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In the spare, textured prose of these six short stories, [Akutagawa] brings us clear-eyed glimpses of human behavior. -- The New York Times
The stories included in this classic collection include: "In a Grove", a psychologically sophisticated tale about murder, rape, and suicide; "Rashomon", the story of a thief scared into honesty by an encounter with a ghoul; "The Martyr" tells the story of silent suffering in Christian Nagasaki; and "Kesa and Morito" is the story of man driven to kill someone he doesn't hate by a lover whom he doesn't love. "There are enough Swiftian touches in Akutagawa to show his hatred of stupidity, greed, hypocrisy, and the rising jingoism of the day. But Akutagawa's artistic integrity kept him from joining his contemporaries in the easy social criticism or naive introspection...What he did was question the values of his society, dramatize the complexities of human psychology, and study, with a Zen taste for paradox, the balance of illusion and reality." - Howard Hibbett.
Stories are really great but please for the love of humainty find them in a different book. This is possibly one of the worst examples of book design I have ever seen, it looks as though the entire text was simply pasted in from another document; footnotes hang around in the middle of pages; story chapters and new stories are not clearly defined and either run in to eachother or produce confusing blank space; the book is oversized and difficult to hold and whoever made the index seems to have a fascination with underlining. If you the publisher are reading this for goodness sake please hire someone with a modicum of visual sense, or just remember how a normal book is laid out and follow that. An insult to great writing.
This book is a collection of short stories written by the eminent Japanese author, Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927). These six stories tend to revolve around moral ambiguities. 1) In A Grove is the story of a murder, whose witnesses all tell different, often mutually exclusive stories. 2) Rashomon is the story of a discharged servant who must choose between death and a life of crime and dishonor. 3) Yam Gruel tells the story of Goi, a samurai whose life falls to pieces as he dreams of the rare delicacy yam gruel, and who finds that having is not always as wonderful as wanting. 4) The Martyr reaches back to the 16th Century, to tell the story of a model Christian young man, who is excommunicated when he refuses to recognize a child attributed to him, but the truth he hides is not what everyone thinks. 5) Kesa And Morito is a tale of lust and betrayal. 6) The Dragon is the story of Hanazo, or priest who sets out to play a joke, but learns the power of belief. These stories are quite varied from each other, and all are excellently written. In A Grove is confusing (as is life), while Rashomon is somewhat depressing, and The Martyr is uplifting. But, all the stories are excellently written, and quite interesting. I highly recommend this book. To demonstrate the excellence of these stories, let me submit to you the following line from The Martyr: "For the sublimity of life culminates in the most precious moment of inspiration. Man will make his life worth living, if he tosses a wave aloft high into the starry sky, o'er life's dark main of worldly cares, to mirror in its crystal foam the light of the moon yet to rise."