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The Essential Akutagawa: Rashomon, Hell Screen, Cogwheels, a Fool's Life and Other Short Fiction

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Akutagawa's voice is one of the most remarkable in modern Japanese fiction: an acutely intelligent mind, a humiliated soul, engaging as readily with Baudelaire as with Confucius. These narratives and vignettes -- some having received little attention until now -- delicately dovetail ancient myth with modern reflection. Akutagawa combines Eastern sentiment with Western thou Akutagawa's voice is one of the most remarkable in modern Japanese fiction: an acutely intelligent mind, a humiliated soul, engaging as readily with Baudelaire as with Confucius. These narratives and vignettes -- some having received little attention until now -- delicately dovetail ancient myth with modern reflection. Akutagawa combines Eastern sentiment with Western thought to astonishing effect, offering a uniquely moving insight into mental and social fragmentation.


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Akutagawa's voice is one of the most remarkable in modern Japanese fiction: an acutely intelligent mind, a humiliated soul, engaging as readily with Baudelaire as with Confucius. These narratives and vignettes -- some having received little attention until now -- delicately dovetail ancient myth with modern reflection. Akutagawa combines Eastern sentiment with Western thou Akutagawa's voice is one of the most remarkable in modern Japanese fiction: an acutely intelligent mind, a humiliated soul, engaging as readily with Baudelaire as with Confucius. These narratives and vignettes -- some having received little attention until now -- delicately dovetail ancient myth with modern reflection. Akutagawa combines Eastern sentiment with Western thought to astonishing effect, offering a uniquely moving insight into mental and social fragmentation.

