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1. Biography - Akutagawa, Ryunosuke
2. Mandarins: Stories by Ryunosuke
3. Rashomon and Other Stories
4. Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories
5. Japanese Short Stories.
6. Hell Screen ("Jigoku Hen"): and
7. Akutagawa and Dazai: Instances

1. Biography - Akutagawa, Ryunosuke (1892-1927): An article from: Contemporary Authors Online
by Gale Reference Team
Digital: 4 Pages (2006-01-01)
list price: US$9.95 -- used & new: US$9.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B0007S9R4K
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Word count: 1171. ... Read more

2. Mandarins: Stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa
by Ryunosuke Akutagawa
Paperback: 255 Pages (2007-05-01)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$8.45
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0977857603
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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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.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

3-0 out of 5 stars Shows Sides of This Author That Differ from the Usual
This book was published in 2007 and contained 15 short stories by Akutagawa. As far as could be determined, six of the stories appeared in English for the first time.

The collection might surprise readers who come to this book looking only for macabre, psychologically intense stories set in the past, like "Rashomon," "In a Grove" and "Hell Screen." The translator included a few stories broadly of this type, like "The Death of a Disciple," "Fortune," and "Kesa and Morito" (1918), a brilliantly reimagined event from Japanese medieval times told in the first person, from the clashing perspectives of a man and a woman. But like other reviewers wrote, mainly this anthology seemed intended to show readers a wider variety of styles in this author's career than one usually finds. That's its major accomplishment. It might be enjoyed especially by those who are familiar with Akutagawa's best-known stories and seeking an introduction to other types of works.

There were tales here, for example, from the author's early career set in contemporary times, presented without a narrator ("The Handkerchief," "Autumn," "The Garden"). There were tales set in the present and incorporating a narrator who stood in for the author ("Mandarins," "An Enlightened Husband," "An Evening Conversation"), though the autobiographical element in this period was usually rather light. From his middle period, there was a story that was more strongly autobiographical ("At the Seashore"), based on details from the author's days as a university student.

For the late period, there were the two autobiographical ones that anthologies usually present for this author ("The Life of a Fool" and "Cogwheels"), but also one that was impressive for its restraint in not being obsessively autobiographical, though it was published just a month before his death ("Winter"). There was also a late work that wasn't directly autobiographical at all ("The Villa of the Black Crane").

The works set in the present covered such themes as an idealist from the Meiji Period who married for love but was disappointed. The passing away of a Meiji Period family and its tranquil garden in the wake of modernization, and the shabby but blackly humorous death of a patriarch. And a story about a contemporary woman who married unhappily, rare for this author in that its main character wasn't a man. None of these tales contained any violence, ghosts, h-ll screens, burning carriages, robbers or Rashomon.

Among the tales set in the present, the pieces enjoyed most in this anthology were "Mandarins" (1919), a memorable vignette of observation and feeling during a train ride taken by the narrator. And "Winter" (1927), a masterful depiction of the narrator's visit to his cousin in a Tokyo prison. This was a fictional tale, though it drew from experiences in the author's family.

Some of the other stories, interesting though they were for their themes and the scope they afforded on the author's career, for me at times lacked the precision and force of his very best works. "O'er a Withered Moor" and "The Villa of the Black Crane," for example, seemed to go on much too long, with too many characters and comparatively little reward.

The translator's style was quite graceful and in my opinion compared well with other recent anthologies. His endnotes maintained a focus on the author's stories, not the life, usefully highlighting various background aspects. For example, possible intentions behind the writing of "The Handkerchief," which was modeled on a prominent personality of the time. The fact that elements in a story about a Christian martyr were drawn from a legend surrounding the origin of the bodhisattva Kannon. And that depending on the Japanese characters used, the name of the "black crane" villa in one of the stories could also be written as "hallucination."

Other recent anthologies for Akutagawa include Jay Rubin's Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories (2006) and Seiji Lippit's The Essential Akutagawa (1999). All have their strong points in showing various sides of this author, and readers who enjoy this author would doubtless want to read all of them.

5-0 out of 5 stars A welcome addition to Japanese literature shelves.
Skillfully translated from the original Japanese by Charles De Wolf, Mandarins: Stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa is an anthology of short stories written during the all-too-brief life of Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927). Fluidly evoking 1920's Japan, in an era when traditions were in flux and the yearning for personal liberty burned brightly, Mandarins features characters who struggle against the society around them. The three stories in Mandarins, translated into English for the first time, are "An Enlightened Husband", "An Evening Conversation", and "Winter". At times cruel, at times fantastically descriptive, Akutagawa's prose resonates with a piercing clarity on every page. A welcome addition to Japanese literature shelves.

