|A still from the film version of Rashomon, which is here called In The Grove- Rashomon is a different story. Aren't her hands freakishly large in this picture?|
Rashomon & Other Stories (1915)
by Ryunosuke Akutagawa
This group of short stories does, in fact, have the inspiration for the famous film, Rashomon (1950) by Akira Kurosawa, but confusingly that story is called In The Grove, and the story Rashomon in this book is something entirely different. Akutagaw was an avowed modernist who killed himself at the age of 37- you wouldn't necessarily pick up on that from the settings of these stories- from the samurai/middle ages portion of Japanese history.
This is in contrast to Kokoro (1914) by Natsume Soseki, a real Japanese novel that takes place in the present in a modernizing Japan. Akutagawa had a sly wit and wry sense of humor- something utterly lost in the translation between Japanese and English. His language has a spartan/economic quality that might either be a real characteritistic of Japanese literature OR just something I'm projecting onto my idea of Japanese literature. I'm still waiting to read my first verbose Japanese book or watch a single expansive Japanese film. Only 120 pages, you can read Rashomon & Other Stories in a sitting- a good entry point to modern Japanese fiction alongside Kokoro, which is a must.