of A Fantastic Journey: The Lifeand Literature of LafcadioHearn

A fascinating and scholarly study of the life and times of Patrick Lafcadio Hearn…the book….is already receiving widespread acclaim…” Evening Press, 14 December 1993

And he [Paul Murray] tells the story of Hearn with enough intelligence, fluidity and perception for it to rise to the challenge of moving beyond fact into metaphor…

This awareness of Hearn’s significance as an interstitial figure, as a man who was never one thing nor the other, makes Murray’s exploration of his life and work an exemplary exercise in judgment.” 

Fintan O’Toole, Catholic Herald, 31 December 1993

Paul Murray…his turned his cultural diplomacy into a fascinating book about an unfairly neglected writer…”

Murray Sayle, The Mail on Sunday, 2 January 1994

This is a definitive work of scholarship on Hearn by an Irish diplomat who has lived in Japan, knows Japanese, and, importantly, has a strong feel for that odd and fascinating genre of nineteenth century writing, Irish-Victorian Gothic, into which he firmly, and rightly, places Hearn…The book serves the dual purpose of setting Patrick Lafcadio Hearn straight in his hitherto tangled context, and of making level assessments of Hearn’s place in the literature of the period. It is the first definitive study which will be the essential starting point of Hearn studies for many years to come.”

Richard Ryan, Irish Independent, 26 February 1994

Paul Murray’s new book sets out to reinterpret Hearn in line with his findings. The result is less myth and more man…who felt “a need to constantly reinvent himself,” and who in the end was able to “articulate his vision of a country whose language he never learned to speak but with whose culture he developed and extraordinary empathy.”…This reinterpretation is valuable…[as is] the very sane evaluation of the Hearn here uncovered…”

Donald Richie, The Japan Times, 25 January 1994.

To its credit, Paul Murray’s biography does not try to ram home pretentious modern lessons from Hearn’s life. Instead, this is a straightforward account of Hearn’s multi-faceted story, by a biographer whose career as an Irish diplomat in New York and Tokyo parallels some of Hearn’s own travels.

It is hard to pick up a biography that shows as much respect for its subject’s character as this one does…

One of Mr Murray’s important themes is that Hearn’s strange life helped make him free from prejudice in explaining Japan, by comparison with the zealous Christian missionaries and European-minded professors writing about the country at the time – and many commentators since….”

William Dawkins, The Financial Times, 15 March 1994

…Murray’s account of the writing is as astute as his account of the life, and he gives as much care to his consideration of the books as he gives to the complicated wranglings between Hearn and his publishers or to the intricacies of his relationship with Japan….

Paul Murray’s excellent biography teaches us what Yone Noguchi meant when he wrote of Hearn in 1910: “We Japanese have been regenerated by his sudden magic…”“

Sean Dunne, The Irish Times, 5 February 1994

Paul Murray tries to redress the imbalance [of portraying Hearn as a one-dimensional neurotic] by revealing a multifaceted character who gave the world some of the most enduring insights into Japan that have ever appeared.”

Geoffrey Murray, Intersect, July 1994.

Paul Murray’s exhaustively researched biography of the Victorian writer Laf­cadio Hearn depicts a curiously con­tradictory man….During these years [1890-1904], Hearn wrote a series of works exploring Japanese culture, particularly its traditional folklore. Murray’s clear, efficient book is an attempt to understand the mind behind these writings, specifically Hearn’s interest in Japan’s traditional, often supernatural tales passed from generation to generation. For Murray, Hearn’s Japanese work is best under­stood in the context of his childhood and early career, which left a distinct impression, affecting his expectations of Japanese life.

…Murray exposes Hearn’s precon­ceptions which lie behind his work about Japanese culture…I can think of no other book which retraces Hearn’s steps in such depth and with such enthusiasm.”

John McLeod, Insight Japan, Vol 3, No 1, June 1994

Murray is at his best when writing of the 14 Japanese years, during which Hearn immersed himself in a wholly alien tradition and eventually become one of the two or three greatest Western interpreters…Murray is no less good in his final chapter, on the events which followed Hearn’s death…Murray has…a striking number of insights…”

Francis King, The Spectator, 1 January 1994

A substantial study of a writer who excited much interest in America and elsewhere earlier in this century.”

Patrick Gallagher, Sunday Independent, 16 January 1994

Paul Murray’s excellently researched biography…is most useful.”

Adrian Kenny, The Sunday Press, 26 December 1993

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