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 humour. ‘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.
One of the towering figures of modern Japanese writing, Akutagawa's early career was distinguished by imaginative, beautifully crafted stories of medieval Japan, rich with period detail. These two stories include his great masterpiece of that period, 'Hell Screen', and the parable of a thread-thin chance of escape for a sinner in the Pool of Blood.
"Clear-eyed glimpses of human behavior in the extremities of poverty, stupidity, greed, vanity… Story-telling of an unconventional sort, with most of the substance beneath the shining, enameled surface." —The New York Times Book Review This collection of six short stories, most of which have never been translated before, includes "In a Grove", a psychologically sophisticated tale about murder, rape, and suicide; "Rashomon", the story of a thief scared into honesty by an encounter with a ghoul; and "Kesa and Morito", the story of man driven to kill someone he doesn't hate by a lover whom he doesn't love. "There are enough Swiftian touches in Akutagawa to show his hatred of stupidity, gree...
Ryunosuke Akutagawa blends a sense of sad inevitability with subtle irony. Reflective and often humorous, these tales reveal an enormous amount about Japanese culture, while the inner struggles of the characters always strike the universal.
From the literary giant of Japan, who is often referred to as the "Godfather of the Japanese short story", and after whom the most coveted literary prize of Japan is named, the Akutagawa Prize, comes this collection of three of his greatest short stories. Akutagawa is probably best known for his story "Rashōmon" which was adapted for the screen by legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. While he died at the young age of 35, the author penned well over 150 short stories, including "Cogwheels" which he wrote just before his suicide in 1927. Accompanied by stunning woodcuts by renowned artists Naoko Matsubara, and expertly translated by Howard Norman, the three stories compiled here reflect the haunting, precise and brilliant style of Akutagawa and offer a superb entry point to his work. Haruki Murakami aptly described Akutagawas writing when he remarked, "the flow of his language is the best feature of Akutagawas style. Never stagnant, it moves along like a living thing ... His choice of words is intuitive, natural -- and beautiful."
Akutagawa Ryunosuke (1892-1927) is one of twentieth-century Japan's great storytellers. He is best known in the West for the story "Rashomon", "Rasho Gate", which, with another of his short stories as primary source, "Within a Grove", was the inspiration behind Kurosawa's film Rashomon. Akutagawa read widely in world literature. He graduated from Tokyo University with a thesis on William Morris. His mentor was the great novelist Natsume Soseki, who had lived in London at the turn of the century. Akutagawa's writings include reworkings of motifs and tales of China's and Japan's past, modern fables, essays, and a few autobiographical fictions which, like A Fool's Life, follow his intense engagement and difficulty with the world. He ended his brief life the month after completing A Fool's Life. A small proportion of Akutagawa's output has, since 1930, been translated somewhat piecemeal into English, some works more than once. New selections continue to appear but an authoritative collected edition is still needed. This annotated translation of A Fool's Life includes new research.
CLASSIC FICTION. From the author of Rashomon comes a Swiftian satire of Japanese society thinly disguised as the fictitious Kappaland. Peopled with creatures from Japanese folklore, Kappaland serves as a vehicle for the humorous examination of the moral foibles of Japanese society in the early 20th century.