Edogowa Rampo’s “The Precipice” wins classic reprint status in Noir Nation No. 2

In every issue of Noir Nation we hold a special place for works of classic noir. In Noir Nation No. 1, we published a poem by Bonnie Parker, of the infamous Bonnie & Clyde crime team killed in an ambush by a posse in 1934. (We are putting the finishing touches on the reissue of No. 1 and it will soon be available for download. The image above will appear among the licensed illustrations that will serve as story dividers.)

This year’s classic reprint will be “The Precipice” by Edogawa Rampo, considered by many the father of Japanese crime fiction. We think there should be greater global awareness of Rampo’s imaginative genius and are grateful to his family for granting us permission to publish an original translation of the story.

It occurred to us while editing the images for No. 1, that this particular image of the geisha on the precipice would be an appropriate illustration for an excerpt of “The Precipice.” And so here they are together, for the first time in history…

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The Precipice

Edogawa Rampo
(Translated by Eddie Vega)

IT IS SPRING. Atop a precipice about a kilometer from K—, two persons sit on a rock. From the bottom of the valley below echoes the faint murmur of a river. The Man is 25 years old. The Woman is older. Having just exited the thermal pools of the hotel where they are staying, both wear padded kimonos.

Woman: Is it not strange that after all this time we have not spoken about those incidents that haunt our memories? At times I think I shall choke on them if we don’t. Given how free we are today, perhaps we can talk about them a little? You wouldn’t mind, would you, Darling?

Man: Of course not, Darling. But you go first.

Woman: Good. Let’s see… I shall start from the beginning. It was night and I was in bed next to Saito. He was crying as always with his face touching mine, and his tears ran unceasingly into my mouth…

Man: Don’t go into detail! Spare me the intimacies between you and your first husband.

Woman: But it’s an important part of the story because that is how I first learned of his plans. Nevertheless, for your sake, I will skip the details. So it was after tasting the saltiness of his tears that I figured something strange was occurring. That night he was crying more intensely than usual — from some secret cause I surmised. Frightened, I pulled away to better gaze at his eyes bathed in tears.

Man: It must have turned your blood to ice… to see that the happiness of matrimony could be transformed so easily into fear. I remember, from what you had told me, that you perceived a deep shame in his eyes when he returned your gaze.

Woman: Yes, his eyes communicated with keen eloquence the pain he felt for me. I believe the most intimate secrets of a man can be seen in his eyes. And on that occasion, I had no doubt, Saito’s eyes communicated so clearly that I knew his thoughts.

Man: That he was planning to kill you?

Woman: Yes, of course, but it was all a kind of game for him. As you know, he was a sadist, and I the exact opposite. That was the real reason why we both desired to play that game. It’s undeniable that we loved each other, but it was not enough, and we felt an irresistible urge to seek greater excitement behind closed doors.

 […Continued in Noir Nation No. 2…]

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