30 review for The Essential Akutagawa: Rashomon, Hell Screen, Cogwheels, a Fool's Life and Other Short Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    ‭Rashomon, Hell Screen, Cogwheels, A Fool's life, and other fictions = Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa Ryünosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927) is one of Japan’s foremost stylists - a modernist master whose short stories are marked by highly original imagery, cynicism, beauty and wild humor. ‘Rashomon’ and ‘In a Bamboo Grove’ inspired Kurosawa’s magnificent film and depict a past in which morality is turned upside down, while tales such as ‘The Nose’, ‘O-Gin’ and ‘Loyalty’ paint ‭Rashomon, Hell Screen, Cogwheels, A Fool's life, and other fictions = Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa Ryünosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927) is one of Japan’s foremost stylists - a modernist master whose short stories are marked by highly original imagery, cynicism, beauty and wild humor. ‘Rashomon’ and ‘In a Bamboo Grove’ inspired Kurosawa’s magnificent film and depict a past in which morality is turned upside down, while tales such as ‘The Nose’, ‘O-Gin’ and ‘Loyalty’ paint a rich and imaginative picture of a medieval Japan peopled by Shoguns and priests, vagrants and peasants. And in later works such as ‘Death Register’, ‘The Life of a Stupid Man’ and ‘Spinning Gears’, Akutagawa drew from his own life to devastating effect, revealing his intense melancholy and terror of madness in exquisitely moving impressionistic stories. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز هفتم ماه اکتبر سال 2012میلادی، بار دیگر دوم ماه آگوست سال 2015میلادی عنوان: راشومون و هفده داستان دیگر؛ نویسنده: ریونوسوکه آکوتاگاوا؛ مترجم: پرویز همتیان بروجنی؛ تهرام، آمه سبزان، 1390، چاپ دیگر تهران، امیرکبیر، 1391؛ در 392ص، شابک 9789640014981؛ موضوع: داستانهای کوتاه از نویسندگان ژاپن - سده 20م عنوان: راشومون؛ نویسنده: ریونوسوکه آکوتاگاوا؛ مترجم: امیرفریدون کرگانی؛ تهران، ابن سینا، 1344؛ در 134ص عنوان: راشومون؛ نویسنده: ریونوسوکه آکوتاگاوا؛ مترجم: پرویز همتیان بروجنی؛ تهران، امیرکبیر، 1391، در 392ص، عنوان دیگر راشومون و هفده داستان دیگر است راشومون فیلمنامه هم هست با ترجمه جناب آقای «علیرضا احمدزاده» در 96ص، تهران، نیلا، 1387؛ شابک 9786005140316؛ متن راشومون شب سردی بود، مرد خدمتکار در زیر «راشومون» بانتظار بند آمدن باران ایستاده بود؛ کس دیگری در زیر این دروازه بزرگ نبود؛ روی ستونهای ضخیم و صیقل خورده ارغوانی آنجا که در بعضی جاها پریده و جویده شده بود، سوسکهایی دیده میشدند؛ از آنجایی که «راشومون» در خیابان «سوجاکو» بود، احتمال داشت که چند نفر دیگر با کلاه اشرافی، یا سربند طبقه عادی، بانتظار وقفه ای در باران، در آنجا ایستاده باشند، ولی کسی آنجا نبود؛ در چند سال گذشته شهر «کیوتو» گرفتار مصایب بسیار، از قبیل «زلزله»، «گردباد»، و «آتش سوزی» شده بود، و بالنتیجه دستخوش خرابی گشته بود؛ وقایع نگاران قدیم مینویسند، که اشیاء شکسته، تصاویر «بودا»، قابهای مطلا، که برگهای نقره ای آن، از بین رفته بود، همه در کنار راه ریخته، و به عنوان هیزم میفروختند؛ وقتی اوضاع «کیوتو» بدین قرار بود، دیگر چه جای بحث از تعمیر «راشومون» بود؛ روباه ها و سایر حیوانات وحشی، از این خرابی استفاده کرده بودند، و در شکافهای این دروازه ی بزرگ، برای خود لانه ساخته بودند؛ تبهکاران و راهزنان، منزل و مأوایی در آنجا تهیه دیده بودند؛ دیگر عادت شده بود که اجساد بیصاحب را، نزدیک این دروازه بیاورند، و روی زمین بیاندازند؛ پس از غروب آفتاب، این مکان آنقدر وحشتناک میشد، که کسی یارای گذشتن از نزدیک آن را، نداشت؛ معلوم نبود که دسته های کلاغ از کجا میآید؛ هنگام روز این پرندگان پر سر و صدا، در اطراف در بزرگ دروازه میپریدند؛ و در هنگام غروب که آسمان بعد از فرورفتن خورشید، قرمز رنگ میشد، پرندگان شبیه دانه های کنجدی میشدند، که بالای دیوارهای دروازه پاشیده شده باشند؛ ولی در آن روز حتی یک کلاغ هم دیده نمیشد، شاید دیر وقت بود؛ پله های سنگی، در همه جا رو بخرابی گذارده بود، و از خلال شکافهایشان، علف درآمده بود؛ خدمتکاری که «کیمونوی» بلند آبی رنگی بر تن داشت، روی پله ی هفتم، بلندترین پله ها، نشسته بود، و بی اراده باران را تماشا میکرد؛ بیشتر متوجه جوش بزرگی بود، که روی گونه ی راستش زده بود، و ناراحتش میکرد؛ گفتیم که خدمتکار، منتظر بند آمدن باران بود، ولی نقشه ای نداشت، و نمیدانست پس از پایان باران، چه کند؟ معمولا به خانه اربابش میرفت، ولی آن روز درست پیش از شروع باران، وی را از خدمت رانده بودند؛ ثروت شهر «کیوتو» به سرعت رو به فنا میرفت، و اربابش فقط به علت بدی وضع اقتصادی، پس از سالها خدمتگزاری، مجبور به اخراج او شده بود؛ اکنون گرفتار باران شده، و گیج مانده بود، که به کجا رود؛ هوا هم بحال افسرده اش توجهی نمیکرد؛ باران خیال بند آمدن نداشت، و او متحیر و متفکر بود، که معاش فردا را چگونه تامین کند؛ افکار متشتت او، همه از سرنوشت سختی خبر میداد؛ بدون مقصود به صدای قطرات باران، که روی خیابان «سوجاکو» فرومیریخت گوش میداد؛ باران که «راشومون» را احاطه کرده بود، اکنون شدیدتر شده بود، و با صدای ضربه داری فرومیریخت، چنانکه از دور نیز شنیده میشد مرد خدمتکار، وقتی به بالا نگریست، ابر سیاه بزرگی را دید، که خود را تا نوک سفالهای برآمده سقف کشانده بود؛ برای انتخاب وسیله ی معاش، چه بد و چه خوب، به علت وضع اندوهبارش، اختیار زیادی نداشت؛ اگر میخواست کار شریف آبرومندانه ای پیدا کند، مسلما میبایست در کنار دیوار، و یا در یکی از چاله های «سوجاکو» از گرسنگی بمیرد، و عاقبت او را به همین دروازه بیاورند، و به نزد سگان گرسنه اش بیاندازند؛ ولی اگر تصمیم بگیرد دزدی کند؟ ...؛ پس از آنکه مدتی در اینباره اندیشید، به این نتیجه رسید که باید دزد شود؛ ولی تردید، هر دم با شدت بیشتری، به او روی میاورد؛ اگرچه مصمم شده بود، و میدید که دیگر راهی ندارد، ولی هنوز از جمع آوردن نیروی کافی، برای تن دادن به دزدی ناتوان بود؛ پس از مقداری عطسه کردن، آهسته از جای برخاست؛ سرمای غروب «کیوتو» وادارش کرده بود، تا آرزوی گرمای منقلی را داشته باشد؛ باد شبانه، در میان ستونهای «راشومون» زوزه میکشید، سوسکهایی که بر روی ستونهای صیقلی ارغوانی رنگ مینشستند، دیگر رفته بودند؛ مرد خدمتکار گردن کشید، و به اطراف دروازه نظر انداخت، و با شانه ی کیمونویی که بر تن داشت، زیر جامه نازکش را پوشاند؛ تصمیم گرفت تا شب را آنجا بگذراند؛ کاش میتوانست کنج خلوتی که از باد و باران مصون باشد، پیدا کند؛ راه پله ی عریضی، که به طرف برج، روی دروازه میرفت، پیدا کرد؛ هیچ چیز جز اجساد مردگان، آنهم اگر جسدی یافت میشد، ممکن نبود آنجا باشد؛ سپس با اطمینان، شمشیری که به کمر بسته بود، و اکنون آنرا از جلد بیرون کشیده بود، بر روی کوتاهترین پله، پا نهاد؛ چند لحظه بعد در سایه ی راه پله، حرکتی احساس کرد؛ نفس را حبس کرد، و گربه وار در وسط پله ها، که به سمت برج میرفت، زانو زد، و در انتظار ماند، و مراقب شد؛ نوری که از بالای برج میتابید، بطور ملایم روی گونه ی راست او تابیده بود؛ همین گونه بود، که جوش بزرگی رویش قرار داشت، که حتی از زیر ریش نیز پیدا بود؛ انتظار داشت، که در این برج جز اجساد مردگان، چیز دیگری نباشد؛ ولی چند گامی که بالاتر رفت، دید که آنجا آتشی روشن است، و بر فراز آن آتش، چیزی حرکت میکند؛ این نور، نوری زرد و لرزان بود، که تار عنکبوتهای آویخته از سقف را، به طرز وحشتناکی آشکار میساخت؛ چه جور آدمی در راشومون آتش میافروزد ؟...؛ آنهم در این طوفان؟ ...، این معما، این عفریت، وی را هراسان کرد؛ به آرامی سوسمار، خود را به بالای پلکان لغزنده رسانید، با دست و پا بر زمین نشست، و گردن را تا آخرین حد امکان دراز کرد، و بداخل برج نظر انداخت؛ همانطور که شایع بود، چندین جسد مشاهده کرد، که بدون ترتیب در اطراف پراکنده بود، و چون روشنایی ضعیف بود، قادر به شمارش آنها نشد، فقط دید که بعضی از آنها برهنه اند، و چندتای دیگر کفن دارند، عده ای از آنها زن بودند، و همه روی زمین لم داده بودند؛ دهانشان گشوده، و بازوانشان گسترده بود، و هیچ نشانه ای از حیات در آنان دیده نمیشد، و به عروسکهای گلی شبیه بودند؛ انسان به شک میافتاد، آیا اینان که چنین در سکوت ابدی بسر میبرند، زمانی گرمای زندگی در تن داشته اند؟ شانه هاشان، سینه هاشان و یا پیکرهای بی سر و دستشان، همه در آن نور کم، نمایان بود، ولی بقیه ی اعضا در تاریکی محو بود؛ چنان بوی نفرت آوری از بدنهای فاسد شده ی آنان برمیخاست، که مرد خدمتکار بی اختیار دست به بینی برد؛ لحظه ای دیگر دستش به پایین افتاد و خیره نگریست نظرش به هیکل عفریت مانندی افتاد، که روی جسدی خم شده بود؛ این عفریت پیر، زالی لاغر، بد قیافه، با موهای خاکستری بود، که لباسی به شکل راهبه ها پوشیده بود؛ مشعلی از چوب کاج، در دست گرفته بود، و به صورت جسدی که موهای دراز سیاه داشت خیره مینگریست؛ ترس چنان او را گرفت، که کنجکاوی را از یاد برد، و حتی دم برآوردن را چند لحظه ای فراموش کرد؛ احساس کرد که موهای سر و تن او سیخ شده است؛ همانطور که مینگریست دید که زن مشعلش را مابین دو تخته آجر زمین قرار داد، و دست خود را روی جسد گذاشت؛ همچون عنتری که شپش بچه اش را بگیرد، شروع به کندن موهای جسد کرد؛ موها با حرکت دست او به آرامی کنده میشد؛ همانطور که موها ورمیآمد، ترس نیز از دل آن مرد بیرون میرفت، ولی تنفرش نسبت به آن پیر زال، افزوده میشد؛ این احساس نفرت از شخص گذشته، و بصورت نفرت از همه ی پلیدیها درآمده بود؛ در آن لحظه اگر کسی از او میپرسید: آیا دلش میخواهد که دزد شود، و یا از گرسنگی بمیرد؟، یعنی همان سئوالی را که اندکی پیش از خود کرده بود، وی بدون درنگ و تردید شق دوم را انتخاب میکرد؛ نفرت از بدیها، چنان در وی شعله ور شده بود، که همچون شاخه ی کاجی که پیر و زال به همراه داشت، و اینک آن را در میان درزهای آجر گذاشته بود، و میسوخت؛ نمیفهمید که چرا آن پیر زال موهای جسد را میکند، و به همین سبب نمیدانست که کار او را باید بد بداند، یا خوب؛ در نظر او کندن موی مرده، در «راشومون» در آن شب طوفانی، گناهی نابخشودنی بود البته این به فکرش هم خطور نمیکرد، که لحظه ای پیش، تصمیم به دزد شدن گرفته بود؛ پس از آن نیروی خود را در ساقها جمع کرد، و روی پله بپا خاست، و ناگهان شمشیر در دست، برابر آن زن بایستاد؛ پیر زن سر برداشت، و با چشمان وحشت زده، از زمین جهید و میلرزید؛ لحظه ی کوتاهی مکث کرد، و سپس با فریادی به سمت راه پله دوید؛ جادوگر کجا میری؟ مرد فریادی کشید و مانع راه پیرزن، که میکوشید تا از کنار او بگذرد، گردید.؛ وی هنوز راه فرار میجست؛ زن را به عقب راند، به یکدیگر آویختند؛ در میان اجساد غلطیدند و گلاویز شدند؛ در لحظه ای زن را، در میان دستان خود نگاه داشت؛ بازوان او، لاغر و همه پوست استخوان بود، و همچون استخوانی که از مطبخ دور میاندازند، بدون گوشت بود؛ چون پیر زال بپا ایستاد، مرد شمشیر کشید، و تیغه ی نقره فام آنرا، در برابر بینی زن گرفت زن ساکت شد و چونان که گرفتار حمله عصبی شده باشد، به لرزه افتاد؛ دیدگانش چنان گشاد شده بود، که به نظر میرسید، حالا از حدقه، بیرون خواهد آمد؛ نفسش پرصدا و خشن بود؛ حیات این زن در دست او بود؛ از این فکر خشم خروشانش آرام شد، و رضایتی جایگزین آن گردید، بدو نگریست و به آرامی پرسید: ببین، من افسری از دستگاه کلانتر نیستم، مردی غریب و راهگذرم؛ ترا دو نیمه نمیکنم، و کاری به کار تو ندارم، ولی باید بمن بگویی که در اینجا چه میکردی؟ پیرزن دیدگان خود را بیشتر گشود، و با چشمان قرمزرنگ و دهان گشاده، بصورت مرد، با دقت بیشتری خیره شد؛ لبانش را، که بدهان چسبیده بود جنبشی داد؛ سیب آدم گلویش به حرکت درافتاد، و صدایی که بیشتر به غارغار کلاغان شبیه بود، از او بگوش رسید: مو میکندم، مو میکندم تا کلاه گیس ببافم؛ پاسخ وی همه ی مجهولات را روشن کرد، و به جایش یاس قرار داد؛ ناگهان پیر زال به لرزه افتاد، و خود را به پای او آویخت؛ دیگر عفریت نبود، بلکه پیرزن بیچاره ای بود، که از سر مردگان مو میکند، تا با آن کلاه گیس بسازد، و آنرا بفروشد، و لقمه نانی بدست آورد تحقیر سراپای مرد را فراگرفت، ترس از قلبش بیرون شد، و باز نفرت پیشین، بدلش راه یافت؛ این احساسات را دیگران نیز میبایستی داشته باشند؛ پیر زال، در حالیکه هنوز موها را در دست داشت با صدای خشن، و کلمات شکسته گفت: یقینا درست کردن کلاه گیس از موی سر مردگان، در نظر شما گناه بزرگی است، ولی آنانکه در اینجا هستند، شایسته ی رفتاری بهتر از این نیستند؛ این زنیکه موهای قشنگ و سیاهش را میکندم، در نزدیکی دروازه، گوشت مار خشک شده، و یا تازه را بجای گوشت ماهی به نگهبانان میفروخت؛ اگر از طاعون نمیمرد، اکنون نیز به فروش همان مشغول بود؛ سربازان دوست داشتند، که از او چیز بخرند، و میگفتند که غذایش بسیار لذیذ است؛ آنچه او میکرد عیب نداشت، زیرا اگر آنکار را نمیکرد از گرسنگی میمرد؛ راه دیگری نداشت؛ اگر میدانست که من برای تأمین زندگی مجبور خواهم شد، تا چنین رفتاری با او بکنم، حتما عیبی در آن نمیدید مرد خدمتکار شمشیرش را غلاف کرد، و دست چپش را بروی آن نهاده، و بحرفهای زن گوش داد؛ با دست راست، با جوش بزرگ صورتش بازی میکرد؛ همانطور که به سخنان آن زن گوش میداد، نیرو و تهوری در قلب او پدید آمد؛ این تهور را اندکی پیش هنگامی که در زیر دروازه نشسته بود، نداشت؛ نیروی عجیبی او را به جهت مخالف ترسی که پیر زال را فراگرفته بود، میراند؛ دیگر او فکر مردن از گرسنگی و یا دزدی کردن نبود؛ از گرسنگی مردن مطلقا در ذهنش نبود؛ بلکه این آخرین چیزی بود که شاید بفکرش خطور میکرد؛ با صداییکه از آن تمسخر بگوش میرسید، گفت: آیا تو این را میدانی؟ چون پیر زال از سخن باز ایستاد، دست راست را از گونه اش برداشت، و بروی زن خم شد، و گردن او را در دست گرفت، و با خشونت گفت: پس اگر تو را لخت کنم، کار درستی کرده ام؛ اگر تو را لخت نکنم، از گرسنگی میمیرم؛ سپس جامه زن را پاره کرد، و بیرون آورد؛ چون زن برای گرفتن البسه ی خود، به پایش پیچید، لگد سختی بدو نواخت، و او را میان اجساد مردگان، به گوشه ای انداخت؛ پس از پنج گام، به بالای پلکان رسید؛ لباسهای زرد رنگی را، که از تن پیرزال کنده بود، در بغل داشت؛ در یک چشم بهم زدن، پله های بلند را پیموده، و در تاریکی شب ناپدید گردید؛ صدای رعد آسای قدمهای او که از پله ها پایین میرفت، در برج طنین افکن شده بود، و پس از آن، سکوتی برقرار گردید؛ اندکی بعد پیرزال از میان اجساد برخاست؛ ناله کنان و غرغرکنان، خود را به بالای پلکان رسانید، و به کمک مشعل کاج که هنور اندک نوری از آن میتابید، از میان موهای خاکستری که روی صورتش ریخته بود، در روشنایی ضعیف مشعل، به آخر پله ها نگریست؛ در پس آن تاریکی بود، که کسی از آن خبر نداشت، و کسی آنرا نمیشناخت؛ ...؛ تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 02/08/199هجری خورشیدی؛ 02/07/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Rashōmon and Seventeen Other Stories, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa Ryünosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927) is one of Japan s foremost stylists - a modernist master whose short stories are marked by highly original imagery, cynicism, beauty and wild humor. Rashömon and In a Bamboo Grove inspired Kurosawa's magnificent film and depict a past in which morality is turned upside down, while tales such as The Nose, O-Gin and Loyalty paint a rich and imaginative picture of a medieval Japan peopled by Shoguns and priest Rashōmon and Seventeen Other Stories, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa Ryünosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927) is one of Japan s foremost stylists - a modernist master whose short stories are marked by highly original imagery, cynicism, beauty and wild humor. Rashömon and In a Bamboo Grove inspired Kurosawa's magnificent film and depict a past in which morality is turned upside down, while tales such as The Nose, O-Gin and Loyalty paint a rich and imaginative picture of a medieval Japan peopled by Shoguns and priests, vagrants and peasants. And in later works such as Death Register, The Life of a Stupid Man and Spinning Gears, Akutagawa drew from his own life to devastating effect, revealing his intense melancholy and terror of madness in exquisitely moving impressionistic stories. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز هفتم ماه اکتبر سال 2012 میلادی؛ تاریخ دومین خوانش: روز دوم ماه آگوست سال 2015میلادی عنوان: راشومون و هفده داستان دیگر؛ نویسنده: ریونوسکه آکتاگاوا؛ مترجم: پرویز همتیان بروجنی؛ تهران، سبزان، 1390، در 392ص؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، امیرکبیر، 1391، شابک 9789640014981؛ موضوع داستانهای کوتاه از نویسندگان ژاپنی سده 20م عنوانهای هیجده داستان: راشومون؛ در بیشه؛ دماغ؛ اژدها؛ تار عنکبوت؛ پرده جهنم؛ گزارش دکتر اوگاتا ریوسای؛ اوجین؛ وفاداری؛ حکایت سری که از بدن جدا شد؛ پیازچه ها؛ پای اسب؛ دایدوجی شینسوکه؛ هنر نویسنده؛ بیماری کودک؛ فهرست مرگ؛ زندگی یک ابله؛ چرخ دنده ها متن راشومون شب سردی بود، مرد خدمتکار در زیر راشومون بانتظار بند آمدن باران ایستاده بود؛ کس دیگری در زیر این دروازه بزرگ نبود. روی ستونهای ضخیم و صیقل خورده ارغوانی آنجا که در بعضی جاها پریده و جویده شده بود سوسکهایی دیده میشدند. از آنجایی که راشومون در خیابان سوجاکو بود احتمال داشت که چند نفر دیگر با کلاه اشرافی یا سربند طبقه عادی بانتظار وقفه ای در باران در آنجا ایستاده باشند ولی کسی آنجا نبود. در چند سال گذشته شهر کیوتو گرفتار مصایب بسیار از قبیل زلزله، گردباد و آتش سوزی شده بود و بالنتیجه دستخوش خرابی گشته بود. وقایع نگاران قدیم مینویسند که اشیا شکسته، تصاویر بودا، قابهای مطلا که برگهای نقره ای آن از بین رفته بود، همه در کنار راه ریخته و به عنوان هیزم میفروختند. وقتی اوضاع کیوتو بدین قرار بود دیگر چه جای بحث از تعمیر راشومون بود. روباهان و سایر حیوانات وحشی از این خرابی استفاده کرده بودند و در شکافهای این دروازه بزرگ برای خود لانه ساخته بودند. تبهکاران و راهزنان، منزل و مأوایی در آنجا تهیه دیده بودند دیگر عادت شده بود که اجساد بیصاحب را نزدیک این دروازه بیاورند، و روی زمین بیاندازند. پس از غروب آفتاب، این مکان آنقدر وحشتناک میشد که کسی یارای گذشتن از نزدیک آن را نداشت. معلوم نبود که دسته های کلاغ از کجا میآیند. هنگام روز این پرندگان پر سر و صدا در اطراف در بزرگ دروازه میپریدند. و در هنگام غروب که آسمان بعد از فرورفتن خورشید، قرمز رنگ میشد پرندگان شبیه دانه های کنجدی میشدند که بالای دیوارهای دروازه پاشیده شده باشند ولی در آن روز حتی یک کلاغ هم دیده نمیشد شاید دیر وقت بود. پله های سنگی در همه جا رو بخرابی گذارده بود و از خلال شکافهایشان علف درآمده بود خدمتکاری که کیمونوی بلند آبی رنگی بر تن داشت روی پله هفتم ،بلندترین پله ها، نشسته بود و بی اراده باران را تماشا میکرد. بیشتر متوجه جوش بزرگی بود که روی گونه راستش زده بود و ناراحتش میکرد. گفتیم که خدمتکار منتظر بند آمدن باران بود ولی نقشه ای نداشت و نمیدانست پس از پایان باران چه کند؟ معمولا به خانه اربابش میرفت ولی آن روز درست پیش از شروع باران وی را از خدمت رانده بودند. ثروت شهر کیوتو به سرعت رو به فنا میرفت و اربابش فقط به علت بدی وضع اقتصادی پس از سالها خدمتگزاری مجبور به اخراج او شده بود. اکنون گرفتار باران شده و گیج مانده بود که به کجا رود. هوا هم بحال افسرده اش توجهی نمیکرد. باران خیال بند آمدن نداشت و او متحیر و متفکر بود که معاش فردا را چگونه تامین کند. افکار متشتت او، همه از سرنوشت سختی خبر میداد. بدون مقصود به صدای قطرات باران که روی خیابان سوجاکو فرومیریخت گوش میداد. باران که راشومون را احاطه کرده بود اکنون شدیدتر شده بود و با صدای ضربه داری فرومیریخت چنان که از دور نیز شنیده میشد. مرد خدمتکار وقتی به بالا نگریست ابر سیاه بزرگی را دید که خود را تا نوک سفال های برآمده سقف کشانده بود برای انتخاب وسیله معاش ، چه بد و چه خوب ، به علت وضع اندوهبارش اختیار زیادی نداشت. اگر میخواست کار شریف آبرومندانه ای پیدا کند مسلما میبایست در کنار دیوار و یا در یکی از چاله های سوجاکو از گرسنگی بمیرد، و عاقبت او را به همین دروازه بیاورند و به نزد سگان گرسنه اش بیاندازند. ولی اگر تصمیم بگیرد دزدی کند؟ ... پس از آنکه مدتی در اینباره اندیشید به این نتیجه رسید که باید دزد شود ولی تردید هر دم با شدت بیشتری به او روی میاورد. اگر چه مصمم شده بود و میدید که دیگر راهی ندارد ولی هنوز از جمع آوردن نیروی کافی برای تن دادن به دزدی ناتوان بود پس از مقداری عطسه کردن آهسته از جای برخاست. سرمای غروب کیوتو وادارش کرده بود تا آرزوی گرمای منقلی را داشته باشد. باد شبانه، در میان ستونهای راشومون زوزه میکشید سوسکها که بر روی ستونهای صیقلی ارغوانی رنگ مینشستند دیگر رفته بودند مرد خدمتکار گردن کشید و به اطراف دروازه نظر انداخت و با شانه کیمونویی که بر تن داشت زیر جامه نازکش را پوشاند. تصمیم گرفت تا شب را آنجا بگذراند. کاش میتوانست کنج خلوتی که از باد و باران مصون باشد پیدا کند. راه پله عریضی که به طرف برج روی دروازه میرفت پیدا کرد. هیچ چیز جز اجساد مردگان، آنهم اگر جسدی یافت میشد، ممکن نبود آن جا باشد. سپس با اطمینان شمشیری که به کمر بسته بود و اکنون آنرا از جلد بیرون کشیده بود بر روی کوتاه ترین پله پا نهاد چند لحظه بعد در سایه راه پله حرکتی احساس کرد. نفس را حبس کرد و گربه وار در وسط پله ها که به سمت برج میرفت زانو زد و در انتظار ماند و مراقب شد. نوری که از بالای برج میتابید بطور ملایم روی گونه ی راست او تابیده بود. همین گونه بود که جوش بزرگی رویش قرار داشت که حتی از زیر ریش نیز پیدا بود. انتظار داشت که در این برج جز اجساد مردگان چیز دیگر نباشد. ولی چند گامی که بالاتر رفت دید که آنجا آتشی روشن است و بر فراز آن آتش چیزی حرکت میکند. این نور، نوری زرد و لرزان بود که تار عنکبوت های آویخته از سقف را به طرز وحشتناکی آشکار میساخت. چه جور آدمی در راشومون آتش میافروزد ؟...؛ آنهم در این طوفان؟ ... این معما ، این عفریت وی را هراسناک کرد به آرامی سوسمار خود را به بالای پلکان لغزنده رسانید با دست و پا بر زمین نشست و گردن را تا آخرین حد امکان دراز کرد و بداخل برج نظر انداخت همانطور که شایع بود چندین جسد مشاهده کرد که بدون ترتیب در اطراف پراکنده بود و چون روشنایی ضعیف بود قادر به شمارش آنها نشد فقط دید که بعضی از آنها برهنه اند و چندتای دیگر کفن دارند، عده ای از آنها زن بودند و همه روی زمین لم داده بودند. دهانشان گشوده و بازوانشان گسترده بود و هیچ نشانه ای از حیات در آنان دیده نمیشد و به عروسکهای گلی شبیه بودند. انسان به شک میافتاد آیا اینان که چنین در سکوت ابدی بسر میبرند زمانی گرمای زندگی در تن داشته اند؟ شانه هاشان، سینه هاشان و یا پیکرهای بی سر و دستشان همه در آن نور کم نمایان بود ولی بقیه اعضا در تاریکی محو بود. چنان بوی نفرت آوری از بدنهای فاسد شده آنان برمیخاست که مرد خدمتکار بی اختیار دست به بینی برد لحظه ای دیگر دستش به پایین افتاد و خیره نگریست. نظرش به هیکل عفریت مانندی افتاد که روی جسدی خم شده بود. این عفریت پیر زالی لاغر، بد قیافه، با موهای خاکستری بود که لباسی به شکل راهبه ها پوشیده بود. مشعلی از چوب کاج در دست گرفته بود و به صورت جسدی که موهای دراز سیاه داشت خیره مینگریست ترس چنان اورا گرفت که کنجکاوی را از یاد برد و حتی دم بر آوردن را چند لحظه ای فراموش کرد. احساس کرد که موهای سر و تن او سیخ شده است؛ همانطور که مینگریست دید که زن مشعلش را مابین دو تخته آجر زمین قرار داد و دست خود را روی جسد گذاشت. همچون عنتری که شپش بچه اش را بگیرد شروع به کندن موهای جسد کرد. موها با حرکت دست او به آرامی کنده میشد همانطور که موها ورمیآمد ترس نیز از دل آن مرد بیرون میرفت ولی تنفرش نسبت به آن پیر زال افزوده میشد. این احساس نفرت از شخص گذشته و بصورت نفرت از همه پلیدی ها درآمده بود در آن لحظه اگر کسی از او میپرسید آیا دلش میخواهد که دزد شود و یا از گرسنگی بمیرد، یعنی همان سئوالی را که اندکی پیش از خود کرده بود وی بدون درنگ و تردید شق دوم را انتخاب میکرد. نفرت از بدیها چنان در وی شعله ور شده بود، که همچون شاخه کاجی که پیر و زال به همراه داشت، و اینک آن را در میان درزهای آجر گذاشته بود و میسوخت نمیفهمید که چرا آن پیر زال موهای جسد را میکند و به همین سبب نمیدانست که کار او را باید بد بداند یا خوب. در نظر او کندن موی مرده در راشومون در آن شب طوفانی گناهی نابخشودنی بود. البته این به فکرش هم خطور نمیکرد که لحظه ای پیش تصمیم به دزد شدن گرفته بود پس از آن نیروی خود را در ساقها جمع کرد و روی پله بپا خواست و ناگهان شمشیر در دست برابر آن زن بایستاد. پی زن سر برداشت و با چشمان وحشت زده از زمین جهید و میلرزید. لحظه کوتاهی مکث کرد و سپس با فریادی به سمت راه پله دوید. جادوگر کجا میری؟ مرد فریادی کشید و مانع راه پیرزن که میکوشید تا از کنار او بگذرد گردید. وی هنوز راه فرار میجست. زن را به عقب راند، به یکدیگر آویختند. در میان اجساد غلطیدند و گلاویز شدند. در لحظه ای زن را در میان دستان خود نگاهداشت. بازوان او لاغر و همه پوست استخوان بود و همچون استخوانی که از مطبخ دور میاندازند بدون گوشت بود. چون پیر زال بپا ایستاد مرد شمشیر کشید و تیغه نقره فام آنرا در برابر بینی زن گرفت. زن ساکت شد و چونان که گرفتار حمله عصبی شده باشد به لرزه افتاد. دیدگانش چنان گشاد شده بود که به نظر میرسید حالا از حدقه بیرون خواهد آمد. نفسش پرصدا و خشن بود. حیات این زن در دست او بود. از این فکر خشم خروشانش آرام شد و رضایتی جایگزین آن گردید بدو نگریست و به آرامی پرسید ببین، من افسری از دستگاه کلانتر نیستم، مردی غریب و راهگذرم . ترا دو نیمه نمیکنم و کاری به کار تو ندارم ولی باید بمن بگویی که در اینجا چه میکردی؟ پیرزن دیدگان خود را بیشتر گشود و با چشمان قرمز رنگ و دهان گشاده بصورت مرد با دقت بیشتری خیره شد. لبانش را که بدهان چسبیده بود جنبشی داد. سیب آدم گلویش به حرکت درافتاد و صدایی که بیشتر به غارغار کلاغان شبیه بود از او بگوش رسید : مو میکندم ، مو میکندم تا کلاه گیس ببافم پاسخ وی همه مجهولات را روشن کرد و به جایش یاس قرار داد. ناگهان پیر زال به لرزه افتاد و خود را به پای او آویخت. دیگر عفریت نبود بلکه پیرزن بیچاره ای بود که از سر مردگان مو میکند تا با آن کلاه گیس بسازد و آنرا بفروشد و لقمه نانی بدست آورد. تحقیر سراپای مرد را فراگرفت ترس از قلبش بیرون شد و باز نفرت پیشین بدلش راه یافت. این احساسات را دیگران نیز میبایستی داشته باشند. پیر زال، در حالیکه هنوز موها را در دست داشت با صدای خشن و کلمات شکسته گفت: یقینا درست کردن کلاه گیس از موی سر مردگان در نظر شما گناه بزرگی است ولی آنانکه در اینجا هستند شایسته رفتاری بهتر از این نیستند. این زنی که موهای قشنگ و سیاهش را میکندم در نزدیکی دروازه گوشت مار خشک شده و یا تازه را بجای گوشت ماهی به نگهبانان میفروخت. اگر از طاعون نمیمرد اکنون نیز به فروش همان مشغول بود. سربازان دوست داشتند که از او چیز بخرند و میگفتند که غذایش بسیار لذیذ است. آن چه او میکرد عیب نداشت، زیرا اگر آن کار را نمیکرد از گرسنگی میمرد. راه دیگری نداشت. اگر میدانست که من برای تأمین زندگی مجبور خواهم شد تا چنین رفتاری با او بکنم حتما عیبی در آن نمیدید مرد خدمتکار شمشیرش را غلاف کرد و دست چپش را بروی آن نهاده و بحرفهای زن گوش داد. با دست راست با جوش بزرگ صورتش بازی میکرد. همان طور که به سخنان آن زن گوش میداد نیرو و تهوری در قلب او پدید آمد. این تهور را اندکی پیش هنگامی که در زیر دروازه نشسته بود نداشت. نیروی عجیبی او را به جهت مخالف ترسی که پیر زال را فراگرفته بود میراند. دیگر او فکر مردن از گرسنگی و یا دزدی کردن نبود. از گرسنگی مردن مطلقا در ذهنش نبود؛ بلکه این آخرین چیزی بود که شاید بفکرش خطور میکرد با صدایی که از آن تمسخر بگوش میرسید گفت آیا تو این را میدانی؟ چون پیر زال از سخن باز ایستاد دست راست را از گونه اش برداشت و بروی زن خم شد و گردن او را در دست گرفت و با خشونت گفت: پس اگر تو را لخت کنم کار درستی کرده ام. اگر تو را لخت نکنم از گرسنگی میمیرم سپس جامه زن را پاره کرد و بیرون آورد؛ چون زن برای گرفتن البسه خود به پایش پیچید لگد سختی بدو نواخت و او را میان اجساد مردگان به گوشه ای انداخت پس از پنج گام به بالای پلکان رسید؛ لباسهای زرد رنگی را که از تن پیرزال کنده بود در بغل داشت؛ در یک چشم بهم زدن پله های بلند را پیموده و در تاریکی شب ناپدید گردید؛ صدای رعد آسای قدمهای او که از پله ها پایین میرفت در برج طنین افکن شده بود و پس از آن سکوتی برقرار گردید اندکی بعد پیرزال از میان اجساد برخاست. ناله کنان وغرغرکنان خود را به بالای پلکان رسانید و به کمک مشعل کاج که هنور اندک نوری از آن میتابید از میان موهای خاکستری که روی صورتش ریخته بود در روشنایی ضعیف مشعل به آخرپله ها نگریست در پس آن تاریکی بود که کسی از آن خبر نداشت و کسی آنرا نمیشناخت؛ ...؛ تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 01/08/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  3. 5 out of 5