5-0 out of 5 stars An Alternate Angle on Akutagawa
If one wants to read the vaguely disturbing stories of Akutagawa Ryunosuke, the "Father of the Japanese Short Story" in English translation, there are any number of good collections available. This one is a little different, though, and not just because it includes three works never before translated. Akutagawa is justifiably famous for taking old tales from classical Japanese literature and giving them an unusual psychological twist--this is by far the Akutagawa most familiar to readers abroad, but retold tales in this line are after all only one aspect of this versatile author's overall literary output. That being the case, the translator here has wisely chosen to de-emphasize (though not entirely ignore) such stories and focus instead on Akutagawa's more explicitly modern--and modernist--works, many from the latter years of this fine author's unnaturally short life.

Some of these stories are clearly autobiographical, giving us precious glimpses of what it was like coming of age as an educated youth in early twentieth century Japan as well as startling and uncomfortable gazes into his slow and unsteady descent into mental instability. Others, largely non-autobiographical, are just good old finely crafted explorations of the human condition rendered through the words and actions of characters that seem memorably real. Others still fall somewhere in between, like "O'er a Withered Moor"--ostensibly a fictional retelling of the death of the Haiku poet Matsuo Basho surrounded by his disciples and a meditation on selfishness and mortality, it is also clearly a reflection by Akutagawa upon the recent death of his own mentor, the novelist Natsume Soseki. Whatever the case, all of the stories herein showcase Akutagawa's uncanny ability to focus an uncompromising lens intently into the darker corners of the human heart and the murkier ambiguities of the human condition as always while also demonstrating his surefire grasp of the dread and anxiety inherent in our experience of modernity, whatever its erstwhile advantages may be.

Charles De Wolf does an excellent job of rendering Akutagawa into English, it should be mentioned, and provides just the right amount of background material for each story: not so much that the text is overburdened with footnotes, but enough unobtrusively in the back of the book that now nearly a century after these stories were first published their intended context and assumed knowledge are right there at one's fingertips, along with the original titles and publication dates and such. De Wolf has also done extensive work with the medieval tale collections and Buddhist miracle accounts so often re-interpreted by Akutagawa and so is in an unusually good position to clarify for the reader just what kind of spin Akutagawa is putting on these, at least for the few translated here. This then is an indispensable short story collection both for those with an abiding interest in modern literature (Japanese or otherwise) but especially for longtime Akutagawa fans who will surely enjoy seeing his work from a new and somewhat rare perspective--even if the effect is a bit, well, Rashomonesque.

Stories included in this book:
1. Mandarins
2. At the Seashore
3. An Evening Conversation
4. The Handkerchief
5. An Enlightened Husband
6. Autumn
7. Winter
8. Fortune
9. Kesa and Morito
10. The Death of a Disciple
11. O'er a Withered Moor
12. The Garden
13. The Life of a Fool
14. The Villa of the Black Crane
15. Cogwheels

4-0 out of 5 stars Translation preference keeps it from 5 stars
I'm a big Akutagawa fan, and have only read in this volume so far the couple stories that also appear in the penguin books deluxe collection of shorts.

So far, and I have no way to go to the source since I am an English speaker, I dislike this translation, to the point where the choice of words seems to take out some of the energy from the penguin translations.

I'll update this review after getting to the stories original to this volume.

Any new translations of Akutagawa are better then none. ... Read more

3. Rashomon and Other Stories
by Ryunosuke Akutagawa
Paperback: 1 Pages (1970-06)
list price: US$7.95 -- used & new: US$10.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0871402149
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars Rashoman
This book was varied excellence. The off center views of the characters are incredible and vivid. I found meaning andpeace of mind in THE MATYR. This story especially showed the best in the worst of people. This is the best collection of stories I have come across and a great surprise as well.I recommend this book highly for anyone looking for something short and sweet.

5-0 out of 5 stars a little something for everyone
This is a wonderful book. Witty, charming and somehow welcomingus in its world. If you like stories you'll love these, if you're into creative writing definitely check it out.

