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Rashōmon and Seventeen Other Stories

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  5,714 ratings  ·  336 reviews
This collection features a brilliant new translation of the Japanese master's stories, from the source for the movie Rashōmon to his later, more autobiographical writings.

Ryūnosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927) is one of Japan’s foremost stylists - a modernist master whose short stories are marked by highly original imagery, cynicism, beauty and wild humour. ‘Rashōmon’ and ‘In a
Paperback, 268 pages
Published October 31st 2006 by Penguin Classics (first published 1927)
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One night I woke in the dark hours no longer able to sleep. After a while I accepted my semi-wakeful state and found my way to the sofa. There I settled under a blanket and flicked ideally through the TV channels, eventually I happened upon a film Ghost Dog, not apparently to be confused with Moondog (view spoiler), anyway the film seemed to be pleasing pretentious and about right for being neither ...more
Jr Bacdayan
May 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“In fulfillment of his longstanding dream, he became the author of several books. But what he got in return was a desolate loneliness.”

This collection offers a piercing insight into the stunning yet troubled mind of Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. A writer brought to the world by a madwoman, he was a well-known insomniac, a drug addict, a guilt-plagued sinner, yet he produced such beautiful works while hounded by the looming shadows of his inevitable insanity.

This masterwork can be adequately divided
Nandakishore Varma
For a person drunk on the film society culture prevalent in Kerala during the Seventies and Eighties, "Rashomon" is a magic word.

Akira Kurasowa’s film enjoys cult status among movie buffs. It is rivetting in its presentation of “truth” in many layers, presented as a conversation among three people: a woodcutter, a priest and a commoner who take shelter under the ramshackle Rashomon city gates to escape a downpour. The story is the death (murder?) of a man, the rape (?) of a woman and the capture
Note on Japanese Name Order and Pronunciation
Chronology & Notes
Introduction: Akutagawa Ryūnosuke: Downfall of the Chosen, by Murakami Haruki
Further Reading
Translator's Note

A World in Decay

--In a Bamboo Grove
--The Nose
--Dragon: The Old Potter's Tale
--The Spider Thread
--Hell Screen

Under the Sword

--Dr. Ogata Ryōsai: Memorandum

Modern Tragicomedy

--The Story of a Head That Fell Off
--Green Onions
--Horse Legs

Akutagawa's Own Story

--Daidōji Shinsuke:
Dec 02, 2007 rated it liked it
Good, but...

Yes. I did it. I've committed one of the ultimate literary sacrileges of all time. I read Akutagawa Ryunosuke in translation when I could have read it in original Japanese. I am guilty as charged. I just couldn't resist a book with such a cool cover and Murakami's introduction plus his trusted Jay Rubin doing the translation.

Having said that, I did read it along with the actual Japanese text in front of me to see how well Jay Rubin has grappled with difficult early 19th-century
Dec 26, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Obviously the difficulty of rating collections of stories is the fact that they don't necessarily all rate equally. About a third of these stories are easily knock-out 5-star fantastic. The other two-thirds I'd rate mostly 4 stars with a few 3 stars. All worth reading and in general I think this is probably a good intro to Akutagawa's work in that it contains a nice cross-section of his work from the earliest historical stories to his later primarily autobiographical stories.

I personally
Steven Godin
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan, short-stories
I was Compelled to read this after loving Akira Kurosawa's classic film. Most of the stories are superb, with Akutagawa's prose full of such fluidity. He really catches you out with some beautiful quirks of description, sharp bouts of humour, and many revelations in a short space of time that it's no wonder he is considered one of Japan's greatest short-story writers.
Apr 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
Akutagawa known as the “Father of Japanese short stories” stays true to his designation with this collection of metaphysically refined stories. The rendered stories: - The Grove, Yam Gruel, Rashomon, Martyr to name a few; highlights Akutagawa’s preference for macabre themes of immortality, depression, virtue, chaos and death. These stories encompass a constant battle of skepticism prevailing over virtue of morality v/s existence of evil.

In Rashomon, the act of the ghoulish old woman picking
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: japan, 2018
What I love about Rashomon is that it signifies pretentious snobbery so perfectly. Like, if you want to impress someone at a cocktail party, "I didn't understand truth until I saw Rashomon," you might say. Did I say impress? I meant impress upon them that you would be super boring to go on a date with. You can win any argument by nominating Rashomon because no real people have actually seen it.

Anyway, I haven't seen it.