    Violet wells

    If I had to describe this book in one sentence - little stories that magically contain big and excitingly complex ideas. Writers aren't evaluated in the context of history as stringently as artists are. There are artists alive now who can paint with the technical bravura of the likes of Tintoretto or Titian but no one, understandably, is interested in their work. I suppose this conundrum was most famously demonstrated by the Dutch forger Van Meegeren who resented the fact that the art world show If I had to describe this book in one sentence - little stories that magically contain big and excitingly complex ideas. Writers aren't evaluated in the context of history as stringently as artists are. There are artists alive now who can paint with the technical bravura of the likes of Tintoretto or Titian but no one, understandably, is interested in their work. I suppose this conundrum was most famously demonstrated by the Dutch forger Van Meegeren who resented the fact that the art world showed no interest in his dated derivative work and so forged Vermeer paintings as if it's technical skill alone that distinguishes genius. Recently I read some of the books by William Trevor and you could say he too, like Van Meegeren was a forger. He appropriated the distinctive style of past masters - and yet, as if the past had never happened, he receives the acclaim no painter doing the same thing would get. What I'm getting at is that if you put Akutagawa in the context of history it's remarkable how innovative and pioneering these stories are, especially considering many were written before Calvino was even born (the writer Akutagawa most reminds me of some ways) and before Katherine Mansfield was being credited for evolving the possibilities of the short story. (How I wish she had read him!) Put him in the context of history and Akutagawa is a marvel. Not that he isn't a marvel whatever way you look at him. Stand outs are his unreliable narrators in Rashomon where eye witnesses to a mysterious death all give conflicting accounts of what happened. Dragon: The Old Potter's Tale where a ridiculed monk with a big nose as revenge posts a notice declaring the dragon of the lake will ascend to heaven on the third day of the third month. Much to his amazement a massive crowd gathers on that day. Here, as DeLillo would be years later, Akutagawa is fascinated by the pull and power of the crowd. Red Onions where a young girl living from hand to mouth in a bedsit goes out on her first date and is suitably lit up by romantic expectation but discovers the highlight of the evening are the cheap red onions she stumbles upon (Akutagawa doesn't hold romantic aspiration in high esteem!) And finally the last autobiographical story where the narrator is plagued by a concatenation of disarming synchronicities which gives you an idea why Akutagawa was to kill himself soon after. Brilliantly fresh and compelling from start to finish.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Katia N