5-0 out of 5 stars Why do I admire Akutagawa?
Ever since I first picked up a volume of mr.Akutagawa's novellas I knew i'd stumbled on something out of the ordinary.Even though it was when I was about 14 or 15 years of age he still remains my favorite writer.Why then?This is rather complicated and as with others in the field so wide and full of talent and lack of the above it requires reader's own frame of mind and presence of nostalgia and melancholy.His insight in the everyday things and the cry of his soul so loud that a true romantic will cry with him ... Read more

4. Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories (Penguin Classics)
by Ryunosuke Akutagawa
Paperback: 268 Pages (2009-03-03)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$8.11
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Asin: 0140449701
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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One of Penguin Classics's most popular translations- now also in our elegant black spine dress ... Read more

Customer Reviews (10)

3-0 out of 5 stars Death and Madness
"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.

5-0 out of 5 stars roshomon-does truth exist, or only opinion?
Roshomon is one version on the subject of personal versions of the truth. "Outrage", with Paul Newman and Claire Bloom,is a film version of the same theme. A rape occurs, the witnesses have different opinions. The fact of intercourse between the character played by Newman and Bloom is a fact.Whether it is rape or love depends on who is telling the story.

This story translated from Japanese is well written, worth reading,and skillfully touches on this eternal debate.

The current popular version of this debate seems to be that facts and truth do not exist.

However, the sun rises from east to west. A man can not be younger than his mother. Are these facts, or is it possible they are just opinions or a subject of an extensive debate?

The world, according to some, is flat. As absurd as such a belief is today, someone who argues that from his perspective,the world does appear flat has merit. Objects do not fall into space, but sit ridgely on a table. Without the benefit of contact with modern science one could argue his opinion without being considered mentally ill.But, that same person he could not argue that the sun always rises in one place, and sets in another; or that he can not be younger than his natural mother.

The philosopy that no facts exist, or that all actions depend on personal observation is currently a popular theory. In the recent past, the majority of the world heard a US President state he did not have sex with a woman. He then justified that comment, to avoid commiting perjury, that from his point of view, his actions were not "sexual". For personal reasons of their own, others concured that his point of view was correct, and he did not suffer from an abberation.

"Crime and Punishment" is a story of a man, who decides that a selfish and evil woman should be robbed. In the course of the robbery, she is killed. And a completly innocent person is also killed. The writer creates a justification for the actions of the killer. He considers himself better than the murdered woman,more worthy and entitled to live. The torment within his mind and judgment of society eventually exposes that facts and truth. Some one was killed, and killed them. Ethical discussion and personal opinion is not sustained, and punishment follows.

The current trend of philosophy seems to be tacking in a different direction.A more recent Woody Allen movie, also named "Crime and Punishment" moves away from the act of murder to a justification based on circumstance. The killer by proxy,is a sucessful, married man who is tempted into an affair. He is honest with the woman. He is married and in love with his wife, and would never leave her. His point of view remains constant. The mistress has fallen in love and wants him to leave his wife.The ehtical problem presented is to prevent hurting his wife; and more selfishly to maintain his reputation and career. His choice, based on his conception of honesty, is that he is the person wronged. In his mind, the only solution is to rid himself of the woman. Although tormented by his decision, he feels justified in having the "trouble" removed by a hired assassin. The idea of killing his mistress is too revolting, as is the act itself.However, he goes on with his life, and the viewer is left with the perspective that the personal torment begins to fade as he goes on with his life.

The new philosphy isthe fact of the murder has somehow been justified from the perspective that the murder was not murder, but a difficult but justifiable judgment. Whether the mistress was killed, a fact; or murdered as a result of an ethical perspective of one person, must be decided by the viewer or reader.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Best of a Master
Considered to be one of the greatest national writers of Japan, Rynosuke Akutagawa had a short but brilliant career in the early twentieth century. This collection includes some of his best known short stories, such as "Rashmon", "Spinning Gears", "Loyalty", and "The Nose", as well as some of his lesser-known works. The stories range from humorous, to historical, to agonizingly autobiographical. The Penguin Classics edition also includes a wonderfully insightful introduction by Haruki Murakami.

For much of Akutagawa's early career, he delved into Japan's literary past. The story "Loyalty" is a complex tale based on a true event that took place during the Tokugawa period, when the young head of a noble family went insane, creating a crisis among his samurai retainers. Samurai were meant to be loyal to the death, but that loyalty also extended to the Shogun. If one's master posed a thread to the Shogun, where should your loyalty lie? This is the problem that faces two very different retainers, each of whom must make an almost impossible decision. The story explores not only loyalty, but the issues of sanity, respect, obligation, and shame.

