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Rashomon and Other Stories Paperback – December, 1999

43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Because I was a Japanese major in college, a very nice edition of a translation of Rashomon and Other Stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa had been left for me at my bedside, to read while I was there and to take with me when I left. Thoughtful, I thought. And fitting. Even more fitting, that friend and I no longer speak, and I am sure we have very different versions as to why that is.” (David Rakoff - The New York Times Book Review)

About the Author

Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1892–1927) was one of the most famous Japanese writers of the last century and was the author of Rashomon and other works. The Akutagawa Prize is named in his honor.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Liveright; Reissue edition (December 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871401738
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871401731
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #287,358 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 47 people found the following review helpful By M. J. Smith VINE VOICE on September 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
These stories are excellent - well written in a technical sense, very observant of humanity. They capture the multiplicity of truth as seen by multiple people.
In a Grove, the basis of the movie Rashomon, consists of the testimony of several people (including the victim through a medium) in which three people take responsibility for the death - a robber, the victim himself and the victim's wife. Each version appears to be true; each interprets the expressions of others differently than the person whose expression is described.
Rashomon tells of a dismissed servent's decision to become a thief; he is then confronted with what others have chosen as necessary to survive.
Yam Gruel tells of an official who is taunted and abused, receiving his one goal in life - to eat his full of yam gruel - only to discover that receiving the gruel is not as he anticipated.
The Martyr tells of an orphan boy, raised by Jesuits, accused of fathering a child out of wedlock. He becomes a hero in a way that forces those who accused and shunned him to reconsider their actions.
Kesa and Morito is a love triangle that will end in murder - but the love triangle is loveless.
The Dragon is a practical joke gone awry; or is it really a joke?
All the stories are well worth your time - enjoyable and thought-provoking.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Steffan Piper VINE VOICE on April 1, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After ordering this book, I sat completely transfixed while reading due to the absolute simplicity of Akutagawa's writing style. All 6 stories flow beautifully fast as you quietly become emotionally wrapped up in them. The deceptive sheen of these stories almost antagonizes you into finding something amiss, only that you'll discover later, after some thought, that there was yet another unseen perspective or line of thought within the work.
'In A Grove' is a very unsetteling story, and obviously the most well-known, but I felt that 'The Matyr' and 'Kisa and Morito' are both very witty, and also my favourites. I imagine, that a lot of people will now get a chance to read this book due in part to the media coverage that came from the movie 'Ghost Dog', with Forest Whittaker, where the book itself played a supporting role. It's not hard to understand, after reading, why. This book gives you insight into persepctive, humiliation, accepting fate - even if it is not a good one, and following the path you've chosen.
This book conatins some great uses of fantasy, realism, symbolism surrealism, and in a time and place where a Western reader might not expect it.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 30, 2011
Format: Paperback
The Tuttle Classics edition of Rashomon contains six stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, with an introduction by Howard Hibbet. "In a Grove" recounts a woman's rape and her husband's death from the conflicting perspectives of the rapist, the woman, and the husband, each of whom provides a different account of how the husband died. Akutagawa employs the same device -- telling a story from different perspectives -- in "Kesa and Morito": after a married woman has sex with a man who loathes her, they agree to murder her husband -- but the woman's vision of that crime is quite different from the man's.

"Rashomon" -- a meditation on good and evil, on desperation and hypocrisy -- tells of a servant who cannot decide whether to steal or starve until he meets an old woman who is pulling the hair out of corpses. Lacking compassion or empathy, he fails to recognize himself in her. Similarly, the Christian values of charity and forgiveness give way to hypocrisy in "The Martyr," as Jesuit missionaries and members of the Christian church in Nagasaki condemn a devout parishioner (Lorenzo) on the strength of rumored sin -- only later to declare Lorenzo a martyr after an act of self-sacrifice reveals Lorenzo's true (and surprising) nature.

"Yam Gruel" is the story of an aging samurai who, having been treated with contempt his whole life, clings to a dream -- to eat his fill of yam gruel -- until, finally given the opportunity to fulfill his desire, he questions whether he really wants to do so. In "The Dragon," a priest who is ridiculed because of his long nose decides to pull a prank on his fellow priests by posting a notice board that says "On March third a dragon shall ascend from this pond," only to find the prank taking on a life of its own.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Zack Davisson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is the second Ryunosuke Akutagawa book that I have read, the first one being "Kappa." The change in tone was a bit of a shock for me, for whereas "Kappa" is a wry, witty political commentary, the stories collected in "Rashomon and Other Stories" are bleak and brilliant.
Each of the stories, while very short indeed, packs a powerful punch. Akutagawa managed to condense despair into its basest elements, then packaged it raw and hurting, yet beautiful and human. The title story, "Roshomon," is a scant 9 1/2 pages long yet you would not wish for a single extra word to be included.
Of course, not all the stories in this collection are so dismal. The longest tale, "Yam Gruel," shows something of the wittiness and lightness of "Kappa." Some of the stories, such as the catholic influenced, "The Martyr," might be considered uplifting if you take a spiritual lesson from it. "In the Grove," the story that is the basis for the Kurosawa film "Rashomon," is an engaging story on the truth and ego and interpretation. But bleak nonetheless.
The translation of "Rashomon and Other Stories" is excellent, and captures the style and intent beautifully. It is a very old translation, as can be shown by the translator feeling the need to include a note explaining what "sushi" is.
My single complaint about this book is that, for the price, it is very small indeed. It could have contained at least double the amount of Akutagawa short stories, which certainly exist, and been a better collection.
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