    It is probably not very rare when an extremely gifted person emerges on this planet. But it is rare when this person manages to absorb the influences of many cultures and produce a very original innovative syntheses in his short life. The whole body of work that transcends the national boundaries and would influence a way of writing for decades and even centuries. I know only three names in the 20th century Kafka, Borges and now, Akutagawa. Notably he was the first. What unites all these three, It is probably not very rare when an extremely gifted person emerges on this planet. But it is rare when this person manages to absorb the influences of many cultures and produce a very original innovative syntheses in his short life. The whole body of work that transcends the national boundaries and would influence a way of writing for decades and even centuries. I know only three names in the 20th century Kafka, Borges and now, Akutagawa. Notably he was the first. What unites all these three, they were born either into the culture without long established national literary tradition or in the time of dramatic changes of the society and literature. I would leave Kafka aside. But both Borges and Akutagawa were immersed in many different languages and cultures since their childhood. Borges has read even Don Quixote in English. Akutagawa was reading both Japanese and Chinese traditional literature as child but also hungrily absorbed almost 200 years of the Western literature by the age of 18. My first encounter with Akutagawa was unsuccessful. While at university, I’ve picked up his collection of short stories and found them too stylised and boring. Now many years after, my view has changed almost to the opposite extreme. I can read him many times and never get bored. In fact, I absolutely admire the versatility of his gift. His variety of styles is exceptionally wide. And he was always experimenting with his method and searching for new techniques through his short life. He never was totally satisfied it seems. He changed the decorations and styles. But there is one thing which always present in his tales. It is authenticity of human feelings. It is also amazing how many writers he anticipated, including Kafka and Borges but even Knausgaard though it might sound incredible to start with. I’ve read much bigger volume of his stories in Russian. Not that big part of his work has been translated into English. But I think this collection contains many of his best tales with a few notable exceptions. I would just pause on a few to underscore the versatility of his gift: “Rashomon” and “In a Bamboo grove”. Those two are the most famous as they were the base of the movie by Kurosawa. But purely from the perspective of the literature, the second one stands out. Apparently it is the first time ever when a bunch of unreliable narrators are describing the same story from the different perspective, contradicting each other. And the single “truth” is never revealed. Robert Browning apparently did something similar in The Ring and the Book but Akutagawa raised it to the totally different level with the open ending. Now we are so much get used to this tool. But even from the perspective of our century, this is the one of the most elegant and economically told stories of this type. “Hell Screen” - this is not a medieval tale. This is a philosophic investigation about the dominance of the high art over reality. Apparently Akutagawa visited an anatomy morgue to write this story. “The story of head fell off” - it is included here in a comical section, but there is nothing comical about this story. And the image of a deep blue sky getting closer and closer would stay with me for a long time. “Green onions” - this story I would not be surprised to find between early Chekhov tales. How our high expectations from life often end with the prose of the aforementioned vegetable. “Horse legs” - purely from the land of Kafka. There are a few of the notable omissions in this collection: “The Yam Gruel” is translated into English. It is included into Rashomon and Other Stories. It is a tale about the feeling of a “little” person modelled on Gogol’s Overcoat. As far as I remember, Gogol’s character dies from the shock of loosing the overcoat. But Akutagawa has twisted the tale asking very different question: what if he would get what he dreams about? And there is no Akaki Akakievich. He has been replaced by a samurai. “Handkerchief” - It is available in English as well. It is included into Mandarins: Stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. The collection of the recently translated stories by Archipelago press. What a clever short story this is! On the surface it is about East-West and its mutual accommodation. But this is not a simple story. It is one of those tales like a matreshka doll. You’ve opened one not expecting to find another, but it is in there. And then - one more. And the smallest one does not look anything like the initial one and leaves you puzzled what was the story about really. Now the section called “Akutagawa own story”. While reading the introduction in my Russian collection, I’ve learned a lot about the state of the Japanese literature at the time. Due to the Meji reformation and opening to the West, they tried to build up their modern literature by absorbing around 200 years of the Western Canon. Obviously they were loosing themselves in the process. Apparently they did not have a concept of a novel per se. So in 1885 Tsubouchi Shōyō (1859-1935) a literary critic, translator of Western literature, and novelist formulated the principle for the Japanese fiction in his work Shōsetsu Shinzui (The Essence of the Novel). He came to the conclusion that the descriptive realism should be the way to go. This has apparently helped to focus the minds of the Japanese writers. Many of them has taken the idea even a step further following the theory that only object a person could know truthfully is her/himself. As a result they developed something called "I-novel" (私小説, Shishōsetsu, Watakushi Shōsetsu) where a writer would describe both his mental and physical life in its daily details with the varied level of psychological depth. So the fashionable 21th century auto-fiction was in fact born in Japan about a century earlier. I was amazed to find that out. But why i am talking about it? Akutagawa initially considered it more or less as lazy and limiting exercise. But then, at some stage, in his last decade he has started to experiment with the method. At the same time he kept experimenting with the style, used huge range of framing devices from the letters to the dialogues and the sketchs of unwritten novels (the device later successfully used by Borges who loved Akutagawa's work). He also kept his psychological complexity in these stories. And his very last tales before his suicide are read more like impressionistic pieces full of terrible beauty rather than the confessional tales. One serious omission form this part of this collection is “Dialogue in darkness”, the story that is written as a conversation between Akutagawa and the angel or maybe he is the fallen angel who has become a devil. I’ve searched whether the story exists in English. But did not find anything conclusive. The story was published posthumously. And I wanted to finish with the quote from there: D. You will very likely die soon. Akutagawa: But that thing which has created me at the first place will create the second me. And the “second him” is the powerful and omnipresent influence in the world literature since.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Florencia

    Concatenated thoughts #1 - #2 There was a man sitting by the ruins of a gate known as Rashōmon, listening to the sound of the rain that was falling over the city of Kyoto. That man had been dismissed by his master and had nowhere to go. So there he was, looking at that gloomy landscape. His thoughts were wandering inside his mind like withering leaves on a windy day. Thinking about a tomorrow when there was nothing to hope for. As the pouring rain started to increase and the day became colder wit Concatenated thoughts #1 - #2 There was a man sitting by the ruins of a gate known as Rashōmon, listening to the sound of the rain that was falling over the city of Kyoto. That man had been dismissed by his master and had nowhere to go. So there he was, looking at that gloomy landscape. His thoughts were wandering inside his mind like withering leaves on a windy day. Thinking about a tomorrow when there was nothing to hope for. As the pouring rain started to increase and the day became colder with every passing minute, the man found himself with only two options concerning his inevitable future. He revolved those options in his mind as a set of morals started to make pressure over them. The world had nothing more to give to him. Fate had nothing more to give to him. It was one of those times when responsibility is too much to bear; when freedom interweaves with absurdity and we wish for some Providence to give us a hand. When being alone is the only truth that can be obtained. Two options. Nothing more. To die of hunger and become another one of those corpses that were taken to the gate. Or to dedicate his life to crime, and thus, keep himself alive. For although the servant acknowledged that he had to do whatever he could to get by, he didn't have the courage to bring the sentence to its foregone conclusion: "I am bound to become a thief." Amid such internal struggles, the mind begins to fabricate reasons. Justifications to lighten the weight of any decision that might jeopardize everything that is righteous, honorable, expected. But it was not the rationalization of such matter that helped him make his decision. It was a fire. Her dim firelight, on top of the gate, on that rainy night, barely illuminating the corpses no one would ever remember. At that moment, if someone again raised the question that the servant had been thinking about under the gate—whether he would starve to death or become a criminal—the servant would almost certainly have chosen starvation, without an ounce of regret. Like the torch the old woman had jammed between the floorboards, this was how ardently the man's heart burned against all that was evil. A dark, stormy weather that seems to evoke the collapse of an entire society. A flawless use of symbolism to illustrate the vanishing line between a man and a beast. A savage place where once rational people now just do what they have to do. And yet, I wonder how rational can you be when your life's at stake. You might have heard of a film named after this short story. A 1950 movie directed by Akira Kurosawa, starring Toshiro Mifune—an actor I love since the very first time I saw him impressing everyone in Seven Samurai. I decided to only watch this movie after reading two short stories. First, Rashōmon that provided the setting. The plot and the characters were taken from another short story named... [click next...]

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    One night, I woke in the dark hours no longer able to sleep. After a while I accepted my semi-wakeful state and found my way to the sofa. There I settled under a blanket and flicked ideally through the TV channels, eventually I happened upon a film Ghost Dog, not apparently to be confused with Moondog (view spoiler)[ although to my mind ghost dogs and moondogs must be much of a muchness, no? (hide spoiler)] , anyway the film seemed to be pleasing pretentious and about right for being neither asl One night, I woke in the dark hours no longer able to sleep. After a while I accepted my semi-wakeful state and found my way to the sofa. There I settled under a blanket and flicked ideally through the TV channels, eventually I happened upon a film Ghost Dog, not apparently to be confused with Moondog (view spoiler)[ although to my mind ghost dogs and moondogs must be much of a muchness, no? (hide spoiler)] , anyway the film seemed to be pleasing pretentious and about right for being neither asleep nor awake but watching moving pictures on a screen. Two of the stories in this collection were made in to a film, but the powers of the night which decide our sleeping have so far not decreed that I must see that film in the early hours of a star lit morning so I haven't. As it happened the film made mention of the story collection Rashomon which seemed to be of some importance to the title character and his philosophical stance and so when it came to pass that I was gripped, not by midnight wakefulness but by mid-afternoon book madness, I ordered it from the library and in time it came to me from Gravesend, so if you are in Gravesend it will be a couple of days before it is back with you - patience! Akutagawa chronologically is approximately a contemporary of Katherine Mansfield, he also died young and was much concerned in his fiction with death and psychology, but unlike her at least based on the stories I've read, he has a broader range of story settings and is somewhat less interested in gender and romantic relationships. In this volume the stories range from the title story set in medieval Japan to the recent past to his own days in inter-war Japan. Both Mansfield and Akutagawa were fellow travellers in their modernism, attempting to capture the fleeting contact of human awareness of the moment and the fractured, unreliable perception of an individual. Really these are stories one could read repeatedly and I recommend them warmly, despite the grimness of the autobiographical ones which twist around fears of madness and thoughts of suicide (view spoiler)[ which ultimately led to the end of the author's own life (hide spoiler)] . Yes, Modernism, madness and death - everybody's favourites, I am plainly really going out of my way to encourage you to try these. So what can I say that is a bit more tempting? Dare I mention the wide range of styles, the sometimes uneasy mixture of the Japanese and the European? Akutagawa was a big fan of Dostoevsky and the fin de Siecle writers, indeed one story here may be a Japanesed version of Grushenka's Story of an Onion from The Brothers Karamazov, then again it could be, I suppose, a Buddhist folktale. There's also a lot of humour, in different registers, in one story a man in Manchuria suddenly finds he has horse's legs and we find that eventually nature is stronger than nurture, in another a waitress struggling to get by on romantic dreams and a low wage, might be about to be seduced by a man when she spots spring onions on sale at a bargain price. So great variety and a glimpse into the troubled soul of another person, quite a lot in just over two hundred pages of extremely short short-stories. And there's more... an introduction by Haruki Murikami assesses Akutagawa in the context of a Japanese writer attempting to find his own voice while drawing upon both Japanese and European literary heritages; 'I love Dostoevsky and Strindberg and Flaubert and I am a discipline of Natsume Soseki'. Murikami holds that Akutagawa's literary dead end in trying to marry the traditions in himself led to his physically premature dead-end, in which case the introduction is a kind of meta-fiction and we can read all eighteen stories in the collection as nestled within it the multiple attempts of a prisoner to escape their unique cell. He tries historical settings, Chinese settings, contemporary settings, he draws on his life experience, his personal history as a adopted child is reflected in his divided literary heritage, so we are treated to a fireworks display of creativity, it has to stop of course, as all fireworks' displays must, but it is spectacular while it lasts. The perfect example of Murikami's point is the story On a Bamboo Grove which places the reader in the position of an examining magistrate of early medieval Japan - we read a collection of testimonies relating to the discovery of a dead body in said bamboo grove. Are any of them true? Even taking the testimonies together and mentally reconstructing events is that the truth of what happens? Is there an objective truth beyond that a man who was once alive is now dead? For practical reasons in daily life in order to have a functioning legal system we pretend that this is so, but as a writer appealing to readers Akutagawa makes a different point, the same one maybe as he makes throughout all these stories even or particularly in the fictionalised ones based on his own life.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jr Bacdayan