Some of the more humorous stories include "Horse Legs" and "The Story of a Head That Fell Off", both involving dead men who suffer terrible humiliations, one at the hand of some spiritual bureaucrats, and the other because of a medical miracle. But the final section of the book, which include those selections that tell Akutagawa's own story, is possibly the most moving and compelling. Akutagawa's childhood was difficult, as his mother went insane shortly after his birth. He was afraid of mental illness for the remainder of his life, and the final story of the book, "Spinning Gears" tells the tale of his last months spent in depression and constant anxiety. He suffered from insomnia, hallucinations, and constantly worried about his own sanity. It is the final passage of the story that conveys Akutagawa's overwhelming despair:

"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"

The story was published posthumously in 1927, the year Akutagawa took his own life. The story progresses toward that inevitable conclusion, and gives us an insight into Akutagawa's tortured mind.

3-0 out of 5 stars book is good, but the binding fell apart
I am enjoying the book. However, the binding fell apart and most of the pages have fallen out. I have had to tape them back in to finish reading the book.

4-0 out of 5 stars Westernism comes to Japan.
Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Rashomon and 17 Other Stories (Penguin, 2006)

I'll admit I picked this up less because it was Akutagawa than the bit that said "illustrated by Yoshihiro Tatsumi", who's been one of the best in the business for over thirty years. When I actually got it, I found out Tatsumi was only responsible for the cover, but I went ahead and read it anyway. Eighteen of Akutagawa's stories, including "Rashomon" and "In a Grove" (the two stories that, in combination, Kurosawa adapted into the movie Rashomon). Very simple, almost stark at times. Haruki Murakami, in his introduction, stops short of naming Akutagawa as the founder of Japanese modernism, but all signs seem to point that way; if you're a fan of Japanese modernism, this is a no-brainer. For others-- well, if you haven't been exposed to any Japanese media culture at all, you might be in for something of a surprise. Not so much on the level of the stories themselves, which are quite wonderful and universal in their emotional scope, but in the directness of Akutagawa's prose style. This isn't the kind of thing you'll find in American story anthologies; we tend to gussy things up with flowery language and endless subplots and Moments of Great Import(TM). Akutagawa just has a story to tell (in many of the earlier stories, he's just retelling old fairy tales in new language, though the later stories show a more autobiographical side), and he tells it, and that's the end of it. You may find this as refreshing as I do, just be aware of what's lurking between these covers. ****

... Read more

5. Japanese Short Stories.
by RyUnosuke, Akutagawa
 Hardcover: Pages (1970-01)
list price: US$14.50
Isbn: 0871409933
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan

6. Hell Screen ("Jigoku Hen"): and Other Stories (H W Norman-Transl)
by Ryunosuke Akutagawa
 Hardcover: 177 Pages (1970-07-01)
list price: US$55.00
Isbn: 0837130174
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
"There can be no doubt that [Akutagawa] had more individuality than any other writer of his time and has left in Japanese literature a mass of artistic work, often grotesque and curious, that, while it undoubtedly angers the proletarian experimenters who now hold the stage and fight with lusty pens and a highly developed class consciousness against all that he stood for, will continue to live as long as men go on treasuring the fancies their fellows from time to time set down with care on paper."--Glen W. Shaw ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars Hell Screen ("Jigoku Hen")
This is an amazing book - Ryunoske Akutagawa was probably one of the most talented but under rated authors of the whole talented bunch. Again, like most of the Japanese traslations (with exception of Mishima, Kawabata, Oe) - this is poor translation (I would rather use the term inadequate or less than sufficient). If we are aware of the culture then we can see the canvas much more clearly and understand how vivid it is. I found a fantastic first edition where the drawings are just amazing. To many of the western people the stories may look like folklores but believe me there is more to it. ... Read more

7. Akutagawa and Dazai: Instances of Literary Adaptation (Arizona State University Center for Asian Studies monograph series)
 Paperback: 149 Pages (1988-08)
list price: US$10.00
Isbn: 093925218X
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Akutagawa Ryuosuke (1892-1927) is a key figure in modern Japanese literature. He is renowned for the intellectual play and superb craft of his numerous tales. Dazai Osamu (1909-1948) was the most distinctive writer to emerge from wartime Japan. His passion and brilliance combined to create a uniquely gifted storyteller. This rich selection of tales illustrates the range of their talents, and illuminates the similarities and differences between these great writers. Translator James O'Brien, an expert in the work of Akutagawa and Dazai, provides an incisive introduction to both writers.Published by the Center for Asian Studies, Arizona State University, in association with Kurodahan Press ... Read more

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