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During a writing career that spanned little more than 20 years, Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927) produced hundreds of short stories. Most of the stories in this collection have early modern settings: the world of trains, newspapers, and Western intellectual fashions. Sometimes we glimpse elements of the macabre for which Akutagawa is renowned, but on the whole the emphasis is on the day-to-day life of which the writer had direct personal experience in the early years of the 20th century. We also glimpse the changing and still uncertain role of women in Japan's new society. The most important literary prize in Japan is the Akutagawa prize, and Borges was a great devotee of his work.
Praise for Ryunosuke Akutagawa's Rashomon and Other Stories (Liveright, 1999):
“In the spare, textured prose of these six short stories, [Akutagawa] brings us clear-eyed glimpses of human behavior.” —New York Times
“The six stories ... need no recommendation except their own merits — which are fresh and striking.” - Saturday Review
“Extravagance and horror are in his work, but never in his style, which is always crystal-clear” -Jorge Luis Borges
Each story, a carefully constructed world of sadness and a kind of hopeless beauty, is precisely described in spare and graceful sentences. As a group, they linger and tease and disturb. . . . They plunge fearlessly into the place that lies between sanity and madness, between tradition and modernity, between the past and the future. Creations of the beginning of the last century, they could easily have been written yesterday, and will last far beyond tomorrow."
These glittering stories are the smallest divisible literary parts: moods, scenes, bits of conversation, set in trains, behind windows, in quiet rooms. . . . The refined attitude and exquisite detail (clouds, autumn grasses, lanterns, bowls) make the stories piercing, emotional, sometimes oddly painful."
—The Los Angeles Times