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The Life of a Stupid Man

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  2,093 ratings  ·  243 reviews
'What is the life of a human being - a drop of dew, a flash of lightning? This is so sad, so sad.'

Autobiographical stories from one of Japan's masters of modernist story-telling.

Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin's 80th birthday. Little Black Classics celebrate the huge range and diversity of Penguin Classics, with books from around the world and acr
Paperback, Little Black Classics #56, 55 pages
Published February 26th 2015 by Penguin Classics (first published January 1st 1927)
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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Sean Barrs
Someone please read this and tell me what it means:

"He was upstairs in a bookstore. Twenty years old at the time, he had climbed a ladder set against a bookcase and was searching for newly-arrived Western books: Maupassant, Baudelaire, Strinberg, Ibsen, Shaw, Tolstoy...

The sun threatened to set before long, but he went on reading book spines with undiminished intensity. Lined up before him was the fin de siècle itself. Nietzsche, Verlaine, the Goncourt brothers, Dostoyevsky, Hauptmann, Flaubert
Michelle Curie
"Ah, what is the life of a human being, a drop of dew, a flesh of lightning? This is so sad, so sad. What can I say?"

This Little Black Classic included three stories of the Japanese writer Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, who lived in the 19th and 20th century. He's regarded to as the father of Japanese short story and Japan's most prestigious literary award is also named after him!

The first fictional story retells a murder scenario solely through the eyes of the witnesses and participants, which was a
Sep 01, 2016 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Avoid this and to poke it with a stick to keep it away
First I have a question: why are people rating this so highly and talking effusively of how brilliant this is.
While the first story is mildly amusing the rest is unreadable. The title story is broken down into 51 miserable bites there is no coherent plot and why would one find his constant moaning of wanting to die thrilling.

In conclusion this book will leave the reader wanting, there is no fulfilment here only emptiness a sense having read NOTHING.
Nothing like dipping into your favourite author's works when you're stressed no? I'm glad this was the last book I read before studying for my exams.

In the Bamboo Grove 5/5 stars

A short tale about the case of a thief who has been accused of murdering a samurai after raping his wife.
Grim start but that's Akutugawa's style. We are introduced to the case in a very formal cold way. Information is simply told by a third person and by various police officers. By doing this, Akutagawa is clearing the
monica ♪
"Ah, what is the life of a human being — a drop of dew, a flash of lightning? This is so sad, so sad."

インスタグラム @monica_reads

The Life of a Stupid Man was my very first read of Penguin Little Black Classic.

This book contents 3 short stories:
1. In a Bamboo Grove
2. Death Register
3. The Life of a Stupid Man

I think 2 of them are like autobiography of the author but it's written uniquely. In The Life of a Stupid Man part, it's just like the snippets of 51 short stories.
At first it was pretty hard for me t
The Artisan Geek

Wow the first story In the Bamboo Grove, was so good! I haven't read such a captivating in quite a while. The two other pieces were non-fiction and I think I would have enjoyed them more, had I been more familiar with Akutagawa's life and work. Will definitely be reading more from this author!

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Dec 31, 2017 rated it liked it
It is difficult to say that such book is understandable or not, factual or fictional. Either way it is reasonable to believe that this kind of writing was written and published by a desperate man who suffered enough in his life and had depressing thoughts about life in general. The first story is a little bit disturbing. It describes an incident of a man who was murdered and tortured before his wife which acted in a strange way.
Somehow, I liked this excerpt "When I kill a man, I do it with my s
The Life of a Stupid Man collects three stories by Japanese writer Ryunosuke Akutagawa. The first was the nicest, a short story about a murder told from the perspective of several witness, including - strangely enough - the murder victim. This one I quite liked.

The other two stories were autobiographical and very fragmentary. Those I liked less but it feel wrong to really rate it, it being autobiographical and knowing the author killed himself quite young.

~Little Black Classics #56~

Find this
Most of them are barely a page long but they're great! ...more
Sep 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
On of the three little Penguin books I bought in Tokyo for the plane trip back home. Here are 3 small selections of the works by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, the king of the Japanese decadent writers, as well as the famous prize given out every year to a contemporary Japanese writer. Oddly enough, I never read his works, but I knew of him as the iconic writer of his time. Strongly influenced by the French writers and poets of the 19tth century (he was born in 1892 and died in 1927), there are traces of ...more
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
I didn't understand this, neither the short story nor the autobiographical bits. There were a few sentences I really liked, though (so it's 2 stars not 1). ...more
Deanne Dumo
Reading Ryunosuke Akutagawa, I can imagine myself alone squatted in a comfortable pillow overlooking a zen garden, sipping green tea. This Penguin Black Classic collection contains his popular short story, In A Grove, and two authobiography sketches, Death Register, and The Life of a Stupid Man. In all of them, Mr. Akutagawa's writing style is introspective and melancholic. There is horrifying calm and indifference to life, especially in his autobiographical sketches.

