From Publishers Weekly
There's a lot more to Akutagawa (1892-1927) than his short story "Rashomon," made famous by the Kirosawa film, and not among these 13 tales, delicately balanced worlds in miniature. Newly translated, they evoke the lost splendor and conflicts of Rashomon's Meiji Era. "The Garden" depicts a crumbling inn belonging to the once-great family Nakamura; presciently, the last surviving relative, Ren'ichi, has abandoned the land to attend art school in Tokyo. Titled after a line from Basho, "O'er a Withered Moor" re-creates, in an quiet Osaka residence, the mournful last moments of a great man's life, surrounded by his grieving, anxious disciples. The exquisite "Kesa and Morito" is made up of soliloquies by two lovers who contemplate murdering Kesa's husband in order to consummate their conflicted longing for each other. Modern tales include the vignette "Mandarins," the account of a ennui-laden train traveler who looks on in delighted astonishment as his young peasant co-passenger throws oranges to her brothers, waving as they pass. Akutagawa's stories are gorgeous and intimate.
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The flow of his language is the best feature of Akutagawa’s style. Never stagnant, it moves along like a living thing . . . His choice of words is intuitive, natural – and beautiful.—Haruki Murakami
The works of Akutagawa comprise, in the literary sense, an indispensable anatomy of melancholy. He was both traditional and experimental and always compelling and fearless. As Joseph Brodsky said, Akutagawa loved the world strangely. There is no writer quite like him. The translations of Charles De Wolf make for the perfect duet between languages. This is a wonderful collection. —Howard Norman
Extravagance and horror are in his work but never in his style, which is always crystal-clear.—Jorge Luis Borges