I read the book though! Here it is! No, not the one called Rashomon. That's
L.S. Popovich
Akutagawa is one of my favorite writers. He took his own life with barbiturates at age 35 and left behind some 300 stories, sketches, articles and literary experiments. In English he has appeared in over a dozen collections of the same 20-30 most famous stories retranslated a dozen times. This latest collection, translated by the consummate Jay Rubin, has a lovingly detailed introduction by the inimitable Haruki Murakami. It is a mere sampling of 18 stories from his impossibly good body of work. ...more
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
DNF @ 39%

These stories are not bad but I just can't muster any real enthusiasm for them.

It is not helped by the stories being unconneced and by themselves not being great examples of the short story format.

Of course, they were not written as short stories in the Western literary sense. It's just that the way they are written is boring me stiff.

Maybe I'll pick this up again at a later date, but right now, this is not working for me.
Throughout my life I've been experiencing the strangest tendency when reading a really great literary work: after finishing a particularly brilliant passage/story/poem, I just have to put the book down for while, to stop reading it altogether as if I was afraid that this was the peak and nothing better will follow. Sometimes this takes days of sweet pondering upon the writer's craft. I like savouring these moments, they occur rarely, bringing me much pleasure and gently nudging me into thinking ...more
Sam Quixote
Sep 20, 2011 rated it liked it
"Rashomon" tells the story of a "lowly servant" sheltering from the rain on the steps of a rashomon (outer castle gate). He has recently been laid off and sits pondering his future. He hears a sound and ventures inside the rashomon to see what it was. Inside are heaps of dead bodies from the recent plague and a strange old woman wandering about, going through the corpses' clothes. The servant attacks the old woman, strips her of her clothing, throws her onto the heap, and runs off.

"In a Bamboo
Oct 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First read in 2007

In his characteristically measured, conversational introduction to this book, Murakami Haruki tells us that Akutagawa is his third favourite author in the modern (post 1868) Japanese canon (after Soseki and Tanizaki). Rather than giddily enthusing about the author, Murakami carefully contextualises him in Japanese literature and culture. Akutagawa lived during a brief period of prosperity and political liberalism between WWI and the Depression in 1929, and combined appreciative
David J
I first came by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa via Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 film Rashōmon. It’s an adaptation of two short stories within this collection: “In a Bamboo Grove” and “Rashōmon” (though Kurosawa adapted the former and simply took the name of the latter and used it as a framing device). It’s one of my favorite Kurosawa films, and so I knew I’d like to check out the source material at some point. I’m glad I did, because there are some really good stories here and it’s an overall well-rounded ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
The stories included in this collection reflect an author who is intelligent, well-read, perceptive and deeply aware of human foibles. Half of the short stories are very entertaining and revealing, written in the cadences of ancient Eastern folk tales.

The author wrote these stories in the book in the years 1915 to 1925, in Japan, using Chinese and Japanese literary and cultural themes. But they not only educate the reader in the themes of Eastern literature, they also demonstrate that humanity
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
When I read my first Murakami, a compilation of short stories called "After the Quake," I was amazed by his refreshing originality. Some of his stories, indeed, had the effect of an earthquake to me. There were jolting, sudden and unexpected turns. In one, a man and a woman, after a brief introduction, make love. Then, out of nowhere, the man felt a sudden impulse to kill her. In another story, the characters were on a beach. Tears suddenly flow down from the eyes of one character, then they ...more
Madhulika Liddle
It’s hard to review something like Ryūnosuke Akutagawa’s Rashōmon and Seventeen Other Stories: it’s too complex, too often inducing a “What was that I read?”, too deep, and yet approachable, very readable.

I found this book by chance while surfing Goodreads, and was immediately attracted by Rashōmon, since I am a fan of Kurosawa’s, and am all admiration for that particular film (the plot of which, ironically, draws more from Akutagawa’s In the Bamboo Grove than it does from Rashōmon itself).
Aug 08, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-red-circle
In his (undated ... perhaps 2006?) introduction, Haruki Murakami gives us what he thinks would be Japan's 10 most important "writers of national stature". They are writers that "left us works of the first rank that vividly reflect the mentality of the Japanese people ... [the works] must have the power to survive at least a quarter century after the writer's death. ... The important thing is whether each of them as an individual human being embraced an awareness of the great questions of the ...more
Oct 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
"It's unfortunate for the gods that, unlike us, they cannot commit suicide."

"I don't have the strength to keep writing this. To go on living with this feeling is painful beyond description. Isn't there someone kind enough to strangle me in my sleep?"

