Rashomon and Other Stories

25 05 2011

This is a collection of six stories written by Ryunosuke Akutagawa and translated by Takashi Kojima. These stories were written in the beginning of the twentieth century. The author is considered to have a significant place in the modern Japanese literature.

The six stories are each strikingly different and fabulous. “Rashomon”  was the largest gate in Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan. With the decline of the West Kyoto, the gate fell into bad repair, and became a hideout for thieves and a place for abandoning unclaimed corpses. The story is about how a samurai who just lost his job prefers to thieve to starvation against his initial reservations.

“In the Grove” is the story of the killing of a samurai through the conflicting testimony of witnesses, including the spirit of the murdered man. “Yam-Gruel” is a story about a lowly official, who has forever been humiliated by everyone, whose only desire in life is to have his fill of special dish – Yam-Gruel; how this desire has made him go very far; and what happened when he actually had his wish fulfilled.

“The Martyr” is about a boy who follows Jesus in practice and sacrifices his life in the process.  “Kesa and Morito” is a complex, seemingly conflicting lines of thought of two secret lovers. Finally, “The Dragon” is a fable about a priest who invents a lie with the malicious intent to make fools of everyone as a sort of revenge.

This short book is truly a rewarding read.

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