    “In fulfillment of his longstanding dream, he became the author of several books. But what he got in return was a desolate loneliness.” This collection offers a piercing insight into the stunning yet troubled mind of Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. A writer brought to the world by a madwoman, he was a well-known insomniac, a drug addict, a guilt-plagued sinner, yet he produced such beautiful works while hounded by the looming shadows of his inevitable insanity. This masterwork can be adequately divided int “In fulfillment of his longstanding dream, he became the author of several books. But what he got in return was a desolate loneliness.” This collection offers a piercing insight into the stunning yet troubled mind of Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. A writer brought to the world by a madwoman, he was a well-known insomniac, a drug addict, a guilt-plagued sinner, yet he produced such beautiful works while hounded by the looming shadows of his inevitable insanity. This masterwork can be adequately divided into three parts: the first part (A World in Decay & Under the Sword) are vivid myth-like stories set during the Heian, Kamakura, and other pre-war eras of Japan. From the titular story of an encounter under the Rashōmon (a gate built as a monument in the southern entrance of Kyoto) to the story of a painter who perfectly depicted the fury of hell into a screen, the first few stories present such beautiful and breath-taking pictures of early Japan in all its splendor with its unique culture and oriental beliefs in full display. The second part (Modern Tragicomedy) are surrealistic stories set during Akutagawa’s lifetime towards the dusk of the Meija era and the early smoldering of the Taisho. These haunting yet humorous stories reflect the slowly decaying psyche of Akutagawa as his fears and nerves start to take hold of his pen. And the last part (Akutagawa’s Own Story) are his final manuscripts towards the end of his life when all he could muster to craft were words formed by his horrors and his painful loneliness. In one of its few bright spots he writes, “In my savage joy, I felt as if I had no parents, no wife, no children, just the life that flowed forth from my pen.” But these last few remnants of thought from this gifted storyteller evoke mostly the sorrowful darkness of a mind in despair whose only solace was literature. The different eras of Japan were his canvas, his brushstrokes his blood, wrung out unbearably, drop by drop, till he had none more to bleed. “I don’t have the strength to keep writing this. To go on living with this feeling is painful beyond description. Isn’t there someone kind enough to strangle me in my sleep?” What initially was a beautiful and elegant collection morphed into an outpouring of literary agony towards the end. In this regard it is like a Chimera, a two-fold beast, formed by the fictional beauty of Akutagawa’s tales and the painful terrors of his grotesque reality.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    Six deceptively simple (or simply deceptive?) short stories from early twentieth century Japanese author Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, who died at the too-early age of 35. My favorite is the first story, "In a Grove," where the police commissioner interviews various (unreliable) witnesses, trying to pin down exactly what happened in an apparent murder/rape scene. In "Rashomon," a laid-off servant lingers under a dilapidated gate, caught between an living an honest life that might be the end of him and ad Six deceptively simple (or simply deceptive?) short stories from early twentieth century Japanese author Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, who died at the too-early age of 35. My favorite is the first story, "In a Grove," where the police commissioner interviews various (unreliable) witnesses, trying to pin down exactly what happened in an apparent murder/rape scene. In "Rashomon," a laid-off servant lingers under a dilapidated gate, caught between an living an honest life that might be the end of him and adopting a life of thievery. An odd occurrence leads him to his choice. The main character in "Yam Gruel" is distinctly reminiscent of the pitiful, picked-upon Akaky in The Overcoat. Sometimes getting what you've always wanted leaves you emptier than when you started. Another standout was "Kesa and Morito," in which a man and woman who've had a brief fling decide to kill the woman's husband - and neither of them really wants to do so. Love and contempt are mixed together in their hearts, one melting into the other until they're almost indistinguishable. There are no easy answers in any of these painful stories. Truth twists away from you and becomes elusive, in one tale after another. I would actually kind of like to taste yam gruel now, and to see a yam that's actually three inches wide and five feet long...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jibran

    I tried to philosophise it by jotting down some cryptic lines but realised that such exegetic discourse is not quite justified for a short story. Suffice it to say that Akutagawa's few pages of condensed writing made me pore over the precepts of morality on which the human society stands. Stealing, in this case, which evokes the larger question of the truth of necessity transcending the narrow, easily defined strictures about good and evil. When it becomes a question of mere survival, things are I tried to philosophise it by jotting down some cryptic lines but realised that such exegetic discourse is not quite justified for a short story. Suffice it to say that Akutagawa's few pages of condensed writing made me pore over the precepts of morality on which the human society stands. Stealing, in this case, which evokes the larger question of the truth of necessity transcending the narrow, easily defined strictures about good and evil. When it becomes a question of mere survival, things are far from clear, regardless of what the frozen statutes in law tomes say, or the trite commands in religious scriptures enjoin and forbid. It is always easy to be self-righteous on a full stomach - and Akutagawa knows that! It is set in the later years of the Heian period (795-1185) when social order is collapsing and the cosmic order crumbling (a gothicy touch?); and there a menial servant who has been relieved from employment struggles with his innate human morality to die or stay afloat. I don't normally write on individual short stories but this time round I wanted to get a taste of Akutagawa before committing to buy his story collection. I will. I am convinced. I'm sure it sounds better in the original Japanese, as the author is known for developing a new style of writing and drawing upon Japanese tradition and history. I can see a glimpse of innovation in how Akutagawa introduces the servant sitting under the Rashomon gate and then corrects rather than add to the perspective by injecting new information, but I'll save that for later. In a most striking image he says of the abandoned corpses: The bodies looked so much like clay dolls, that you might doubt that any of them had ever been alive. Chilling... October '15

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dan Schwent

    In a Grove: A man is found stabbed to death in a grove. Some people of interest and the key players give their accounts. Yeah, I'm a fan of this. Lots of narrators with varying degrees of reliability. If the other stories are this good, this collection is going to be stellar. Rashomon: A samurai's servant sits under the Rashomon during a rain storm, pondering whether he should become a thief or starve to death. I didn't like this story as much as the first but it was still interesting. I never thou In a Grove: A man is found stabbed to death in a grove. Some people of interest and the key players give their accounts. Yeah, I'm a fan of this. Lots of narrators with varying degrees of reliability. If the other stories are this good, this collection is going to be stellar. Rashomon: A samurai's servant sits under the Rashomon during a rain storm, pondering whether he should become a thief or starve to death. I didn't like this story as much as the first but it was still interesting. I never thought of making wigs in that way. Yam Gruel: Goi, a samurai who is the butt of everyone's jokes, has a life-long craving for Yam Gruel. But what will he do when he's offered all he can ever eat? This was an odd one, more like a fable than the previous two. I felt bad for Goi and really hoped he'd go on a killing spree but, alas, it was not to be. The Martyr: When the umbrella maker's daughter becomes pregnant, everyone suspects, Lorenzo, the orphan raised by Jesuits. Huh. This was an odd one about protecting the people you love at all costs. Kesa and Morito: The tale of a love triangle from two of its participants. This was another story with unreliable narrators. It was well written and fairly twisted. The Dragon: An old man tells the story of a big nosed priest named Hanazo and the prank he played on a village that backfired. All in all, this was an enjoyable collection. By far, my favorite tales were In a Grove and Kesa and Morito, the two unreliable narrator tales. The others were good to mediocre. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nandakishore Mridula

    For a person drunk on the film society culture prevalent in Kerala during the Seventies and Eighties, "Rashomon" is a magic word. Akira Kurasowa’s film enjoys cult status among movie buffs. It is rivetting in its presentation of “truth” in many layers, presented as a conversation among three people: a woodcutter, a priest and a commoner who take shelter under the ramshackle Rashomon city gates to escape a downpour. The story is the death (murder?) of a man, the rape (?) of a woman and the capture For a person drunk on the film society culture prevalent in Kerala during the Seventies and Eighties, "Rashomon" is a magic word. Akira Kurasowa’s film enjoys cult status among movie buffs. It is rivetting in its presentation of “truth” in many layers, presented as a conversation among three people: a woodcutter, a priest and a commoner who take shelter under the ramshackle Rashomon city gates to escape a downpour. The story is the death (murder?) of a man, the rape (?) of a woman and the capture of a bandit responsible (?) for both: as the story unfolds, the differences in the widely varying testimonies of the people involved force us to have a rethink on what “truth” means. I had heard about this movie a lot before actually seeing it; and it lived up to its hype and more when I finally got around to seeing it. But this review is not about the movie. It is about the magical short story which was its inspiration – and other stories like it, penned by one of the great figures of Japanese literatures, the turn-of-the-century novelist Ryunosuke Akutagawa. When I first saw the movie, I was so taken up by the sheer visual beauty of Kurasowa’s storytelling that I did not ruminate much on what this movie was based on, even though I saw the “based on…” title in the beginning. It was only after joining Goodreads that I came to know about this book, and was immediately hungry for it. Having read it, it has left me hungry for more by the same author, and Japanese literature in general. It is so shattering in its impact on the intellect, even in translation; I cannot imagine how powerful it must be in the original Japanaese – for, as Haruki Murakami says in the introduction, the translation can never capture the power of the original. Akutagawa is a tragic figure. His mother went mad shortly after his birth, and he was raised by his childless maternal uncle and aunt. Even though they were a highly cultured family and young Ryunosuke was lucky to have a childhood exposed to a lot of intellectual pleasures, he was constantly plagued by ill-health and bullying in school. His ill-health continued into youth: he suffered from chronic insomnia and fears of madness. The misfortunes of family and country also distressed his oversensitive soul to an inordinate extent. Until finally, on 24 July 1927, Ryunosuke Akutagawa committed suicide by an overdose of Veronal. The author’s gifted and tortured soul is visible throughout this amazing collection of stories. It is divided into four sections: (1) A World in Decay, (2) Under the Sword, (3) Modern Tragicomedy and (4) Akutagawa’s Own Story. These sections correspond to four periods of Japanese history as well as four creative styles which took birth from Akutagawa’s fertile imagination. In the first section, stories (most of them retelling of old legends) set in the Heian Period (A.C.E. 794 – 1185) are included. This was Japan’s classical era; a time of peace, prosperity and opulence when art and culture flourished. But as is common with most ancient kingdoms, it declined and power slipped from the hands of the aristocrats into the hands of the warlords. It is this twilight period that Akutagawa uses as a backdrop for his stories of degeneration and decay. The title story of the collection, Rashomon, encapsulates the entire misery of the country in the symbol of the gate of the capital city of Kyoto. The city having been struck by one calamity after another, the author says: With the whole city in such turmoil, no one bothered to maintain the Rashomon. Foxes and badgers came to live in the dilapidated structure, and they were soon joined by thieves. Finally, it became the custom to abandon unclaimed corpses in the upper storey of the gate, which made the neighbourhood an eerie place that everyone avoided after the sun went down. The stage is thus perfectly set for a set of disturbing stories. Rashomon narrates the story of a jobless servant who is sheltering from the rain inside the gate and an old woman, who steals hair from the corpses lying there to sell to wig-makers, justifying it by pointing out that the dead people were also thieves and cheaters. Ultimately, she inspires the servant to become a thief himself who starts off on his new career by stealing her clothes! In a Bamboo Grove, one of the most extraordinary stories ever written (this was the inspiration for Kurasowa’s film, even though he used the Rashomon gate as a symbol of the decay he was portraying) narrates story of a dead warrior, a thief and a raped woman from the viewpoint of each of the protagonists. Each of the stories is different and equally believable from the evidence available at the scene of the crime and the statements of the witnesses. Who we believe will depend a lot on who we are. But the story which impressed me most in the whole volume is Hell Screen. This gem of a novelette gives us a taste of horror, Japanese style – I could understand how movies like Dark Water, The Ring and The Grudge came into being. The tale of the deformed artist Yoshihide (nicknamed “Monkeyhide” because of his deformity), the tapestry of hell he paints for the Lord Horikawa, the artist’s daughter who is a serving girl at the Lord’s mansion and the pet monkey has all the elements of a medieval ghost story and a gothic romance. However, it is Akutagawa’s narrative style (whereby he leaves a lot unsaid) and his choice of the narrative voice (that of an unnamed member of the Lord’s retinue) that are masterful. The story is a one way ride into darkness. In the second section, we move forward to the Tokugawa Shogunate (A.C.E. 1600 – 1868). This was the last feudal military government of Japan. During this period, the shogun elders of the Tokugawa clan ruled from Edo Castle. As Jay Rubin, the translator, says, the Tokugawa centralised feudalism “imposed the principle of joint responsibility on all parts of society, punishing whole families, entire villages, or professional guilds for the infractions of individual members. This fostered a culture based on mutual spying, which promoted a mentality of constant vigilance and self-censorship.” In the story Loyalty, the disastrous effects of the madness of a samurai on an entire dynasty is described: in this merciless world, it does not mean just the destruction of a person, but of a whole bloodline. The other two stories included describe the clash between Christianity and Japan’s traditional religions. These distressing tales are rendered with much empathy and wit. In the third section we find a sarcastic Akutagawa, full of black humour. The Story of the Head that Fell Off and Horse Legs use the trappings of fantasy to create a sort of darkly comic tale. In Green Onions, we can see an author smiling at himself and his fellow-scribes, in a pastiche of a romantic tale. There is a whole tradition of autobiographical writing in Japan, called “I-Novels”, where the author’s life itself is fictionalised. Even though Akutagawa initially stayed away from this genre, he finally succumbed to peer and critic pressure and started writing such stories. It is here that one can see a fine mind finally unravelling. There are hints of this in the first three stories, especially in The Writer’s Craft where an author is forced write an elegy for somebody whom he barely knows; just on the strength of his writing talent. This sense of unease is increased in Death Register where he tabulates the demise of friends and relatives: and in The Diary of a Stupid Man and Spinning Gears (where Akutagawa keeps on hallucinating spinning gears on one side of his vision), we sense that we are standing on the edge of a minefield. (Spinning Gears was published posthumously.) This is a well-chosen set of stories, with a fantastic introduction by Haruki Murakami. There are explanations about the historical periods, and background information on each story. The timeline of Akutagawa’s life is also provided. The book satisfies one, not only literally, but also as a window to Japanese literature. Highly recommended. Review also posted on my BLOG .

