display | more...
Of that oceanic swell of texts that constitute the writings of Yashuma Neiboku, I could never pretend to encapsulate them in bibliography or even describe an introduction to such a vast archival monument. His writings were never formally published. They remain to this day in Neiboku's Secret Library--at once a chaos and a standard for classification. Neiboku established a library of his books, which exists even to-day, in an unrecognizable mansion near the center of Keio. In the mansion live Neiboku's descendants. I have never heard or read their names.

I have seen none of the books housed in that library. I have heard recitations of many, which hearing surely represents only a fraction of that vast encyclopedia of Neiboku's chirography. I have heard many descriptions of that mythic architecture, which hearing surely represents only a fraction of that vast creation of paper. Many years ago, over the course of two nights, I had the luxury of entertaining in my home a visitor from a Jewish land. He was a professor in Japanese and Eastern literatures; he shall remain nameless. He was giving a brief lecture at a University in northern Canada, the name of which I shall also except. This professor, whom I considered a friend, was well known in his field. His death was recent and sudden, and a surprise to all of us. I grieve still. I promised to him that I would not speak or write to anyone of what he told me of Neiboku's Secret Library. I also urged upon him that a promise can never outlive two mortal lives. He understood. I can now write of this library with a free conscience.

The Secret Library is not one, but many.

There is, to my knowledge, no complete record of the Library's contents, but only so many folio, quarto, and octavo volumes stacked upon the shelves, which also bear the weight of loose pages. The shelves comprise cabinets. Each cabinet has a different number of shelves. The cabinets are all constructed of a wood resembling stained Cherry. The shelves' subjects are labelled below by neatly-scripted brass engravings. The Library is nearly 100,000 square feet in size, and it occupies every room of the Neiboku mansion, including the basement, the floor of which is muddied earth. Each room, each Library as Neiboku called it, contains books on one subject, or many, but no subject spans two rooms, at least according to Neiboku's conception of the categorization schema that organizes his texts. Most of the Libraries in his Secret Library are on the subject of ghosts, but Neiboku subcategorized his archives to minute detail. Each shelf constitutes his writings on a subject. One gets the idea that he employed the organizational schemata of his Libraries as a means of directing his writings. Each Library is neatly organized, but also chaotic and irresponsible.

Though there are no texts that define or contain the categorization of that archive, the organization of Neiboku's Secret Library is not difficult to decipher. A room in the mansion might be given the name, "Sixth Library on the Fourth Floor" by a sign either above the door, or somewhere inside the room. Each room has a sign, and only one sign. Each sign offers at least two datum: the number of the floor (all are accurate), and the number of the room (singularly-attributed but with no determinable pattern). Some signs also offer supplementary names, such as "Pliny Library", or "Mythology Library". A stranger once showed me a schemata she had developed for organizing Neiboku's many Libraries. It is such: the Sixth Library on the Fourth Floor is described by (6.4). The thirteenth shelf on the fifth cabinet of this same Library is described by ( There are eight floors in the Library, and one hundred and eleven Libraries in toto. The first floor has the most Libraries, containing twenty, the seventh floor has the fewest, containing only four. Each room, or Library, has at least ten cabinets, some upwards of one hundred. Nobody can be sure how many cabinets or shelves there are, altogether. Some conjecture that there may be upwards of two million shelves. Others claim that the shelves are uncountable. There are even some who have spoken to me of the existence of hidden Libraries (i.e., Archival Crypts) within, or behind, the caverns of the Library's Libraries. Some say that these Libraries are apparitions, and that they really exist. The numbering schemata continues thus: the cabinets are numbered beginning at the first north-running cabinet from the southwest corner of the room, and clockwise around the room (all rooms form a perfect square, as does the building itself). The shelves are numbered from top to bottom. In this way, all fools with courage enough to devote themselves to Neiboku study will have a common means of reference. The stranger told me that she dare not attempt to subcategorize the shelves, which would thus number each book. Such a thought would only be evil, she surmised. I agree with her to this day.