It is a pleasure to reread
Dec 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
My mind is being off-balanced, so reading these stories only make it worse.
May 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
Another collection of short stories by a Japanese author. Well, I don't think this can even be referred to as "short stories", in my opinion there was only one short story that began the series of text fragments that came after. The first story was really good, we were presented with an irrefutable fact: somebody died, but then we discover the details through the different points of view and experiences of several unreliable narrators. I really liked this idea, because it gives the impression th ...more
Loredana (Bookinista08)
I have no idea why I love such depressing authors. Maybe because to some extent I identify myself with them. Here we have a man who fully understood and felt the futility of life. Unfortunately, he was not able to free himself from his constraints and he became increasingly depressed. Trying to please his adoptive family and later on his own family, he entered a world of falsehood. Not even love affairs or intellectual discussions could assuage the emptiness he felt more and more deeply inside h ...more
May 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I really enjoyed the first half. Until he wanted to die and kind of went mad. I can relate a lot to his life though. The more I read, the more I realised that Haruki Murakami's style is something like this. I think Haruki himself admitted it that his novels do have some influence of Ryunosuke Akutagawa. Not that it's a bad thing.

"Middle school was a nightmare for him, but it was not necessarily a misfortune. At least it enabled him to develop a personality that could endure loneliness. Otherwise
Charlotte Jones
Mar 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
I fell in love with the 80 little black Penguin Classics as soon as they came out and had to choose at least one to purchase so I took it as an opportunity to broaden my horizons and read something different.

Ryūnosuke Akutagawa was a Japanese author who lived from 1892 to 1927 and this selection of stories was taken from Jay Rubin’s 2006 translation of Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories.

I am really glad that I read this despite it being out of my comfort zone. This tiny collection consists of
Apr 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classic, japanese
Ryunosuke Akutagawa is sceptic about living, but too curious to let himself die. His younger self, brought by the infecting minds of 19th century philosophers, grew up with a hollow in his soul, on which brim genetic madness and paranoia creep for all his life.

This semi-autobiography, "The Life of a Stupid Man", showcased the transformation. His adolescence, marked by hatred towards the smell of dead bodies intertwined with attraction to the concept of murder, grew into a manhood with an interes
Joey Woolfardis
I should have been more impressed, or, I suppose, moved by these little autobiographical snippets then I was. They were intriguing, indeed, but they had a dull quality that was difficult to ignore in order to enjoy them. The first, what, fictional short story? (sometimes it's hard to tell with these since there is no introduction of explanation) was rather confusing though it showed the wonderfulness of man's inability to remember the truth.

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Nabilah Firdaus
Feb 17, 2017 rated it liked it
I loved the first and the second story but I couldnt quite grasp the third story. The first story tells us about a murder and it was told from many perspectives, including the soul of the murdered man. The testimonies were all different and I wondered who was the real criminal. I loved the first story the most.

The second story tells us about the death of the people related to the author. It was melancholic and sad but I crave for something more.

And for the third story, it was told in a little sn
Nov 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Slim collection of three short stories. Two of them seem to be memoirs of the author (I don't know whether it is real or fictionalized) while one of them is the story version of the movie 'Rashomon'. Loved that story - it is called 'In the Bamboo Grove'. Also loved the title story - not really for the story but for the many beautiful passages it had. A nice book to read in a cafe while you have having a coffee and sandwich. ...more
Nov 11, 2019 rated it liked it
3.25 stars. The story I enjoyed most turns out to be the basis for the classic film Rashomon, which I need to watch stat. I liked the formal and structural experimentation in all three stories. True to form, I disliked the listless, vaguely dissatisfied, philandering intellectual manchild protagonist who narrates the eponymous "Life of a Stupid Man." ...more
Jan 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
I loved the first two stories, but I wasn't such a fan of the last one. 'In the Bamboo Grove' was especially nice, because it was a story about a murder and it was told by so many different people that I'm not quite sure who the real murderer is. ...more
Feb 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought after reading this that this author was reborn as Jim Morrison
Rhys Parry
Apr 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
As another reviewer has pointed out "In the Bamboo Grove" is a real gem. This was the best two dollar gamble I have made in quite some time. ...more
Irina Cebanu
2 for the first part, 5 for the second part
M Winter
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: japan, autobiography
This 'little story' is as dark as his life. Who would write an autobiography and title it 'The life of a stupid man'? History tells us he eventually committed suicide. Sad. Really. Sad. ...more
Apr 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: english-reads
kinda weird and actually really deep in some ways.
I guess maybe they're just not really my type of short stories. (although I enjoyed the first two)
Anubhuti Gupta
Jun 23, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: penguin-lbcs
if all writings could be placed on a spectrum, where some are those that stick with you forever- each part, each chapter, every page is a thrill, you read and re read and get a new perspective every time... Well then this book manages to be on the opposite end of the spectrum. I read it this afternoon and cannot remember a single page.

maybe some people will find it puzzling, obscure, mysterious, cryptic, modernist... for me, it was just (?) right before reading the book I saw a video on how hum
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm not really sure what it is that I just read...... ...more
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Akutagawa Ryūnosuke (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, and partly because of fi ...more

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“He wanted to live life so intensely that he could die at any moment without regrets.” 39 likes
“What is the life of a human being—a drop of dew, a flash of lightning? This is so sad, so sad.” 30 likes
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