Mstation Book Reviews
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Thu, 30 Mar 2006


Akutagawa Ryunosuke, Roshomon and Seventeen Other Stories,
Penguin Classics

Akutagawa lived in Japan in the Taisho period which was a small flowering of art and liberty before militarism swept the country at the time of the Depression. He was a modern Japanese man, more likely to wear a suit and drink coffee than be seen in traditional wear. He was also a scholar of other cultures -- English, French, Chinese, and his carefully crafted writing is still on literature courses in Japan.

This collection of stories is meant to highlight his work and a forward by Haruki Murakami explains his place in Japanese literature, and a little about him as a person and, for non-Japanese, it also explains a period of Japanese history.

The stories tend to be dark but the writing itself immediately jumps out and it becomes clear how he has stood the test of time. People seeking out Japanese literature might start with Sei Shonagun's Pillow Book, go on to Lady Murasaki's Tale of Genji, then a little Aktagawa, and finish with some Haruki Murakami. International understanding is always a good thing.

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