So a while back I discovered the joyous feature that allows students to reserve books from our campus library online and then have it searched for and picked up from whatever musty shelf it’s been biding its time on so that we, the students, can check it out at the front desk. It’s essentially a e-borrowing system.
And when I found it I just typed up “Murakami” in the search field and look what turned up on the results.
Granted this wasn’t written by him but it DID feature an introduction by him so why the heck not? AND IT’S RASHMON. THE SEMINAL JAPANESE CLASSIC which spurned the SEMINAL JAPANESE FILM!
So I borrowed it and it was glorious.
This was my introduction to my first Japanese author other than Murakami and I have to admit it was refreshing. To those of you who’ve read Murakami, his writing tends to be rather minimalist. But on the other scale we have Akutagawa Ryuonosuke who writes in such vivid detail and about a large range of subjects.
The book is divided into two sections. The first section contains Akutagawa’s older work, written when he was a student and a new college graduate. These are his ‘historical fiction’ works where he uses, for the lack of better words, historical settings and props and spins a fictitious story that fits into the whole transitional period during that era. Murakami speaks in detail, in his introduction, about the quality of writing in these works and I can only wish that I could read Japanese so as to enjoy the stories in their original lyrical beauty. Even translated though, they read beautifully.
The second section contain Akutagawa’s later work when he stepped out of his natural inclination towards historical fiction and wrote modern stories, often autobiographical. I personally loved these stories more because I felt more emotion and feeling in these stories. Whereas his earlier work felt more detached from the medium, like he was relating an incident and commenting on it, these later stories felt more personal. Of course this was probably because he drew mostly from his own experiences to write these ‘modern’ stories.
I especially loved his “Fool’s Life” and “Spinning Gear” which are his most clearly autobiographical works.
This collection was very well put together in that I felt that reading the stories in their order of appearance in the book was like looking at snapshots of Akutagawa’s life and their progression somewhat correlated with his own life.
It was a moving collection of short stories, probably the best collection of short stories I’ve ever read actually.
Find it, read it, Love it.