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Mandarins: Stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa

4.3 of 5 stars 4.30  ·  rating details  ·  154 ratings  ·  10 reviews
Prefiguring the vital modernist voices of the Western literary canon, Akutagawa writes with a trenchant psychological precision that exposes the shifting traditions and ironies of early twentieth-century Japan and reveals his own strained connection to it. These stories are moving glimpses into a cast of characters at odds with the society around them, singular portraits t ...more
ebook, 255 pages
Published March 22nd 2011 by Archipelago (first published May 1st 2007)
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Eddie Watkins
She was the prettiest girl in my high school. I say “prettiest” and not “most beautiful” intentionally, for being so small and delicate, so willowy, “beautiful” was not appropriate. Beautiful implies a rounded womanliness entirely absent from her miniature perfection. She was the prettiest girl in my high school, just one year older than me, and now she is dead.

Three years ago while talking to an old friend I mentioned Arlene. Twenty years after graduation she still shone in my mind as a perfect
...more
Ryan
1

"The Death of a Disciple" (1918), in Mandarins, stories by Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, translated by Charles De Wolf (Archipelago, 2007)

***SPOILERS***

Two epigraphs prefaced Akutagawa Ryūnosuke's story "The Death of a Disciple", elsewhere translated as "The Martyr" and "A Christian Death". The first comes from Guia do Peccador (Guide for the Sinner) which, according to the footnote of translator Charles De Wolf, was published in Japanese translation in 1599, during the Keichō era (1596-1615).

Even if o
...more
Powells.com
This newly translated collection of Akutagawa short stories is long overdue. Continuing the themes set forth in his collection Rashomon, the stories may be set in Japan, but the characters and their inner struggles are universal. Akutagawa's gift is the exploration of human behavior. He does it with such gorgeous grace, it almost hurts.
Recommended by Shawn, Powells.com
Tonymess
“Mandarins” contains fifteen stories as well as a detailed notes section, which explains the connection to the traditional Japanese tales as well as giving detail on the text.

The title story is about our protagonist making a train journey and observing a girl “I found her vulgar features quite displeasing and was further repelled by her dirty clothes” , his repulsion slowly growing before she opens a window and tosses “five or six mandarin oranges, radiating the color of the warm sun” to three “
...more
S.B.
Probably the most unobtrusive stories I've ever read. At times, they're so subtle they almost seem pointless and I imagine that the person who wrote them was very very sad most of the time, but rarely let it show. Plus he was addicted to barbiturates, so. Akutagawa's people are always making mistakes, tiny ones that eventually ruin their lives, and tho he exposes their faults, he treats them with a kind of gentle sympathy. I thought it was also beautifully written (or translated), the language i ...more
Leah
beautiful, vivid stories! aptly described by the front jacket: "Akutagawa writes with a trenchant psychological precision that exposes the shifting traditions and ironies of early twentieth-century Japan and revela his own strained connection to it. These stories are moving glimpses into a cast of characters at odds with the society around them, singular portraits that soar effortlessly toward the universal." AND the book itself is just as beautiful to hold as to read and remember.
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At about the same time that Jay Rubin’s new translation in Penguin appeared, also Mandarins: Stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (Archipelago Books, 2007), translated by Charles de Wolf, was published. This is also an excellent volume and happily among the 15 stories selected, there is only an overlap of a few stories with Rubin. Most of these tales are set in modern times, as the title story "Mandarins."
Highly recommended.
Aruna
A wonderful, ecclectic collection of compelling stories exposing the tensions of existing in a state of flux. Akutagawa's stories are absolutely captivating. Each story is a microcosm of a universal idea. The images are crystal and the melody of his words intriguing. Insightful, Provocative & Brilliant.
John Stepper
Some fantastic tales, wonderfully translated mixed with works that eluded me. Beyond any one story, though, the book also has value for rounding out my understanding of the author given the inclusion of more autobiographical stories and notes.

A treasure for fans of Japanese fiction.
ingenue
It's taken me three years to read these stories, and if I have to slog through one more Japanese man moaning about existential futility, I'd really just rather read another Fumiko Enchi novel.
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5775185
Akutagawa Ryūnosuke or Ryūnosuke Akutagawa (芥川龍之介) was one of the first prewar Japanese writers to achieve a wide foreign readership, partly because of his technical virtuosity, partly because his work seemed to represent imaginative fiction as opposed to the mundane accounts of the I-novelists of the time, partly because of his brilliant joining of traditional material to a modern sensibility, an ...more
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“I could wish for nothing more than to die for a childish dream in which I truly believed.” 75 likes
“...O-suzu left whatever work she was doing at her sewing machine and dragged Takeo back to O-yoshi and her son.
How dare you behave so selfishly! Now tell O-yoshi-san that you are sorry. Get down on the mats and make a proper bow!”
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