Hearn, Lafcadio

Hearn, Lafcadio lăfkäˈdēō hûrn [key], 1850–1904, American-Japanese author, b. Lefkás, Ionian Islands, of Irish-Greek parentage. After a difficult childhood, he was educated in Ireland, England, and France before immigrating to the United States in 1869. Handicapped by partial blindness, Hearn was a colorful, imaginative, but morbidly discontented man, who was most admired for his sensitive use of language in writing about the macabre and in creating strange exotic moods. Hearn first attracted attention with the originality and highly polished style of his lurid local stories for the Cincinnati Enquirer and later for “Fantastics,” a series of weird sketches that appeared in a New Orleans paper. His first published book was One of Cleopatra's Nights (1882), a translation of six Gautier stories. In 1890 he went to Japan to write a series of articles for an American publisher. There he spent the rest of his life, writing what is considered his best work. He married a Japanese woman, taught in Japanese universities, and became a Japanese citizen in 1895, taking the name Yakumo Koizumi. Of his 14 books written during this period, Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan (1894), Kokoro (1896), Japanese Fairy Tales (1902), and Japan: An Attempt at Interpretation (1904) are most memorable. In all, he wrote 29 books, among them travel books, cookbooks, novels, ghost stories, folktales, and proverb dictionaries.

See E. Bisland, ed., The Life and Letters of Lafcadio Hearn (2 vol., 1906, repr. 2001) and The Japanese Letters of Lafcadio Hearn (1910, repr. 2015); biography by E. Stevenson (1961).

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