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mizuki

    3.5 stars. I read the Chinese translation of this short stories collection, which selects Mr. Akutagawa's best short stories...and Mr. Akutagawa committed suicide at around age 32. Well...the main reason for me to finally bring my lazy butt to read Akutagawa's novels is this: (LINK: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bungo_S...) Spider's Thread and Hell Screen must be best of the best among these handful of short stories in the collection. The haunting feeling of madness, despair and an artist's obsessio 3.5 stars. I read the Chinese translation of this short stories collection, which selects Mr. Akutagawa's best short stories...and Mr. Akutagawa committed suicide at around age 32. Well...the main reason for me to finally bring my lazy butt to read Akutagawa's novels is this: (LINK: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bungo_S...) Spider's Thread and Hell Screen must be best of the best among these handful of short stories in the collection. The haunting feeling of madness, despair and an artist's obsession with the art captured and described in Hell Screen really is really masterful. The story's outline of Hell Screen: in ancient Japan, a powerful, wealthy Duke ordered his painter to paint a scene of Hell on a screen. Soon afterward the painter reported to the Duke that he could not finish the painting and bring the sight of a living, burning Hell to his lord; if he couldn't witness, with his own eyes, a carriage being burnt to ash. Surprisingly, the Duke granted his wish by setting his own expansive carriage on fire, but the fulfillment of the painter's strange desire came with a heavy price... (view spoiler)[Oh well, turned out the painter's beloved daughter was dressed prettily and chained to the carriage to be burnt alive (she was chosen as a victim because she had refused the Duke, I guess?), sad to know the daughter's pet monkey is the only one who cared for her enough to throw itself to the flame and burnt with her. And more shockingly still, despite the painter's utter horror and pain, he watched his daughter being burnt alive in an twisted kind of ecstasy. How terrifying. (hide spoiler)] PS: I also read parts of Akutagawa's last novel before he offed himself, damn...the writing really is depressing and upsetting as shit. PSS: Mr. Akutagawa was heavily influenced by both Japanese's ancient folktales and ancient Chinese literature, both influences show quite strongly in his story telling and the subjects he chose to write about.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Taka

    Good, but... Yes. I did it. I've committed one of the ultimate literary sacrileges of all time. I read Akutagawa Ryunosuke in translation when I could have read it in original Japanese. I am guilty as charged. I just couldn't resist a book with such a cool cover and Murakami's introduction plus his trusted Jay Rubin doing the translation. Having said that, I did read it along with the actual Japanese text in front of me to see how well Jay Rubin has grappled with difficult early 19th-century Jap Good, but... Yes. I did it. I've committed one of the ultimate literary sacrileges of all time. I read Akutagawa Ryunosuke in translation when I could have read it in original Japanese. I am guilty as charged. I just couldn't resist a book with such a cool cover and Murakami's introduction plus his trusted Jay Rubin doing the translation. Having said that, I did read it along with the actual Japanese text in front of me to see how well Jay Rubin has grappled with difficult early 19th-century Japanese and rendered it into English. And the result was somewhat disappointing. I think he does a good job translating Murakami's works, but here with Akutagawa, he pretty much butchers most of his early stories that take place in medieval Japan (which stories, by the way, are usually extolled as his masterpieces). The original Japanese is, of course, in medieval Japanese, and it is quite different from modern Japanese (but not as different as modern English to Chaucer's middle English). But Mr. Rubin sometimes translates conversations into highly colloquial English, and that just doesn't work with Akutagawa's early stories. The Japanese language - still today and even more so back in the day - is a very polite language, which logically makes it a very vague language as well, where curse words don't really exist and you say things in a very roundabout way. And to render this into modern colloquial English is like equivalent to rendering Shakespeare into today's slang with an abundance of "F" and "N" and other such words. Now from a reader's point of view, Mr. Rubin's translation is very readable. Very. It could have, however, been a lot more conservative on the use of colloquialism and slang without compromising its readability. For example, in one of the scenes, a lord tells his trusted servant to kill someone, and the original reads more or less, "Kill that man, that Rin'emon," which Mr. Rubin translates as "Kill that bastard!" Alright. This does show the degree to which this guy is mad (in fact crazy), but I'm sorry, that just doesn't work. The word "bastard" is just way too much of a bad word for someone like a lord himself could utter (and I don't think there was an equivalent in medieval Japanese). I do recognize the difficulty since the Japanese here is very very subtle. The meaning is close to "bastard," but a LOT less blatant than what the English word conveys. In many many instances Mr. Rubin resorts to colloquial English that sounds too jarring to a Japanese ear when compared to the subtle nuances and beauty of the original Japanese. But that's just me, who is fortunate enough to be able to read both Japanese and English with more or less equal fluency. So as far as the translation is concerned, hats off to Mr. Rubin for making Akutagawa's stories easily available for the English-speaking public, but as an artistic work, it could have done much better by avoiding too much colloquialism and using more formal (and even a bit archaic) English to better convey the original voice of the text. W/r/t the stories, they are really good. I'd even say he's Japan's Chekhov. In fact, you could see an exotic blend of Kafka, Gogol, Chekhov, and even Dostoevsky at work behind these stories. My personal favorites are his famous "Hell Screen" (intense and just awesome), "In the Bamboo Grove" (Kurosawa's Rashomon is based on this), and "Horse legs" (which is very Kafkaesque and just funny). "Loyalty" is also excellent in terms of it psychological insights. Though I wasn't a big fan of his later, autobiographical stories, they were strangely engaging. It's just too bad that one of his most famous stories, "Kappa," is not included in this collection. Overall, it's a good short anthology of Akutagawa's stories.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Fabian

    Beautiful, clear-cut gems these 6 brilliant stories all. They are similar to Flannery O'Connor's, about the undercarriage of humanity, the darkness that no matter what people tell you, they all have at least some measure of. With rapes, killings, and the worst types of betrayals imaginable, R. Akutagawa has made up prototypes for future stories of evil. Indispensable to all big fans of the Short Story. Beautiful, clear-cut gems these 6 brilliant stories all. They are similar to Flannery O'Connor's, about the undercarriage of humanity, the darkness that no matter what people tell you, they all have at least some measure of. With rapes, killings, and the worst types of betrayals imaginable, R. Akutagawa has made up prototypes for future stories of evil. Indispensable to all big fans of the Short Story.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    There are six Japanese short stories in this collection. We learn from the very start that the author committed suicide at age 35.... His stories are dark... including murder, grief, infidelity, humiliation, isolation, desire, greed, and good & evil, ... I didn’t like these stories nearly as much as I did the short novel I read recently “Kokoro”, by Natsume Soseki .... but they are written beautifully..... most were unsettling.... The author was cynical it seemed to me pretty much about everything. There are six Japanese short stories in this collection. We learn from the very start that the author committed suicide at age 35.... His stories are dark... including murder, grief, infidelity, humiliation, isolation, desire, greed, and good & evil, ... I didn’t like these stories nearly as much as I did the short novel I read recently “Kokoro”, by Natsume Soseki .... but they are written beautifully..... most were unsettling.... The author was cynical it seemed to me pretty much about everything. After awhile -I was ready to move on from all the bleakness.

  16. 4 out of 5

    E. G.

    Note on Japanese Name Order and Pronunciation Acknowledgments Chronology & Notes Introduction: Akutagawa Ryūnosuke: Downfall of the Chosen, by Murakami Haruki Further Reading Translator's Note A World in Decay --Rashōmon --In a Bamboo Grove --The Nose --Dragon: The Old Potter's Tale --The Spider Thread --Hell Screen Under the Sword --Dr. Ogata Ryōsai: Memorandum --O-Gin --Loyalty Modern Tragicomedy --The Story of a Head That Fell Off --Green Onions --Horse Legs Akutagawa's Own Story --Daidōji Shinsuke Note on Japanese Name Order and Pronunciation Acknowledgments Chronology & Notes Introduction: Akutagawa Ryūnosuke: Downfall of the Chosen, by Murakami Haruki Further Reading Translator's Note A World in Decay --Rashōmon --In a Bamboo Grove --The Nose --Dragon: The Old Potter's Tale --The Spider Thread --Hell Screen Under the Sword --Dr. Ogata Ryōsai: Memorandum --O-Gin --Loyalty Modern Tragicomedy --The Story of a Head That Fell Off --Green Onions --Horse Legs Akutagawa's Own Story --Daidōji Shinsuke: The Early Years --The Writer's Craft --The Baby's Sickness --Death Register --The Life of a Stupid Man --Spinning Gears Notes

  17. 4 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    I was Compelled to read this after loving Akira Kurosawa's classic film. Most of the stories are superb, with Akutagawa's prose full of such fluidity. He really catches you out with some beautiful quirks of description, sharp bouts of humour, and many revelations in a short space of time that it's no wonder he is considered one of Japan's greatest short-story writers. I was Compelled to read this after loving Akira Kurosawa's classic film. Most of the stories are superb, with Akutagawa's prose full of such fluidity. He really catches you out with some beautiful quirks of description, sharp bouts of humour, and many revelations in a short space of time that it's no wonder he is considered one of Japan's greatest short-story writers.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Paquita Maria Sanchez

