Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Short Book Showcase: Rashōmon and Seventeen Other Stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa

Before we get started, I just want to let you all know that I do have another editorial up on Creators.co/ Now Loading. If anyone wants to read it, you can find it here:

Ryūnosuke Akutagawa
As you Dear Readers know, I love Speculative Fiction, especially Fantasy Literature. But that doesn't mean that I read it exclusively. I will occasionally reach into my bookshelf and pull out something by Falkner, T.S. Eliot, Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Izumi Kyoka or whatever. But for whatever reason, I keep going back to is my copy of Ryūnosuke Akutagawa short stories. For those who don't know, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa was a Japanese short story writer from early 20th century. He's one of Japan's most influential writers, pioneering the short story form in that country. During his lifetime he wrote about 150 short stories which range from the beautifully bleak Rashōmon to the tragic yet hysterical Horse Legs.      

I must admit, Akutagawa is one of those authors that's really hard to talk about. Not because I don't understand his work, I do. But he's hard to talk about because, well, because of his relative obscurity in the west. And the fact that his work is so soul-crushingly depressing sometimes that talking to people about it makes them look down at their feet uncomfortably and quickly change the subject. Or to put it another way, it's like explaining Hemingway's The Battler to someone who only reads disposable, factory produced garbage like Fifty Shades of Grey.  They will listen to you for maybe a few sentences before shaking their heads and saying "Sounds boring. I don't want to read that." *sigh* exchanges like that make me fear for the human race.

Joking aside, I adore Akutagawa's work. Sure it's depressing and sometimes more disturbing than anything I've ever read from a western author. But it's dark in that meaningful thought provoking way that stays with you long after you've put the book down. Thankfully, if you want to get into his work, most of it is in the public domain here in the states, but I personally would start with Penguin Classics' Rashōmon and Seventeen Other Stories (pictured above) which was expertly translated by Jay Rubin. It collects some his most well-known stories such as the aforementioned Rashōmon, In a Bamboo Grove,  Hell Screen, And some lesser known stories like The Story Of A Head That Fell Off, Green Onions, and The Life of A Stupid Man. 

That's all from me today, Dear Readers. I'll see you next time.


No comments:

Post a Comment