The Fifth Library on the Third Floor (5.3) is devoted to Neiboku's haiku on ghosts. Ghosts were, of course, a lifelong obsession for Yashuma Neiboku; he had a ghost for a wife, and a child, and his life was ended by a haunt. The Sixth Library on that floor (6.3) contains Neiboku's analysis of the appearance and function of ghosts in early Chinese literature. At ( are Neiboku's letters on Confucious. They are all, I have been told, devoted to these two passages: "The Master was very sick, and so Tsze-lu asked for leave so that he may pray for him. When the Master asked about this prayer, Tsze-lu replied, 'It may. In the Eulogies it is said that prayer has been made for thee to the spirits of the upper and lower worlds' At this, the Master said, 'My praying has always been and its cessation never shall be' (Analects, part 7); and this other passage "Chi Lu asked about serving the spirits of the dead. The Master said, 'While you are not able to serve men, how can you serve their spirits?' Chi Lu added, 'I venture to ask about death?' He was answered, 'While you do not know life, how can you know about death?' " (Analects, part 11). It is the only shelf in the entire Library on which Confucious is mentioned.

The Mythology Library (2.1) (located in the only kitchen in the mansion, a large room) is devoted to Greek, Roman, and Hindu mythology. Each shelf is devoted to a deity. Each book on each shelf is comprised of hundreds of Neiboku's many millions of letters to his ghosts. Some books are compilations of essays. Others contain only drawings. Each book is profound. There are seventy-two shelves devoted to Greek mythology (2.1,1.1-8.2), seventy-five devoted to Roman mythology (2.1,8.3-15.8), and strangely only sixteen devoted to the Hindus (2.1,15.9-17.4). The final six shelves (2.1,17.5-17.10) in the room are devoted to Siddharta. The First Bathroom Library (1.2) is the home for Neiboku's texts on Japanese history. The entire of the Fourth Floor (1.4-12.4) is devoted to Pliny. The texts in (1.4) treat of his letter to Sura (Book 7, Letter 27) on ghosts, but only part of that letter. In (2.4) are Neiboku's texts on the ghost story of Athenodorus (who summonsed a ghost by writing) relayed by Pliny in that letter. Many of the cabinets in (2.4) are Neiboku's many rewritings of the story of Athenodorus. Some rewritings only alter the script and character in which the text is given (2.4,1.6-2.6), some only vary a single letter (2.4,3.6-5.6), others tell the story from the point of view of the ghost; in one version, it is Athenodorus who is a specter, and the ghost, and her world, that are real. Library (3.4) treats of the remainder of the letter.

I shall end my account with these words, which I received in a letter from the Jewish professor. It arrived at my northern home not long after his visit, which was the first, and the last, time that I saw him:

"What I have read of Neiboku's works is beautiful, and haunting. It remains within my motion, and is deep inside of my still body. His writings are more magnificient than even my soul, they overflow from within, and they spill out into our world. They occupy my mind even when I forget them. As I dream of remote and distant heavens, or earthly ocean paradises, I hear the whispers of Neiboku's prose from my very veins. Even as I discourse with old friends, or lay naked beside my wife, my soul stirs in agitation, its vibrations directed by those divine logogriphs. I fear for my soul. I have always longed for immortality, but shall there be no cessation of these whisperings? I am no longer alive. I am but a vessel for words."

My friend saw the library. He is, I believe, still there, deep inside the chasms of that archive. His soul is lost there. I dare not venture to rescue him, for I too would lose my life in this words. I have, though, dedicated myself to unearthing its secrets, to reading its many histories, to hearing the many stories that strangers will tell when compelled with vodkas, tobaccos, and absinthes. I shall never visit that godless institution, but I yet see it in my dreams. This is, as my friend warned me, already too much. What I repeat here of that secret world is only a repetition of so many recitations that I have teased from the breathings of a secret fraternity that yet remains unbonded.

Yashuma Neiboku was a fascinating figure and his library was an astounding undertaking of such difficulty that I can hardly conceive it, and not only for its conception in design and its implementation of such a magical plan, but also because all of its contents were authored by a single man, whose haunting gave rise to the most fantastic and terrible images in the history of Japanese literature.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.