    Here is the answer to the obvious question, which I call obvious because of the fact that I thought it, s. commented below asking about it, and my guess is that more will come. So, let me clarify...umm, sort of. It's a little confusing, actually. The Akutagawa story In a Grove, which is in this particular Akutagawa collection, was the basis for the Kurosawa film Rashōmon. The Akutagawa story Rashōmon--which is also in this collection and by the same author, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa--shares no similari Here is the answer to the obvious question, which I call obvious because of the fact that I thought it, s. commented below asking about it, and my guess is that more will come. So, let me clarify...umm, sort of. It's a little confusing, actually. The Akutagawa story In a Grove, which is in this particular Akutagawa collection, was the basis for the Kurosawa film Rashōmon. The Akutagawa story Rashōmon--which is also in this collection and by the same author, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa--shares no similarities save robber characters and, of course, being in this collection and by this particular author: Akutagawa. Further, this edition of Akutagawa stories that I personally read only contains 6 pieces, though goodreads has filed it as if it were the same as another Akutagawa collection which contains 17 Akutagawa stories, including Rashōmon and In a Grove, the latter of which was the basis for the Kurosawa film Rashōmon, and both of which are also, as I said, in the 6 story collection that I read. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Imagine managing the manger at an imaginary menagerie!* In a Grove alone makes this worth reading, though Rashōmon the short story is amazing in its own right. Yam Gruel is a guts-knotting depiction of what happens when you get what you want, even (especially?) if it's the only thing you ever wanted, and still have so much empty existence left to live through afterward. This one made me feel like I was watching one of those guilt-trippy "save the battered puppies and kitties" commercials with the sappy Lilith Fair soundtracks that make you so sick to your stomach with overwhelming, scary Feelings about this harsh world that you have to change the channel as quickly as possible in order to not cry (or shove a pistol in your mouth). Kesa and Morito is a story of adultery and murder between a couple who simultaneously despise, love, fear, and lust for one another. It is a brief reflection on what we have and what we lose as a result of what our self-hatreds make us think we do and do not deserve, and on the appeal of smashing something to bits if only for the resulting change itself. It is also about the guilt that follows: Could I not endure my loneliness since my ugliness was vividly shown to me? Did I try to bury everything in that delirious moment of putting my face on his chest? Or was I moved by mere shameful desire as he was? ...I can love only one man. And that very man is coming to kill me tonight. Even this rush-light is too bright for me, tortured by my lover as I am. Daaaaamn, gurl. Isss ok! The other two stories concern religious themes of devotion and mass hysteria. I'm not sure how I feel about The Martyr, as it struck me as a sort of Japanese retelling of the Job tale, and that bible story more than most makes me extremely angry that I'm expected to buy the appeal of some all-powerful sadist dickwad in the sky. The Dragon, however, was awesome for the opposite reason: it actually questions the various supposed spiritual phenomena throughout history, anything from possessions to Virgin Mary in the cheese, all through a simple tale of a priest's prank that goes too far. We all saw it happen, so that means it's real! Even though there is zero proof! How could we all think it if it's not true? That never happens! Great collection. I'm sure that the even longer collection that goodreads thinks this collection is, is also great. *Alright, I admit that I made that more difficult than necessary.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Luís

    These novels are most often chilling. Akutagawa with exceptional mastery shows what is cruellest and most grotesque in the human condition. As a naturalist writer, he insists on the most macabre details. Feelings of humanity are quickly overcome by implacable necessity or appear unexpected or even supernatural. Two of the short stories presented in this collection inspired Kurosawa for his film "Rashômon". At the time of Heian Kyôto after several years of cataclysms is in terrible distress. The These novels are most often chilling. Akutagawa with exceptional mastery shows what is cruellest and most grotesque in the human condition. As a naturalist writer, he insists on the most macabre details. Feelings of humanity are quickly overcome by implacable necessity or appear unexpected or even supernatural. Two of the short stories presented in this collection inspired Kurosawa for his film "Rashômon". At the time of Heian Kyôto after several years of cataclysms is in terrible distress. The ruined door of Rashô is now only a shelter for foxes and thieves. Corpses are thrown into his gallery, piling up there. It is there that a man waits to protect himself from heavy rain. His boss and wonders have just fired him if it is better to become a thief or starve. Walking through the gallery, he sees a faint glow and the silhouette of an old woman who grabs the hair of a corpse ... This short story, "Rashômon", is undoubtedly the most striking of the collection to which she gives her title. Akutagawa plunges with disturbing fascination into the depths of the human heart.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kimley

    Obviously the difficulty of rating collections of stories is the fact that they don't necessarily all rate equally. About a third of these stories are easily knock-out 5-star fantastic. The other two-thirds I'd rate mostly 4 stars with a few 3 stars. All worth reading and in general I think this is probably a good intro to Akutagawa's work in that it contains a nice cross-section of his work from the earliest historical stories to his later primarily autobiographical stories. I personally preferr Obviously the difficulty of rating collections of stories is the fact that they don't necessarily all rate equally. About a third of these stories are easily knock-out 5-star fantastic. The other two-thirds I'd rate mostly 4 stars with a few 3 stars. All worth reading and in general I think this is probably a good intro to Akutagawa's work in that it contains a nice cross-section of his work from the earliest historical stories to his later primarily autobiographical stories. I personally preferred the earlier stories which ranged from tales of Samurai warriors and Shoguns and stories of religious persecution when Christianity was making inroads in Japan to satyrical stories about unfortunates with big noses.* While the settings are completely foreign to me, the characters are people I know all too well. My favorite story being "Hell Screen" in which an egotistical painter is commissioned to paint a screen depicting the horrors of hell. In order to sketch the scenes, he puts his assistants through a myriad of tortures and all I'll add in an effort to not give too much away is that karma is a bitch! These early stories have an almost Victorian gothic creepiness to them but it's a bit more subtle and far more insidious in that it seems infinitely more real. And Akutagawa has a nice dollop of humor running throughout these early stories as well. The later autobiographical stories in which he writes of his mother who went mad, of his infidelities and his fear of going mad himself and his increasing depression that led to his eventual suicide are painful to read in how human and easy to relate to they are. But having read Dazai's similarly themed autobiographical stories not too long ago, Akutagawa didn't have quite the gut punch that Dazai had for me. Akutagawa's story "The Spinning Gears" was the best of the autobiographical bunch for me. Throughout, he continues to have visions of gears that nearly block out his vision. Those of us who have the luxury to think about life beyond just worrying about food and shelter can probably all relate to this nightmare of the cogs of life just taking over. The horror element of his earlier stories definitely comes into play here. There's a slightly strange intro to this collection by Haruki Murakami which is far more critical of Akutagawa's work than I might have expected though it did seem like a relatively fair critique. I'm glad I read it after reading the stories though. ----------------------- *When I studied Chinese, my teachers were all native Chinese, mostly on exchange and when we learned the word for "nose" we also learned that Americans are frequently called "big nose" so I had a good chuckle seeing that the Japanese are equally amused by big noses.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Praj

    Akutagawa known as the “Father of Japanese short stories” stays true to his designation with this collection of metaphysically refined stories. The rendered stories: - The Grove, Yam Gruel, Rashomon, Martyr to name a few; highlights Akutagawa’s preference for macabre themes of immortality, depression, virtue, chaos and death. These stories encompass a constant battle of skepticism prevailing over virtue of morality v/s existence of evil. In Rashomon, the act of the ghoulish old woman picking o Akutagawa known as the “Father of Japanese short stories” stays true to his designation with this collection of metaphysically refined stories. The rendered stories: - The Grove, Yam Gruel, Rashomon, Martyr to name a few; highlights Akutagawa’s preference for macabre themes of immortality, depression, virtue, chaos and death. These stories encompass a constant battle of skepticism prevailing over virtue of morality v/s existence of evil. In Rashomon, the act of the ghoulish old woman picking out long hairs from the skulls of the corpses to make wigs and sell them to buy scraps of food delineate a desperate act to fulfill the demonic perils of life. Similarly, 'Martyr' highlights the thriving soul of hypocrisy in religion and the susceptibility to strong gossip. Akutagawa’s affinity for such themes brings out his real tumultuous relation with mental anxiety and clinical neurotic dwelling of his personal life. (He committed suicide at the age of 35 due to an overdose of Vernol). Furthermore, his description of kimonos/garbs adorning his protagonists illustrates a high usage of the color blue which in Japanese culture is the color of naivety,immaturity and youth.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    What I love about Rashomon is that it signifies pretentious snobbery so perfectly. Like, if you want to impress someone at a cocktail party, "I didn't understand truth until I saw Rashomon," you might say. Did I say impress? I meant impress upon them that you would be super boring to go on a date with. You can win any argument by nominating Rashomon because no real people have actually seen it. Anyway, I haven't seen it. I read the book though! Here it is! No, not the one called Rashomon. That's a What I love about Rashomon is that it signifies pretentious snobbery so perfectly. Like, if you want to impress someone at a cocktail party, "I didn't understand truth until I saw Rashomon," you might say. Did I say impress? I meant impress upon them that you would be super boring to go on a date with. You can win any argument by nominating Rashomon because no real people have actually seen it. Anyway, I haven't seen it. I read the book though! Here it is! No, not the one called Rashomon. That's actually about something totally different. Rashomon the movie was mostly based on a different story by this same guy, called "In a Bamboo Grove." I know this from reading the introduction. Would you like to go on a date with me and I'll tell you about a pretentious movie I haven't even seen. What book do you think is the Rashomon of books? Like, how could you instantly signify that you're pretentious? Is it Proust? Things You Can Signify With Books On The Road: I will not be good in bed. Jane Austen: I haven't read a classic since high school. Ulysses: oh, this is probably the pretentious one. What's your idea? Tell me - YOU RIGHT THERE, I demand that you tell me a book and what it signifies when a person claims to be a big fan of it. Whatever, here's the thing, those are both wonderful stories but who cares when you've got something called HELL SCREEN coming your way. HELL SCREEN *heavy metal music* Hell Screen is so fucking great, it's this Poe / Wilde / Faust thing where an artist can only paint from life and then he's asked to paint hell and you can pretty much see where this is going. There's a monkey. Akutagawa is one of Japan's most famous writers. He wrote mostly short stories like these here. He committed suicide in 1927 when he was 35, overdosing on sleeping meds across the room from his wife and kids. All of the stories I read in this collection were perfect. Look, it's not that HELL SCREEN is the best name for anything ever and any story not called HELL SCREEN is stupid, but...it's not not that, either.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Zanna

    First read in 2007 In his characteristically measured, conversational introduction to this book, Murakami Haruki tells us that Akutagawa is his third favourite author in the modern (post 1868) Japanese canon (after Soseki and Tanizaki). Rather than giddily enthusing about the author, Murakami carefully contextualises him in Japanese literature and culture. Akutagawa lived during a brief period of prosperity and political liberalism between WWI and the Depression in 1929, and combined appreciative First read in 2007 In his characteristically measured, conversational introduction to this book, Murakami Haruki tells us that Akutagawa is his third favourite author in the modern (post 1868) Japanese canon (after Soseki and Tanizaki). Rather than giddily enthusing about the author, Murakami carefully contextualises him in Japanese literature and culture. Akutagawa lived during a brief period of prosperity and political liberalism between WWI and the Depression in 1929, and combined appreciative immersion in Japanese cultural life with passion for Western literature. He called Soseki 'The Master', and worked as an editor as well as writing; the autobiographical stories in this collection demonstrate the literariness of his short life. As well as drawing on his own daily experience and mental anguish for source material (a form related to the 'I-novel' style of some of his contemporaries in Japanese literature), Akutagawa wrote stories set in the Edo period when Japan was governed by military overlords. Many of these have interesting historical content. He also wrote stories of his own time, with an amusing self-awareness. The writer is always a presence, even if only in the pleasurable excess of musical names. His style is clear, lyrical and pierced here and there by vivid images, like the purple sparks made by the tram on the overhead wires that the narrator wants to hold in his hands. Murakami says 'the flow of his language... moves along like a living thing', and this translation by Jay Rubin certainly preserves this natural, dynamic, unforced quality. One technique that I particularly liked and that is original or at least unusual is the one he employs in 'Hell Screen' as well as other pieces, that of using a disapproving narrator to tell the hero's story. This device not only actively engages the reader's sympathy with the protagonists, but also creates a deep and nuanced impression of social exclusion and isolation.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    "Yes, sir. Certainly, it was I who found the body. This morning as usual, I went to cut my daily quota of cedar, when I found a body in a grove..." Opening lines of "In a Grove", from RASHŌMON and Other Stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, translated by Takashi Kojima // originals 1910s-1920s in Japanese, translated and collected in English 1952. Akutagawa is known as the "father of the Japanese short story" - this distinction, as well as my love for short stories made him a must read for my January in "Yes, sir. Certainly, it was I who found the body. This morning as usual, I went to cut my daily quota of cedar, when I found a body in a grove..." Opening lines of "In a Grove", from RASHŌMON and Other Stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, translated by Takashi Kojima // originals 1910s-1920s in Japanese, translated and collected in English 1952. Akutagawa is known as the "father of the Japanese short story" - this distinction, as well as my love for short stories made him a must read for my January in Japan queue. In his short life (he died of suicide at 35), he wrote 150 stories and gained popularity and prestige for his work, so much so, that one of Japan's major literary prizes is named in honor of him - the Akutagawa Prize. This collection gathers only 6 of his short stories, and was a wonderful introduction to his style. It contains two of his #classics - In a Grove, and Rashōmon. *Fun Fact* Akira Kurasawa's famous Rashōmon film (1950), despite its name, is actually based on "In a Grove" short story. The film popularized the multiple viewpoints/perspectives and emphasized the subjective nature of truth and justice, regulsrly refered to as "Rashōmon effect". Akutagawa's stories are immersive, eerie, and dark. All good combinations for me!

  25. 5 out of 5

    BrokenTune

    DNF @ 39% These stories are not bad but I just can't muster any real enthusiasm for them. It is not helped by the stories being unconneced and by themselves not being great examples of the short story format. Of course, they were not written as short stories in the Western literary sense. It's just that the way they are written is boring me stiff. Maybe I'll pick this up again at a later date, but right now, this is not working for me. DNF @ 39% These stories are not bad but I just can't muster any real enthusiasm for them. It is not helped by the stories being unconneced and by themselves not being great examples of the short story format. Of course, they were not written as short stories in the Western literary sense. It's just that the way they are written is boring me stiff. Maybe I'll pick this up again at a later date, but right now, this is not working for me.