Two quote that stood out to me and I only can understand them after looking up about this writer. He seemed to have a lot going on in his mind unfortunately, but he seemed to write a lot short stories before he killed himself. I guess when reading
Katie Lumsden
Mar 29, 2018 rated it liked it
I'm trying to work out whether I like these stories or not. They were powerful, interesting, weird and unexpected.
Erin the Avid Reader ⚜BFF's with the Cheshire Cat⚜

I never though I could find myself this immersed in a book before and finish it this quickly. The last time I finished a long book this quickly was 4-5 years ago when I read Jonathan Stroud's "The Amulet of Samarkand" in one night. This was a good book to start reading the night of my birthday. What a real treat indeed!

I was expecting to finish this AFTER "A Man of All Seasons", which I was already over halfway done with and I got there from only two days worth of reading...but
Inderjit Sanghera
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Verdant vignettes vibrate across the reader’s eyes, as the are drawn into the splendiferous similes which dance across the page, shimmering like the pale reflection of sun-light on pebbles in a Japanese garden. Akutagawa fused he aesthetics of haiku with the psychology of Dostoevsky and other Western writers; style and form are as central to his stories as structure, psychology and characters, yet few short story writers are able to match the sheer diversity of Akutagawa’s ouvre; whether it be ...more
Apr 02, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, japan
Reading Ryunosuke Akutakawa's "Hell Screen" is like reading Edgar Allan Poe. However, "Rashomon" here was merely the inception of the 1950 film directed by Akira Kurosawa since, according to the Translator's Note, the director used only the first two short stories (Rashomon & In a Bamboo Grove) and Shinobu Hashimoto helped him rewrite the whole screenplay.
I'm sorry I've never seen the film before, however, some 40 years ago I read its screenplay in Thai. Therefore, it's interesting to find
Kurosawa's 1950 film Rashōmon gave rise to the so called Rashomon effect: an effect that occurs when we are presented with multiple, clashing interpretations of the same event.

Contrary to my expectations, Akutagawa's eponymous story lends nothing to the concept, save its title, and it is another story from the same collection, In a Bamboo Grove, that provides the basis for the film and embodies the effect itself (intriguingly so).

The collection is divided into four thematically connected
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Oct 07, 2017 rated it liked it
I like how the stories are being told, told by a master storyteller. However, to talk about thieves, corpses, and more corpses and such morbid things doesn't appeal to me. At least, I gave it a try and came out of my literary shell :)
Gary Butler
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
13th book read in 2018.

Number 430 out of 673 on my all time book list.

The fiction stories in this were amazing. The non fiction was meh.
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Earlier this year, I read the short stories of Maupassant. Akutagawa is another master of the short story who shares a few similarities. Like Maupassant, Akutagawa loved poking fun of religion, nationalism, hypocrisy, and Mankind's many shortcomings. Don't expect many happy endings from Akutagawa. Also like Maupassant, Akutagawa suffered deeply from depression. Tragically, Akutagawa took his own life at the age of 35. Japan's 4 greatest writers of the 20th century were: Soseki, Dazai, Akutagawa, ...more
Feb 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I'm a big fan of the movie. The title story, interestingly, is not the same as the movie. Well, at least most of it. It's the following story in the collection, "In a Bamboo Grove," that Kurosawa based his masterpiece on. It's a good story, but not, by far, the best in the collection. (The title story "Rashomon," which precedes "Bamboo Grove" is one blackest stories I've ever read.) It's one of those rare instances where the movie is better than the story it's based on. It's not that the story ...more
Sep 14, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommended to Yulia by: Bibliomantic
Hmm, these stories are so unlike what I'm used to expecting shorts to be like. They're like folklore or legends. It's quite impressive to think a once-living man could have created such timeless stories. Don't such narratives take centuries to shape, passed from one generation to the next by old women making yarn or silk thread?


I'm not sure whether to be amused or annoyed that Murakami gives Akutagawa such grudging praise in his
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Best story in the collection? 9 79 Dec 20, 2013 12:57AM  
Brain Pain: Discussion - Week One - In a Grove/Rashomon 39 497 May 12, 2012 07:47AM  
Brain Pain: * CH1 - In a Grove/Rashomon - Schedule/Questions/Resources 57 75 May 05, 2012 09:31AM  

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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 ...more
“I don't have the strength to keep writing this. To go on living with this feeling is painful beyond description. Isn't there someone kind enough to strangle me in my sleep?” 84 likes
“It is unfortunate for the gods that, unlike us, they cannot commit suicide.” 67 likes
More quotes…