  26. 4 out of 5

    L.S. Popovich

    Akutagawa is one of my favorite writers. He took his own life with barbiturates at age 35 and left behind some 300 stories, sketches, articles and literary experiments. In English he has appeared in over a dozen collections of the same 20-30 most famous stories retranslated a dozen times. This latest collection, translated by the consummate Jay Rubin, has a lovingly detailed introduction by the inimitable Haruki Murakami. It is a mere sampling of 18 stories from his impossibly good body of work. Akutagawa is one of my favorite writers. He took his own life with barbiturates at age 35 and left behind some 300 stories, sketches, articles and literary experiments. In English he has appeared in over a dozen collections of the same 20-30 most famous stories retranslated a dozen times. This latest collection, translated by the consummate Jay Rubin, has a lovingly detailed introduction by the inimitable Haruki Murakami. It is a mere sampling of 18 stories from his impossibly good body of work. Unlike Toson, Soseki and Tanizaki, Akutagawa did not embark on massive literary projects. Instead, he honed his craft with precision and an appreciation for classic storytelling. I have read some of his stories ten times, and they always elicit a strong response from me. In a lot of ways, he resembles Gogol, and even composed an homage with his story "The Nose." Though different in content, the tone is reminiscent of the Russian master. This is one of the masterpieces contained in this treasury. The others include: "Rashomon, In a Bamboo Grove, Hell Screen, Spinning Gears, Death Register, and the Life of a Stupid Man." Even the ones that are not masterworks per se, are extremely entertaining. "Green Onions, The Story of the Head that Fell Off, Horse Legs, and Loyalty" fall into this category. If you are new to this author, you may not enjoy all of his tales, but I believe you will appreciate many aspects of his singular talent. He writes a few different types of stories: 1). retellings of classic tales from Chinese and other sources. These read a little like fables. 2.) Autobiographical tales: these are often depressing, taking details of his haunted life and casting them bleakly against the backdrop of his times. 3). Religious tales like "Christ of Nanking" (not included in the collection) and others. Historical tales, taking place well before the author's time but possessing uncanny verisimilitude. In his stories you will find traces of his influences: Anatole France, Strindberg, Merimee, Goethe, Nagoya Shiga, Soseki, Toson, Tanizaki, Basho, Doppo, Ogai, Pu Songling and dozens of other European and Chinese authors. He has rewritten stories from Pu Songling's collections as well as retold many from the seminal Japanese proto-mythologies. Akutagawa draws from Buddhism, Shintoism, Christianity and Myth. I think he is one of the most interesting writers I have ever encountered because he processes other literary worlds into new forms. Even when he waxes esoteric, he is charming and insightful. He explores human nature with deep characters and memorable comedy and tragedy. This brilliant edition includes thorough notes by Rubin explaining the finer points of the stories. There is enough material in this singular Penguin edition to write a dissertation on Akutagawa. Jay Rubin has put in an astounding effort toward accuracy and illumination. I only wish he would continue with further volumes of stories. If you appreciate the stories of Chekhov, Gogol, Maupassant, and Dostoyevsky, you will find a lot to love about this author. Typically, you can expect tortured artists, explorations of morality and death, futility and hope, love and loss. Very classic themes. "Green Onions" and "O-gin" were odd but welcome selections for this book. Overall, it is the most well-rounded collection of the author's writings in English. I have so far discovered 107 Akutagawa tales in English. I've read every anthology of Japanese literature, every collection of his tales and tracked down out of print Japanese-American periodicals through JSTOR. I want to thank Ryan C. K. Choi and N. A. Feathers for publishing new translations of his work on their websites. This incredible author has not gotten a full treatment in English and I implore translators to get to work on making his complete works available. So far we have only about 900 pages of stories, when obscure, ancient masters like Pu Songling have been translated more comprehensively. Along with this collection you will want to read two more collections: Mandarins, translated by Charles de Wolf, and The Beautiful and Grotesque, which includes "Kappa," his novella. Though Akutagawa's accomplishment is profoundly important (far more so, I would argue, than Murakami claims in his indicting introduction), one wonders what heights Akutagawa might have reached had he endured the agonies of his intellectual rigors for decades longer. Was he capable of writing novels? Were the demons he wrote about in "Spinning Gears" exaggerated or as sincerely recorded as in Strindberg's Inferno? These questions will never be answered. But part of his appeal is how digestible and varied his work is. This is undoubtedly one of the greatest short story collections by any Japanese or non-Western author.

  27. 5 out of 5

    mahtiel

    Throughout my life I've been experiencing the strangest tendency when reading a really great literary work: after finishing a particularly brilliant passage/story/poem, I just have to put the book down for while, to stop reading it altogether as if I was afraid that this was the peak and nothing better will follow. Sometimes this takes days of sweet pondering upon the writer's craft. I like savouring these moments, they occur rarely, bringing me much pleasure and gently nudging me into thinking Throughout my life I've been experiencing the strangest tendency when reading a really great literary work: after finishing a particularly brilliant passage/story/poem, I just have to put the book down for while, to stop reading it altogether as if I was afraid that this was the peak and nothing better will follow. Sometimes this takes days of sweet pondering upon the writer's craft. I like savouring these moments, they occur rarely, bringing me much pleasure and gently nudging me into thinking about beauty. Many Akutagawa's short stories gave me this feeling, especially those that were about medieval Japan and the samurai (especially In a Bamboo Grove, Hell Screen or Loyalty). I find it extremely hard to comment on such brilliantly crafted small literary worlds. It's always difficult to describe perfection, you just have to experience it and then you know: this is it. I feel the compliments are also in order for Jay Rubin, the translator, who rendered these stories so beautifully into English. On the other hand, this book seemed utterly depressing to me. Akutagawa is preoccupied with death and suicide in quite an unhealthy manner, which is surely due to his mental illness. Naturally, this issue is a fact of life, not a bad thing in itself, but the way this volume is compiled and filled with incredibly elaborate commentary on the autobiographical element of his writing, one sort of feels like sinking into that utter darkness with the author (the most dismal posthumously published stories are ordered in the end of this compilation). Thus, Akutagawa would be one of those artists that I put into a special category of mine - the writers that I consider truly gifted (if not even genius), but for various reasons I can't relate to them personally. His own works were unlikely to appeal to people who were not like him and had not lived a life like this ...as Akutagawa wrote himself. He tells us later that he is the one that believes in the existence of darkness only, not in the light. It leaves me just wondering how much of this is the result his depression or unhappy personal circumstances and how much the influence of fin-de-siècle literature he was devouring, an influence on his life that is duly acknowledged. So, there he is - a master of words, a strange man... I guess this is the black and the white of this reading experience. A damn intense reading experience.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sam Quixote

    "Rashomon" tells the story of a "lowly servant" sheltering from the rain on the steps of a rashomon (outer castle gate). He has recently been laid off and sits pondering his future. He hears a sound and ventures inside the rashomon to see what it was. Inside are heaps of dead bodies from the recent plague and a strange old woman wandering about, going through the corpses' clothes. The servant attacks the old woman, strips her of her clothing, throws her onto the heap, and runs off. "In a Bamboo "Rashomon" tells the story of a "lowly servant" sheltering from the rain on the steps of a rashomon (outer castle gate). He has recently been laid off and sits pondering his future. He hears a sound and ventures inside the rashomon to see what it was. Inside are heaps of dead bodies from the recent plague and a strange old woman wandering about, going through the corpses' clothes. The servant attacks the old woman, strips her of her clothing, throws her onto the heap, and runs off. "In a Bamboo Grove" features a married couple and a robber. The story is told from the perspective of all witnesses and it emerges that the husband was murdered but who did it and why is the mystery. These are the two most famous Akutagawa stories and are an excellent start to the collection. However, afterwards they become quite mediocre and even a bit tedious. The forced gothic of "Hell Screen" plods along until a near hysterical ending that undermines the seriousness of the story, that of obssession and the artistic mind. "The Nose" is a very odd story about a priest with a very big nose, has it shortened, and it grows back again. It's one of those "be grateful for what you have, accept who you are" type tales and not nearly as brilliant as Gogol's "The Nose" (Gogol being one of Akutagawa's influences and, frankly, a better short story writer). As the title suggests there are 18 stories here but those are the only ones I can remember. The last couple in the section called "Akutagawa's Own Story" are interesting, with "Life of a Stupid Man" playing with form and presenting an interesting take on autobiography through small snippets of a life glimpsed in passing. "Spinning Gears" is the final story he wrote before his suicide (pills) and is about the slowly disintegrating mind of Akutagawa. The desperation and mounting paranoia give the reader an insight into Akutagawa's fragile and fractured mindset. The strange imagery is also fascinating. The spinning gears he sees around his eyes confuse and scare him while at every turn he sees signs of death - a decaying animal corpse, dying people in hospitals, and above all his morbid fear of going insane like his mother. I won't say I didn't enjoy the book as there were some stories here that were excellent, and whether it's Jay Rubin's translation or not, the writing was always of a high standard. And students of literature will find reading "Rashomon" and "In a Bamboo Grove" very rewarding as will film students who are interested in the work of Kurasawa who based his film "Rashomon" on those stories. But compared to other short story writers and other Japanese writers, Akutagawa isn't nearly on their level.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Barrow Wilfong

    Collection of short stories by the pre-war Japanese author, Ryunosuke Akutagawa. Akutagawa wrote around 150 short stories before he committed suicide in 1927. The stories are creepy and eerie, but very well done. Perhaps they are even more beautiful in the original Japanese. Nevertheless, there is something dismal and Sartresque about them. Another descriptive word would be thought-provoking as each tale grapples with evil and the hopelessness of man. Though the author is from the 20th century, t Collection of short stories by the pre-war Japanese author, Ryunosuke Akutagawa. Akutagawa wrote around 150 short stories before he committed suicide in 1927. The stories are creepy and eerie, but very well done. Perhaps they are even more beautiful in the original Japanese. Nevertheless, there is something dismal and Sartresque about them. Another descriptive word would be thought-provoking as each tale grapples with evil and the hopelessness of man. Though the author is from the 20th century, the tales show an medieval, traditional Japan. Maybe Akutagawa saw that this way of life was on the verge of disappearing. These perhaps were meant to be moral tales, hoping to provoke the readers into recognizing their own guilt and lack of compassion for their fellow man, much like the Indian writer and poet, Rabindranath Tagore. The first one is probably the most interesting to me. In A Grove, is about a murder with no third person narrator, but several first person narrators. The entire story is through dialogue. Each gives their testimony as to what happened. As each new person gives their version of events, new information is added and enlightens the reader to the actual character of the previous witness. Finally, even the victim gives his testimony through a medium. Spoiler: Another dark yet provoking tale is Rashomon. A recently fired servant visits a place where unclaimed corpses are dumped. While there he discovers a old woman stealing the hair from the corpses to sell. He is angry that someone would stoop to desecrating the dead, but the woman insists she must do so to survive. She then claims the dead woman whose hair she is stealing stole fish when she was alive, but she, too, did it only to survive. So is it evil when one is only doing what one is forced to do? The servant answers her, that if that is the case, he is justified in stealing from her. So he violently takes her clothes from her body and runs off, leaving the old woman naked among the dead. I think it is a point well taken. When one begins to justify evil, where is the line drawn? It's just a matter of might making right. The last story, The Dragon, is the most suspenseful. A priest, tired of being mocked and bullied by his community decides to play a practical joke. He sets up a sign next to a lake that where his temple is that at a certain date, a black dragon that resides at the bottom of the lake will rise to the heavens. As more and more people read the sign, word gets around and increasing hordes of people from all over Japan start arriving to see the spectacle. The priest begins to feel uneasy. He meant it as a joke so he could laugh at his fellow villagers. Now what will happen when everyone is disappointed? The ending is not predictable and rather beautiful.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    The story that became the namesake for Akira Kurosawa's 1950 film, and in typical of Akutagawa's style, it provides fewer answers than questions, drawing a lot of thinking on behalf of the reader, it's complex, but carries with it far more than meets the eye, It is riveting in its presentation of “truth” in many layers, presented as a conversation among three people: a woodcutter, a priest and a commoner who take shelter under the ramshackle Rashomon city gates to escape a downpour. The story is The story that became the namesake for Akira Kurosawa's 1950 film, and in typical of Akutagawa's style, it provides fewer answers than questions, drawing a lot of thinking on behalf of the reader, it's complex, but carries with it far more than meets the eye, It is riveting in its presentation of “truth” in many layers, presented as a conversation among three people: a woodcutter, a priest and a commoner who take shelter under the ramshackle Rashomon city gates to escape a downpour. The story is the death (murder?) of a man, the rape (?) of a woman and the capture of a bandit responsible (?) for both: as the story unfolds, the differences in the widely varying testimonies of the people involved force us to have a rethink on what “truth” means. The short nature of the story shouldn't be a put off, it remains one of the most enduring stories because of its complex and nuanced telling of the ethical dilemma faced by many in times of poverty, all the while the rain and darkness pervade, giving this story a bleak and pessimistic quality. A masterpiece.

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